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Akron/Family | Review

The New Palz Oracle | Monica Ayres, Contributing Writer

I never knew that singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in a garage with 50 strangers could be so much fun.

Dec 05

EXPLOSIVE AKRON/FAMILY SHOW AT BARD COLLEGE

I never knew that singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in a garage with 50 strangers could be so much fun. I never fully appreciated the magic that came with each rattle of an egg shaker. I had never tried to catch a crowd-surfing singer from a stage that was a mere twelve inches off the ground. I had never done any of this until I joined a small crowd of Bard College students at the Akron/Family show on Dec. 2.

Akron/Family is a band from Brooklyn with a sound all their own. Their music ranges from melodic folk songs, complete with four-part harmonies that send chills through your body, to electronic noise that, well, sends chills through your body. Ryan Vanderhoof, Dana Janssen, Miles Seaton and Seth Olinsky each play a multitude of instruments ranging from the typical bass, guitar, and drums, to the xylophone, recorder and kazoo. Accompanying them on stage are also stuffed birds that chirp when squeezed and a variety of rhythm instruments that are sent out into the audience throughout the show.

Akron/Family's onstage presence is astounding. I had previously seen them, somewhat accidentally, this summer in a small club in Albany. Though they sat through their set, their energy was exploding out of each note they played. The last show, however, was different.

They played the entire set standing and even danced and came into the crowd.  As they told me after the show, it was the first time they had played standing up in over two years. I guess a small, overfilled garage with minimal heat was the fix that they needed to come to life.

The band's energy is not the only thing that makes Akron/Family so exceptional. It's the way they treat their fans. They met with fans both before and after the show, and even invited some fans to go to a nearby diner following the performance. They were willing to rearrange their set list according to how the crowd was feeling, whether the crowd was into long improvisations or requesting some of their favorite songs from the Akron/Family CDs. When a girl called out, "Play the lightning bolts song!" (Which is actually titled "I'll Be on the Water"), the band immediately started to play it and employed the use of the crowd to fill in the ocean sounds that were on the recording.

In addition to their amazing stage performances, Akron/Family has released two full-length albums. Their first self-titled album is full of songs so different from one another that it is incredible to think they all came from the same band. One song can start as calm and soothing as the ocean waves that they are singing about and just about lulls you into a sleep and right as your eyes are shutting, switches gears into a melodic noise that jolts you out of your near-slumber and returns to the quiet melody in the course of four minutes.

Their new album, Akron/Family & Angels of Light, is a much different sound for the band. Though it is a split album, Akron/Family serves to back up Michael Gira and form Angels of Light. The Akron/Family half of the CD is seven songs that have more of a rock sound than those in the first album.  The song "Future Myth"is a stunning combination of psychedelic rock and folk. Also unique to their second album is the way they have established their voices as instruments all their own. Their harmonies are richer and they seem much more confident in their vocals.  After a month-long European tour, Akron/Family is currently on a nine-day northeast tour, including a date at SUNY Purchase this past Tuesday and at Tonic in New York City on Dec. 10. For more information, check out their Web site, www.akronfamily.com, or for all you Myspacers out there, you can listen there at www.myspace.com/akak.


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