REVIEW: AKRON/FAMILY @ Annandale, Sydney 12/12/09

Brisvegas’ Oh Ye Denver Birds joined Akron/Family for their tour and they were a suitable support choice with their low-key rambling and hypnotic sound. They have elements of Arcade Fire in their more uplifting moments alongside more folkier sounds of early Animal Collective and The Dodos.
It was the first time I had seen The Paper Scissors live and they are a curious proposition. They pick and mix the parts of their sound. One minute they playing angst-ridden indie and the next they are venturing into straighter funk territory. Its like a glorious mish mash of TV On The Radio, Spoon and Beck when he is in party mode. Jai Payne hoots and hollers in a distinctive strangled style that adds tension to the pop fueled songs.
Akron/Family lost a member a few years back but if anything that has crystalised their sound, pared it down to the essential mix of guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Sure they utilise a variety of additional instruments to add subtle flavours, but essentially it is the trio simply playing their songs that has the most impact.
A US flag with blown out stars provided the simple backdrop for Akron/Family’s music that was anything but simple. They rolled up the history of American music, mixed their colours and ran them through the washing machine. The colours ran and the different threads became tangled resulting in a psychedelic fusion of folk, blues, heavy jam rock and hippy ambience.
The simple the songs the better they translated. I know a big part of what they do is improvising and ‘taking the song on a journey’ but that journey often became boring and I ended up staring vacantly out the window of the car when the scenery all blurred into one endless landscape. When things gathered pace they were unstoppable, a juggernaut of heavy yet light drumming, pulsing and darting bass and some killer guitar playing from Seth Olinsky. He in particular seemed to be able to let go and ride the songs through his guitar with controlled and free playing.
When they dropped the power they lost none of the passion. In particular their harmonies were quite special, at one point silencing the saturday night drinkers. More of the mellow would have served them well but they probably felt the need to keep things moving.
Mid set they invited the members of Oh Ye Denver Birds onstage to add percussion to a wild rhythmic number that outstayed its welcome. You got the sense they were trying to bring the audience into their communal world but it was only partially successful. A couple of members of OYDB hung around for the following song and proved to be a distraction to what Akron/Family were trying to do. Enjoy the moment guys but don’t bleed it dry.
Akron/Family impressed with their musicianship and the diversity of their music. They had to work to get the crowd interacting with them yet they lost that connection when they indulged in their Grateful Dead boogie jams; as glorious as the peaks were. Some bands excel at harnessing the extremes of their sound, Akron/Family showed they have those skills but lacked restraint when it mattered the most. They would have been a much more enjoyable experience outdoors at Meredith but they still showed flashes of their ramshackle brilliance in the claustrophobic confines of The Annandale.

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