Akron/Family | 03.07.09 | San Francisco

By: Kayceman

Akron/Family :: 03.07.09 :: Hemlock Tavern :: San Francisco, CA

Akron/Family by James Martin
I think the guys in Akron/Family are from rural Pennsylvania, and even if they're not, I'm going to continue to believe it because that's what they sound like and I dig the image it forms in my head. You can almost see these three wonderful weirdos strolling out from a thicket of trees, brambles in their beards, stringed things and percussive joy machines tucked under their arms, smiles plastered across their forgiving eyes. They are somehow both totally primitive and fully advanced. Both dancing through the cosmos and rooted deep into the soil of our earth. I'm not crazy about using the word "spiritual" here, but these cats are tapped into SOMETHING bigger than this time and place.

Standing on the stage in front of a sold out (not hard to do at this venue) and very packed crowd of rather adoring fans, Akron/Family eased us into their sonic headrush with a delicate instrumental intro that sounded eerily like late-90s era Slip, so much in fact that it could have been "Alsoa" if you closed your eyes and pictured three other musicians of about the same age and mental fortitude. This was the second of three shows at the Hemlock Tavern (which feels more like an old meat locker than a concert hall) and it seemed like most of the folks were also on hand for the previous evening's show.

Warming up the room with the acoustic strum, deep bass and handclaps of "Meek Warrior" and the subtle slinking hints of African highlife in "River," Akron welcomed us into their world, a place of ritual and uninhibited joy. While not as un-hinged and fully flowing as the last time I saw the band (High Sierra, read the review here), it's simply impossible to not be won over by their childlike exuberance and scholarly ability on their gear. One gets the sense that Seth Olinsky (guitars, vocals, electronics), Miles Seaton (bass, vocals, electronics) and Dana Janssen (drums, vocals, electronics) were classically trained and have learned all the rules - you just can't break them this effectively if you don't know what you're doing, and these guys definitely know what they are doing. Akron is fifty bands in one. There's psychedelic rock, folk, free-jazz, hip-hop, punk, dance, gospel and heaps more, and they throw their back into every minute of it, creating a wickedly raw, exposed form of music that is absolutely impossible to cage up and put into a category box.

Dana Janssen - Akron/Family by Aiello
Playing a few songs from their upcoming release, Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free, (due May 5 on Dead Oceans) it wasn't until "Ed Is A Portal" that things broke free. Landing upon us with a wall of distorted electronic noises, rhythmic chants and a wall of feedback, soon there was added percussion from the guys in Citay (who opened) and a chick on the recorder. It was hard to get a head count with the fans freaking out up front, but there were at least six or seven people onstage and at this point beer was spilling and bodies were moving.

Not wanting to loose the energy they had created, from here they took it straight into "Everyone Is Guilty." Although it's the first song on their upcoming release it's been a strong live track for a while. Built on an elastic bassline and weird time signature, it's some sort of future funk that Herbie Hancock and Frank Zappa would totally dig. This version happened to be a little rough around the edges, the changes not firing off clean, but that's one of the risks you run with Akron: they forgo restraint and always fly as close to the proverbial edge as possible. Loud, loose and out there is their game. It's often more about the energy than execution – but of course it's when these two match up that transcendence occurs.

Bringing us in for a safe landing, Akron finished the night with the final song on the upcoming release called "Last Year." Done mostly a capella with foot stomps, hand claps and a very rootsy harmonica/acoustic guitar accent, we were back in the woods of Pennsyltucky, drinking moonshine and passing joints. As we dipped and swayed with our glassy eyes, the three bards continued to sing, eventually morphing the encore into "Woody Guthrie's America." It was joyous.

Leaving the show I couldn't escape the thought that Akron/Family should be the house band at an Indian sweat lodge. With all the chanting and clapping, sweating and twirling, space travel and third-eye cleansing, Akron inhabit this type of mystical space – combine that with their plugged in intensity and the foaming-at-the-mouth attack of their trade and it's easy to believe.

Akron/Family is on tour now, dates available here.

Check our 2008 feature with Akron here.

