The bi-city band, based in New York as well as Williamsport, Pennsylvania, was full of whimsical energy Sunday night as they surged through an 11-song set without so much as a pause. Song bled into song, the transitions carried by any combination of the nine people on stage. Of those nine, three drive the madness that is Akron/Family – Seth Olinksy (guitar), Miles Seaton (bass) and Dana Janssen (drums). They have their primary roles, but much like a freak-folk version of Broken Social Scene, they’re all multi-instrumentalists, and vocal duties shift, with Olinksy usually taking the lead.
The set list focused on material from the band’s upcoming album, Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free, due in May. But while music nerds often get stereotyped as creating highly conceptual and not always accessible music, Akron/Family found a place for it all. Shifting from lilting folk tunes like “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen” and unexpected dance tune, “Ed Is A Portal,” Akron/Family interjected short, stylized jams in transitions, proving themselves adept at funk, prog, hardcore, whatever rock offshoot you can name. Olinksy would get an almost painful look on his face, as if he couldn’t stand it any longer, as though he had to play that next note or he might die.
But as unafraid to fly their freak flag as they are, Akron/Family do so without alienating – quite the opposite, in fact, as they envelop the audience as often as possible, encouraging participation in a variety of ways. Olinsky ran into the audience to hand someone a drum. Seaton would rile up the crowd with exclamations like, “Move your ass!” Hand claps and sing-alongs were encouraged at every opportune moment.
Speaking of sing-a-longs, their entire encore was one. As they closed out “Sun Will Shine (Warm of the Sunship Version),” the members walked off the stage and out the front door. The crowd stood clapping, begging for more, then slowly began to disperse before the sound man explained, “The show will continue outside.” There they were waiting outside, the brass backing band, and Olinsky, Seaton and Janssen, with an acoustic guitar. Lit up by the hanging Christmas lights and the warmth of the fire pit in Union Pool’s patio, Akron/Family led the crowd to sing with them as they played, “Woody Guthrie’s America,” (see video below) “I Know You Rider” and “Crickets.”
Standing in the crowd, singing along with all the rest was opener Larkin Grimm. A Georgia native, Grimm comes along at a good time for morbid female folk singers, as comparable acts like Neko Case and Marisa Nadler find critical acclaim and attention. Another tough woman with an appreciation for country gothic, Grimm’s powerhouse voice is equalized in impressiveness by her powerhouse lyrics, “I’ve got no hooker’s heart of gold / my hooks are sharp / my heart is cold,” she sang in “Blond & Golden Johns.” At home on Young God Records, same as Akron/Family, she too flaunts her eccentricities, as she opined about her aspirations to be a “mystical dominatrix.” Her mysticality isn’t up for assessment, but if she’s looking to be a musical dominatrix, too, she’s well on her way.
For more pictures, click here.
The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen
Ed Is A Portal
Everyone Is Guilty
Sun Will Shine (Warmth of the Sunship Version)
Encore: Woody Guthrie’s America
I Know You Rider
*Since they didn’t really break between songs, I may have missed some – corrections/additions welcome!
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Akron/Family, “Woody Guthrie’s America” sing-a-long at Union Pool, March 29th
Akron/Family Official Site
Akron/Family on MySpace