I normally don’t say anything to hecklers at shows, especially when they’re drunk. But after the third or fourth outburst from this Scott Baio looking douchebag – he must have spent all week thinking up “how about less poise, more noise!?!” – even the band was gently insulting him. For whatever reason, on this night, I asked “how about a little shut the fuck up?” In retrospect, shushing would have been more appropriate, for what followed was silly and somewhat pointless. But I did the right thing (hitting tiny drunks is literally and figuratively beneath me) and so enjoyed the rest of the evening.
I also feel sort of dumb because Akron Family is an appropriate group to get exuberant with, especially in a live context. They’re friendly, have excellent stage presence and put on a hell of a show. It’s got more than a touch of southern rock, and it is a thoroughly American kind of music. The guitar playing has touches of twang beneath the fuzz, but mostly it is sweaty, playful and American. Calling something “Americana” makes me think of the rough cloth sofa pattern in my mother’s living room growing up, “1776” and eagles liberally slathered next to pictures of horse-drawn carts and bags of open grain; these guys are more along the lines of Dickey Betts than Betsy Ross.
William Parker and Hamid Drake opened, doing a frame drum and handmade bass improv before moving onto an upright bass and drumkit for the second half of their short set. Things were running late and getting sweaty at Tonic (which is often sweaty and late) but they shut the crowd up fast. I generally don’t go for free jazz – from ignorance or dislike, I know not – but Parker’s distorted basslines and Drake’s drum playing were filled to the brim with musicianship and rock with a capital AWK. They are insanely talented people who can be found playing out in various groups all across the city. (Drake is also featured on the new Akron Family album)
Resisting song requests (from Scott Baio, natch) Akron Family kicked out the jams. They announced they were working on a new album, and that the audience would be the first to hear some of the newest tracks. The new tracks are all over the place – there was even some bluegrass-ish-esque tossed in between the southern-psych-folk-whateverthefuck – but the long builds and huge peaks remain. After ripping things up with lots of new material, Drake and Parker came back out to play through the finale, which was surprisingly structured and just real pretty (in a spiritually beautiful sense, not like girls or something). I can’t think of anyone worth hanging out with who would not appreciate $4 Yuenglings and these guys.
A review of Meek Warrior to follow. (Short Version: it’s a hippie dippie freakout good time! With dolphins!)
Here’s a link to a live set recorded on WNYC last year. Sadly there’s no young wits yelling “LSD!” or “Peanut brittle!” so you’ll be forced to enjoy the music rather than concentrating on such cleverness.