Akron/Family | Review

Drowned in Sound | Mike Diver

music that can in no way be categorized solely as folk

April 20, 2006

Man With Beard sups Guinness, eyes fixed on a television screen displaying moving pictures his mind doesn’t quite understand: there’s running, kicking, John Barnes talking although mercifully not rapping.  Pat Nevin.  Pat Nevin? Y'know, I’d always assumed he was a Womble in a mask, but anyway: we, Man With Beard and I, are both at Brixton’s gradually-filling windmill.  The reason for the steady flow of attendees is a simple on, at least on paper:  Akron/Family, Michael Gira ­ approved purveyors of folk-spewed  fuzz-hued compositional oddities, are to echo their wares about these surroundings but an hour from now.  Man With Beard knows this, for he is a quarter of said NYC-based outfit.  Man With Beard takes in the scene, his eyes wandering from the football he cares not for: more and more and more people arrive, the air warms fast, the Guinness in his hand and mine doing likewise. Tonight is going one of two ways: brilliance or indifference.


The latter looms with no little evil in its eyes, both beady and bearded with the inevitable sweat such an attendance brings: had these legs o’mine been more inclined to shuffle awkwardly, backpack slung over one shoulder, an additional irritation to both you, dear punter, and I, through the assembled throng then maybe ­just maybe ­tonight’s performance would be worthy of considered praise.  This would read both easily and matter-of-factly, rather than adopting the shape of a sprawling stream of something like conscience: the song titles, how food each rendering was, just how beardy the beardoes actually were, up close ‘n personal.  That it doesn’t leave you with but one conclusion ­that muggings, hi, tolerated zero visibility, for only so long before deciding that getting home sometime before midnight was A Good Idea.


That the quartet muster a malevolent racket that no alleged peer can so effortlessly reproduce is bleeding obvious; also bleeding are front-row ears, surely, as they’re subjected to music that can in no way be categorized solely as folk.  No, Akron/family are not freaks born of inbreeding; they existed outside of the city for so long that their lengthy germination saw mutations spread with abandonment.  Not for them the conventional, ­not once do plucked strings sing clean and crisp, unless they do so to mislead, to lull all into that safe comfort zone before the pulverization begins.


Some, ­ most, ­ stay:  me, I leave three songs into a five-song set (do please understand that these are not three-minute verse-chorus-verse affairs), ears ringing even though the body to which they are attached remained, partially against its will, in closer quarters to the aforementioned pundits than the act on stage.  Man With Beard won’t mind, he’s in that zone into which only open minds can wander, absolute wonderment sketched across faces flecked by tiny shards of shattered comets.  Insert your own ridiculous analogy here, do.


What’s this I’m feeling as I leave?  Strange ­ you’d never have figured relief and guilt left the same unsettled sensation in your stomach.  Then again, the Guinness did get uncomfortably warm.