Akron/Family | Live Review
Club Europa, Brooklyn, NY- 2/14
NYC ROLL-TOP: Akakakakakakakakakak.
Post-yourmom indie jammers Akron/Family made a hometown pitstop on Valentine's Day, at Brooklyn's Club Europa. Over the ambitious two-hour set, the prolific quartet demonstrated an energy they are still shaping. Beginning the set with all four bandmembers at centerstage, they hummed into the "Love and Space" mantra that closed last year's Meek Warrior, accompanied by minimal acoustic guitar, and revealed a group of predilections: chanting, prettiness, vague spirituality, and using the stage effectively.
And, afterwards, spread back out and playing "Moment," they revealed three more: jamming, noise, and dramatic songwriting. Beginning with a blast of guitar, the song's structure is curious: chaos first, a seamless drop into a drum-rolled chant, some gently disintegrative feedback, some omming, a burst of guitar harmonies, a cosmic Americana breakdown, about how "this moment is over," and then -- wouldn'tchaknowit? -- some good ol' Beach Boys ba-ba-baing.
With all of these factors established, the band varied the levels. There were other tricks, too: Seth Olinsky beginning "Running, Return" by playing music box-like ringtones through his bass pick-ups, and getting the crowd to naturally join in the outro chant (and then begin whistling the melody while the band could transition into the next tune). Nearly every song, it seemed, either had some sort of joyously ragged chant or group vocals. This had the lovely aesthetic effect of eliminating the idea that the group has a leader, though they occasionally seemed to lean too heavily on getting the audience to join.
Following a maybe-too-long "Future Myth," with a maybe-too-long bass solo, after which the band maaaaybe should've stopped, they kept going anyway, and concluded fairly brilliantly with a trio of songs from their forthcoming album. First was the gently building "Phenomena," which the band sat down for: a nice visual. (I'm pretty sure it was during "Phenomena." Whenever they did, it was a good touch.) And there was the untitled last song from the demos they've been circulating from a WNYC radio session, which falls squarely in the "pretty" category of the Akron songbook. No chants, even, just lines like "crickets sing songs to bury the sunshine" that captures the best of the Akrons' hippiedom.
"Ed Is A Portal," too. There, the chanting ascended to the next level, fairly literally, as the audience joined the band onstage. It was perhaps not surprising that the result was the band playing a gnarly psychedelic jam while people, uh, chanted, but it was a barrel of fun, like the moment of a canned stage-rush on Tops of the Pops or some fuzzy tropicalia clip on YouTube. The Akron/Family, perhaps, need to know when to stop. The fact that they can continue to make really compelling music after that point is mighty encouraging. They're probably playing somewhere near you soon, and you should go.
Jesse Jarnow blogs at wunderkammern27.com.