Which almost sounds dismissive, but isn’t meant to be, trust me.
Thing is, I’d known of Akron/Family‘s work for a while since the first album, as I’ve been lucky enough to be on Young God‘s promo list for a bit, and was well aware of how they were good sounding sorts, both on their own and playing with Michael Gira in Angels of Light efforts. Apparently at some point they’d been tagged with being another one of ‘those’ NYC bands in a ‘you’re all from Williamsburg or Park Slope or something, right?’ sense, which sounded pretty nonsensical to me three thousand miles away and all. It’s not like they sounded like the Strokes, for heaven’s sake. (Good thing too.)
I’d not seen them live, though — and it wasn’t until I read something from Nari about how a performance she caught up in Big Sur was apparently one of those WHOA-my-god-my-world-is-changed moments along the lines of me seeing MBV that I realized ‘okay, so something is clearly up.’ In rapid succession I had almost everyone and their mother who had encountered them live say, “You HAVE to see them perform.” This is a good thing, it reminds me of the essential difference between Radiohead in studio (exquisite) and Radiohead live (monumental), both astonishingly great but somewhat different beasts.
In a convenient bit of timing, there’s a great piece on the band in the latest Yeti which I recommend — I actually need to recommend the whole issue, that’ll be another post — so they’d been on my mind anyway. Then friend Eric drops me a last minute line after I get home from work yesterday saying, “Hey, they’re playing a secret show at the Echo Curio tonight, wanna go?” (Like a lot of bands playing Coachella, as they’re doing today, Akron/Family decided to slip in an unannounced show for LA while in the area.) Tentative plans had fallen through so I was on board pretty quickly, helped by the fact that the Echo Curio is a great venue — last year’s Bottling Smoke festival was a treat and a half, as I wrote about for Plan B, and you can scrounge through all my photos here if you like.
It was great to go again, been far too long, and folks like Grant and Ged and Tim and many others familiar from last year were there, as were a healthy contingent of the current KUCI crew (many of whom recognized me from the library — love how that works). Opening bands Vampire Hands (Minneapolis quartet, percussion heavy art/math/pop dudes with a slight early Eno fetish) and Chapa (local LA quintet, stylish jazz/hint of klezmer/sweetly zoned rock, like a better National or something) both put on some great sets so the mood was right, and Akron/Family came in and set up, introduced themselves as the great Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (no Riverbottom Nightmare Band?) and DAMN. Yeah, they killed it. I’m still tired from getting in late last night so the words aren’t really around, but even if you didn’t know a note from these folks, bring your earplugs and get there and go to town. Most energized crowd I’ve seen in nonstop dance mode for a ‘rock’ band as described since probably the New Fast Automatic Daffodils — and that was seventeen years ago.
What was most interesting to me wasn’t their vaunted and successful sense of getting the crowd going with singalongs and handclaps and direct participation without having to do any sort of “C’MON LET’S SEE THOSE HANDS!” hoohah (Dave Gahan is the only one I’ll allow that from). It’s not like they involved call-and-response, after all (and they would never claim to have). Instead, it really was all about the jaw-dropping fluidity with which the band performs and slips and moves from mode to mode, style to style, without making it seem clunky or forced. At the risk of damning with faint praise, at a couple of points I thought “This would be what the Arcade Fire might be like if I liked them,” ie able to be successful at uplifting energy transformed outward — a more apt comparison to my mind came later, namely that they might actually approach prime Boredoms instead. (And I thought this before I met Sam from KUCI wearing his Boredoms shirt.)
Anyway, took photos of all three bands, quietly crouched near the fan and the front door (the Echo Curio can and does overheat just by default, so I’ve learned to trust my comfort levels), and my set of Akron/Family photos is here. A lot of murk of course but there were a few shots that stood out for me:
Good stuff. Great band. And Miles and Seth were extremely polite and cool fellows when I chatted with them briefly. Yeah, see ’em. (And see Vampire Hands and Chapa too — the former are currently going up the coast with their tour and they’re all real friendly dudes, so introduce yourselves!)