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Akron/Family w/Stagnant Pools
Friday, June 29
Better than: Fancy pants.
There’s more than one way for a band to work a room, of course, but not all of those apply to playing in a bowling alley, and even fewer to the jeweled pleasure palace of Brooklyn Bowl, glowing proudly on the Williamsburg gold coast. For Akron/Family, innocent beardos weaned at the tail end of the neighborhood’s previous epoch, their Friday night free show was a trip into the heart of the new Brooklyn. Over the lanes and below the bowling scores, shots of the band alternated with videos of perfectly coiffed denim models pouting in faux super-8, every now and again subtly reminding concertgoers that the show’s price was brought to you (YOU!) by the graces of Ralph Lauren’s Denim & Supply. As the band started their set with a sequence of quiet far-out folk numbers with hushed gang harmonies, bowling pins clattered like… bowling pins.
“Everyone must get paid so that catalogue stuff can get made,” the Akrons sang with woolly Beatlesiness on “We All Will,” a song from their years in boho Williamsburg, and looking quite comfy in their non-Ralph Lauren duds. Their innocence intact (in large part, likely, because they moved out of Williamsburg), the band seemed in danger of being swallowed whole by the venue. In January, they played a revelatory, fourth-wall annihilating gig at 285 Kent, an all ages mosh-pit seething before the band even hit the stage. The economics of free shows being what they are—they don’t quite draw the same crowd as a DIY weekend banger—Akron/Family this time out fought an uphill battle against being relegated to a worse fate than being a buzz band: being just another attraction on a Northside Friday. Early in the show, guitarist Seth Olinsky looked up from his guitar mid-song, noticed his reflection in the massive video screen over the bar at the far other end of the room, giggled, and pointed. A nice-sounding room with a convincingly warm vibe, the architecture (and business model) of the place seems more designed for jam band super-sessions, funk parties, DJs, and loud flashiness. Brooklyn Bowl seemed to have outflanked the normally defiant Akron/Family.
A group of frothers bounced gently in the front of the stage, waiting for the band to put the room over the top. The band did their usual tricks with thundering sea-tides of drums on “Meek Warrior” and oversaturated Ayleresque blastage on “Another Sky,” but only Olinsky’s occasional guitar rips were able to pierce the room and—in a most old-fashioned way—seemingly generate some semblance of the active human connections between band and audience that Akron/Family communicate within. Finally, as Dana Janssen dropped into a low, rolling beat out of “Another Sky,” there was one final room-working trick to try: Olinsky jumped into the crowd. One could trace his progress from above by following the chaos. He grabbed people’s hats off their heads, wore them, and deposited them on other audience members. Onstage, bassist Miles Seaton picked up a guitar and tore off a mutated lo-fi crypto-blues solo that sounded as if it had been transcribed from one of Sublime Frequencies’ radio field recordings transmissions.
The crowd began to chant “Ed Is A Portal,” the band’s signature froth-maker, and by the time Olinsky climbed back onstage, there was a mosh pit, which stayed at least partially in action through the show’s second half. And, even if there were still a good number of people in the room who didn’t care about the hippies playing, a critical mass of engagement had been made. Olinsky and Seaton made a tight circle around Janssen’s kit and jammed for a while, three guys who are in a band together playing like they’re in a band together and finding another way to tune out (or tune in with) the surroundings. A long improvisation coasted back down into quiet, but the crowd kept seething anyway and the two bros behind me, their attentions turned from the lanes, began to improvise drunken cracking harmonies which would be annoying at any other gig but seemed totally appropriate, and even a sign of victory.
Finally the band snapped into “Everyone Is Guilty,” the conceptual flipside of “We All Will,” a darting piece of Afro-funk about modern self-consciousness on the indie archipelago. The song seemed built for Brooklyn Bowl; the band pushed out of the circular groove and into another set of noise-waves, Janssen effortlessly finding a driving pocket more than interesting than fried food. A yupster girl in dangling dagger earrings and a clinging cocktail dress, perhaps a refugee from the new post-kitsch luxury hotel across the street, watched the mosh pit with total disgust. The all-ages dudes reached full hora as the band finally kicked into “Ed Is A Potral,” Olinsky tearing off solos and drone-peels and satisfyingly Garcia-like note-clusters. In an age of sponsorship, sometimes free shows aren’t really free, but by the time Akron/Family finished at Brooklyn Bowl, this one definitely was.
Critical bias: Not to say anything disparaging about fried chicken or bowling, but I decisively believe that rock and roll is better without either. (Or at least bowling.)
Overheard: “These guys won Best Album at South by Southwest, like, three years ago.”
Random notebook dump: How to accurately measure the fringes of the physical Akak bubble?
We All Will
Say What You Want To
AAA O WAY >
So It Goes Another Sky >
Everyone Is Guilty >
Ed Is A Portal