Love Is Simple | Review

Curtis Schieber | Columbus Dispatch

Akron/Family is truly original, the band’s stylistic and spiritual touchstones more like tributes than derivations.

It would be unfair and incomplete to say that Akron/Family revived the grab-bag spirit of 1960s psychedelia with its performance in the Wexner Center’s Black Box performance space last night. The wholly contemporary indie rock band, whose members are neither family nor from Akron, displayed a musical attitude as comprehensive of punk, the recent freak folk movement, ‘80s noise bands, and the naively optimistic indie pop of bands such as the Flaming Lips and Polyphonic Spree. 

That evaluation too, would shortchange the seven-piece group, which played an often breathtaking, challengingly dynamic set that went on long past the 90-plus minutes I caught before having to leave for deadline. 

Akron/Family is truly original, the band’s stylistic and spiritual touchstones more like tributes than derivations.

Taking them chronologically: 

The spirit of the Grateful Dead was echoed at more than a few points last night, though the group might shudder at the possible, mistaken association with the jam- band culture, new and old. Still, the way Akron/Family trailed off into free-form sections between and in the middle of songs could have been heard as its own version of the Dead’s immortal organic masterpiece Dark Star. One song ended with a raving reading of the blues standard Turn On Your Lovelight, a centerpiece of the Dead’s early sets. 

Another tune echoed 1960s San Francisco’s Quicksilver Messenger Service, while still another seemed to explore that band’s influence on the 1980’s group Television. 

Like the San Francisco bands, though, Akron/Family drew on huge chunks of American traditional and popular music in order to find an original observation of its own times. Folk, blues (the Butterfield Blues Band was conjured at times) the great American songbook, even a smidgeon of modern classical worked into the mix. 

The chant that opened There’s So Many Colors (“There’s so many colors/Without the dirty windows”) not only sounded like it might have originated in the 1960s but made a philosophical statement about the contemporary challenge of globalism. 

The spaced-out delicacy of the quieter sections in last night’s songs sounded as much like the recent freak folk of Davendra Banhart as 1960s inspirations the Incredible String Band. Always, though, the songs sounded like they could be only Akron/Family’s own.
The bottom line, reinforced again last night, is that with the structures of a wide range of the most lasting music, creative individuals can always find fertile ground for expression. The members of Akron/Family showed they are such individuals during an alternately hypnotic, bittersweet and rocking show last night that could have gone on until dawn and remained fresh. 

It is past midnight as this review is finished. I may go back down in the hopes the band is still on.