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[Published on: 3/12/09]

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NickBoeka Thu 3/12/2009 02:51PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


heh Kayce, I always thought they were from Akron OHIO....

whodoyoudo Thu 3/12/2009 03:08PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


diggin the track

johnnygoff starstarstar Thu 3/12/2009 03:09PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i'm jealous of all those williamsburgh (NYC) hipsters who have had these cats in their concrete oasis for a while. Great stuff. Regardless of where you're from; Akron, rural Pennsylvania, Brooklyn, the cosmos, PLEASE come to my gorges oasis in Ithaca, NY. nice piece Kayce.

toestothenose starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/12/2009 04:00PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


There is a definate movement in music - very similar to the same space Marco and his band of revolving merry men are hitting, Yeasayer, Fleet foxes, Devandra Banhart, Man Man ... the list goes on. It's truely mind bending and spirit moving touching us in a way that is organic, electric, and primal - hell I love it. Sounds like a grand little romp in San fran. Nice Review Kayce!

Parsonsgoggles starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/12/2009 04:58PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Some of the most INTENSE pieces of music I have ever heard live, walked away feeling as though I had been trippppppppping my goggles off. Run, don't walk when Akron/Family brings their stew of goodness to a venue near you...

Juan starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/12/2009 07:47PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Been diggin these cats for a while - and using some tracks like "Gone Beyond" in yoga class. The new album "Set Em Wild" is one of the best albums I have heard in ages and that is no exaggeration. I will see them for the first time in a few weeks in Bklyn and can't wait.

These cats are the real deal! And buy the new album when it drops!

Thanks Kayceman

Om shantih

John Smrtic

TK starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/12/2009 08:11PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


What a show they put on, it's totally unique in that it feeds off the audience, you feel like you are part of the performance. GO SEE AKRON/FAMILY, especially if it's in a small room. They are a thousand bands in one, nice Slip reference Big Man, dreaming of an Akron/Slip/JFJO tour, bring it all back to the roots...

rainydaywomen420 starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/12/2009 08:11PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


cant wait to see these fellers in toronto, party my mind away, sleep it off in a cheap hotel and proceed to see les claypol the next night.

Lord-K. starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/12/2009 08:22PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Cannot wait to see these guys at 10KLF I saw them a few years ago and haven't had the chance to catch them since. The new EP should be another gem to add to their collection.

Hankskool Thu 3/12/2009 09:05PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I have never seen a review posted from a show at the Hemlock Tavern. Hat's off to this outfit for playing that place. The few acts I've seen there have been fun but taken in stuck to the back wall like on a Rotor at an amusement park where the floor drops away and the sound is so loud you're stuck to the wall. This is a good track you posted.

Hankskool Thu 3/12/2009 09:12PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Rainyday. Just read your brief post. Yeah that could be double header. Saw Les Claypool sunday night in south lake and the last five or six pieces were just insane , including that crazy King Crimson song they do. No frills. Just straight forward blasting. It was mutated if nothing else than all of the sounds that come out of that one guys cello and the drummer that hides under his kit playing the tablas.

George W. Bush II starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/13/2009 08:07AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

George W. Bush II

Hey toestothenoes, I totally dig and respect your opinion, but I'm just wondering how you compare these guys to fleet foxes. I am just having a hard time finding the connection besides the folkiness of them both.

Great article btw!

joshpotter Fri 3/13/2009 08:59AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Yes Wave

welting Fri 3/13/2009 09:00AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


They're NYE show was pretty raucous. They definitely delve into something that is very deep musically. Lots of different sounds and influences. From all out ragers to marvelously beautiful acoustic songs to sea chanties, free jazz, and funk smothered hooks. I'm sold. Can't wit for the new album.

BungledMorphine Sun 3/15/2009 03:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Been a fan for years and FINALLY get to see my first show of theirs at 10klf. CANNOT WAIT!!

Hog Mon 3/16/2009 01:34PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Akron simultaneously makes you feel like you have heard this music all your life, and that noone has ever played like this before. Come back to High Sierra!!!