You Never Know What You’re Going to Get with Akron/Family

April 25th, 2013

Akron/Family – The Bowery Ballroom – April 24, 2013

There’s usually a reason or two why cult favorites came to be that way, why certain bands draw a fan base that’s part family and part acolytes. Several of these attributes were on display on Wednesday night at The Bowery Ballroom as Akron/Family played to an audience of their devoted, who collectively started chanting parts of crowd favorite “Ed Is a Portal” before the band even took the stage. These shows are typical communal affairs, with the crowd an equal part of the event. And early in the set, Akron/Family asked for more light to see the audience, quipping: “We probably know all of you already.”

An oft found quality of many you-either-get-’em-or-you-don’t bands is the unpredictable nature of their live shows, and with Akron/Family you never quite know what you’re going to get. Last night, M. Geddes Gengras rounded out the quartet, and either through causation or correlation, seemed to define their sound. Manning a circuitry station that looked like a futuristic switchboard, he brought heavy rhythmic pounding, deep-bass keyboards and plenty of digital ephemera to the normal A/F genre inbreeding. This seemed to elicit a decidedly dark edge to the usual bouncy sound: High-thread-count sheets of guitar nestled under a duvet of constant drumming to make a bed fit for a dark sonic nightmare. The band spent much of the set exploring the space between noise and music, making no effort to make them accessible or to explicitly sell anyone on their upcoming release. No matter, the crowd was very much into it.

One of the appeals of Akron/Family is their ability to play like they’re just making it up as they’re going along while actually having the skills and cohesive energy to really just make it up as they go along. For me, the night was summed up when a respite from the cacophony came at the start of “Light Emerges,” as drummer Dana Janssen took on vocals, singing, “Fill the mason jars with fireflies like a lullaby.” But this was a short detour as the band quickly exploded into an ecstatic highlight jam that eventually became a blobby-noise thing pulsing with raw energy. Then they folded back on themselves and the music was all three of these—a lullaby, a guitar jam and pure noise—at once before delivering a monster coda. The crowd (the Akron/Family family?) mixed their awe and appreciation with knowing smiles as if to say, “Yeah, we know.” —A. Stein