Akron/Family Tour: Then Go In All Directions
The recent Akron/Family show in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Satellite Ballroom, was a heartwarming and curious spectacle. It was a marathon set, cosmically infused, and chocked full o' "schizo-frenetic" delights. After local openers, The Great White Jenkins, delivered a sweet and contemplative set, the house music quickly changed over to vintage Michael Jackson classics form the Quincy Jones era. The Akron fellows bounced all around the club, setting up their gear and preparing to rock, while constantly dancing and laughing.
As they settled into performance mode, the mood shifted once again to a quiet mantra sung in four part harmony in the tradition of American roots music and spirituals. After droning on the chorus, "Love and Space" the band then turned the lone vocal mic they were all four singing into towards the audience, letting them carry on the song and sentiment. This was the first signal that their show was meant to be an experiment in group dynamics, and something to participate in rather than merely observe. Over the course of the next two hours, the moods and sounds that sprang forth from the stage shifted often and spontaneously. Different songs carried grooves reminiscent of the myriad elements of musical lore. The band conjured heavy riffs, brought loud ambient drones, crooned sensitive acoustic ballads, burst into moments of free jazz madness, and evoked
thoughts of esteemed comrades such as Neil Young, Frank Zappa, CCR, and the Dead.
Akron/Family have a presence on stage whic
h is very relaxed and enthusiastic. They talk nonsense about things such as "wylde tigers" and channel "dolphin energy". They improvise musically within songs, and within the flow of the entire event. The Akron approach is one that is completely devoid of any "control freak". The horn section of The Great White Jenkins was invited on stage on a few different occasions to amp up the overall sound and add more spontaneity into the mix. One such endeavor mutated into a floor stomping, hootin' and hollerin' gospel-esque jam with saxophone leads soaring above it all. It is hard to tell at times if things are meant to be comic or earnest, but surely the band doesn't waste too much time worrying about external perceptions and just carries on, obviously having immense amounts of fun. The show climaxed with dozens of folks on stage, full horn section, folks playing the drums, shakers, noise making stuffed animals, recorders and whistles, and singing while the band was dancing through the crowd and ad-libbing some crazy shit, yelling about this and that. It was a very soul-elevating experience.
The Akron/Family is Seth Olinsky (various instruments, vocals), Miles Seaton (various instruments, vocals), Dana Janssen (various instruments, vocals), Ryan Vanderhoof (various instruments, vocals). They released their third album "Meek Warrior" last year on M. Gira's Young God Records and have been touring semi-constantly for years.
Matthew Clark March 2007