Akron/Family | Live Review

Tom Hughes | The Guardian (UK)

morphing from quiet country-gospel into heavy psych-rock workouts

Brooklyn's wellspring of outlandish rock creativity just keeps on gushing. This curious gaggle of freak-folk troubadours have proved themselves capable of more extraordinary, kaleidoscopic musical feats than most - morphing from quiet country-gospel into heavy psych-rock workouts, dipping into strange marching-band anthems and reverberating free-jazz jams along the way. Lyrically, they take a more traditionally hippy approach, telling tales of ancient forests, giant flowers, portals, love and space. 

But aside from singer Miles Seaton, not a little reminiscent of Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski, they do not look much like hippies - bass player Seth Olinsky has an air of the no-nonsense punk rocker and drummer Dana Janssen could almost be a Dawson's Creek bit-part actor. All three sing - and beautifully, too - whether in close harmony on their quietest, simplest ballads, or in hectic, colliding yells on the big, wild rock numbers. Olinsky is particularly irrepressible, leading frequent demands for audience clap-, stamp- and sing-alongs, and getting a great response. Communion is clearly a big priority here. 

In the six months since they last toured the UK, Akron/Family have lost a guitarist (he went to live in a Buddhist commune) and, perhaps as a consequence, have thrown out a lot of old songs from their live set. It is hard not to miss that extra layer of musical clout on the big songs, and some favourites are much missed. But once tonight's finale, Ed Is a Portal, hits its looping, lolloping stride, the heaving room feels like some kind of magical cosmic barndance - five minutes later, almost without you noticing, it has turned into a super-goofy hip-hop jam. Akron/Family are still full of surprises, and even among their oddball Brooklyn peers, they are a genuine one-off.