Akron/Family w/Bad Weather California, Dustin Wong
Saturday, January 21
Better than: A rock show.
The fourth wall was breached long before Akron/Family hit the stage at 285 Kent on Saturday, the frothing, all-ages, sellout inventing polyrhythmic clap-alongs to opening acts Bad Weather California and Dustin Wong, and oddly succeeding. The Colorado band Bad Weather California, a signee to Akron’s new Family Tree label, received a pleasant welcome during their first trip to New York, and their surf-fuzz Afro-boogie was a good match for the following Akron/Family have built for themselves since their departure from Brooklyn a few years ago. The response to Dustin Wong, the former Ponytail guitarist who played sitting on 285 Kent’s very low stage, served as a sign that his music—abstract guitar loops improvised and suddenly demolished—was getting through to the heads. And Akron/Family received further reassurance that they’d come out on the other side of the buzz years intact.
Within seconds of the headliners leaping into a drumless and abstract noise jam to start their set, fans in the front row had grabbed percussion from bassist Miles Seaton and guitarist Seth Olinsky’s music stands and started playing along. Which was just fine. Throughout the night, they drew effortlessly from a well of deep and noisy free improvisation, songs combusting and building back toward the giant noise-grooves the crowd had come for. Then: chaos, moshing, guitar solos, occasional stage breaches, ecstasy, etc. In between, the band pulled off some pretty deft moves. The opening jam made its way into the quiet strummed psych-folk of “Gravely Mountains of the Moon,” the centerpiece of 2009’s Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free and the audience percussionists quieted down obligingly. Instead of the song’s climactic noise jam, the band made a suite-like segue into the Boredoms chants of “Say What You Want To,” building tension for just a little bit longer before finally getting to the first moment of froth.
285 Kent’s properly graffitied environs were well-suited for the chaos. The band moved between islands of quiet, the occasional chant, and increasingly elongated noise-waves, drummer Dana Janssen bringing a big-eared subtlety to the drop-outs and thorough propulsion that kept the show building through legit segues that don’t just deserve, but require “>” marks on a setlist. Sometime during “Another Sky,” around the time Bad Weather California started to trickle onstage, the encouragingly co-ed crowd-churn reached perhaps halfway back into the room. During one of the peaks, a pogoing bro in the front row ripped his tee-shirt off and threw the shredded fabric into the air, perhaps sensing the band had reached a timeless chaos zone for thee duration of the set. Bad Weather California’s Adam Baumeister set up his lap steel behind the speakers, and the sound grew denser. At some point, perhaps during perennial anarchy-maker “Ed Is A Portal,” Miles Seaton crowd-surfed to the back of the room, and ran back to the front, leaving disarray in his wake. “You pussies!” Olinsky screamed into the microphone, and the crowd frothed on. For the long-time beardos, a new level of space and cosmic love had been reached.
Through all of this, though, the band continued to pay careful attention to their music. Olinsky and Seaton spent plenty of their time hunched over tables filled with keyboards and pedals and noisemakers; both ran separate microphones through the mixers, too, screaming and knob-twisting their way into abstraction. Bad Weather California’s sax-brah came on stage and Seaton dumped his treated microphone into the bell of the sax-brah’s horn, which made a sound like the sky tearing. (Once the mic had been removed, sax-brah immediately jumped into the crowd.) Olinsky continued to make a case for the electric guitar as a totally modern means of rock elucidation, abstracting melodies into thick free-noise deconstructions that still contained some expressive logic. Though maybe depriving the band of the ability to pull off the truly hushed music of their first magical recordings, the open and enthusiastic crowd Akron/Family have found for themselves have made the band’s shows truly heady occurrences.
During the encore, the crowd chanted the refrain of “There’s So Many Colors” and the band slipped into a winding jam that found Seaton and Olinsky at the center of the stage, locked in Albert Ayler-esque freakout as the band turned back toward quiet. The tambourine that had been circulating in the crowd since the show’s start made it audibly to the back of the room, where it jangled in the distance as the band slipped into one more gently crashing noise-wave with Janssen’s “Light Emerges.” As Olinsky said goodnight, the tambourine emerged out of the crowd. The guitarist looked down at it and took it, a bit surprised. “Thanks,” he said.
Critical bias: Kool-Aid.
Overheard: “Yeah, when he was running through the crowd, he was just, like, taking people’s hats off and putting them on. I don’t think he gave them back.”
Random notebook dump: Maybe dudes should just start bringing their own instruments.
Gravely Mountains of the Moon >
Say What You Want To
AAA O WAY >
So It Goes
Another Sky > (with Bad Weather California)
Ed Is A Portal > (with Bad Weather California)
Everyone Is Guilty >