Akron/Family | Live Review
www.drownedinsound.com | Daniel Ross
Akron/Family are demented, dangerously varied and truly fucking great.
Tonight's support, Ned Collette, is perfect for his role. His winding roads of desert washed soundscapes oscillate dangerously around the room, building in complexity thanks to the devil's box of a guitar pedal he uses. Delicately, he leads us through four-bar phrases, loops them and thenwarbles with credible fragility over the top. It's very nice indeed. It probably wouldn't last for a whole record (though it apparently has), but it's enough to make people shut up this evening.
Akron/Family, however, don't rely on technical wizardry to dazzle the audience. Their ensemble approach is more akin to an annoying bunch of Christians shooing an initially cold-hearted congregation into their slightly juvenile way of worship. But it obviously works because we all end up crooning "love and space" while these beautiful boys ad lib over the top with some weird (but oddly soothing) spiritual ranting with a single
microphone to sing into and a single guitar to accompany. This barbershop entrée is utterly destroyed by a euphoric flurry of high-register guitars and rasping drums (which are particularly exquisitely played this evening). The massive array of influence, classical and contemporary, is always visible, but never a distraction.
Beyond this oddly jarring opening, it would be very easy to dismiss Akron/Family as mere vaudevillian variety, but the sheer enthusiasm that seeps from the stage and the sweat that drips from the wallshit of the Cargo is proof enough that these boys mean it. Largely ignoring the hushed beauty of their self-titled record, they choose instead to flex their prog muscles in some utterly engrossing and surprisingly danceable workouts. Each minute sees homage to and dashes of Beefheart, Nick Drake, Yes, Robert Johnson, the squall of Slint and about a million others that I couldn't be bothered to write down. Furthermore, and to their eternal credit, they never let the dreaded over-seriousness of progressive rock mar the evening, and can always be seen to be balancing plush fish or pigeon on someone's head or taking laps around the venue holding kazoos or tiny skin drums. It's kind of like a kids party, but with sweaty older men as the only attendees. Honest.
If entertainment were rewarded in money, Akron/Family would be entertaining far larger crowds than they do this evening. While many might accuse them of over-zealous frippery and lightweight tricks of the trade to provide superficial thrills, the learned assemblage at the Cargo are fully aware that Akron/Family are demented, dangerously varied and truly fucking great.