Akron/Family at the Larimer Lounge
The show at Larimer Lounge started simply enough with Ged Gengras, under the psyuedonym M Geddas Gengas, an artist who recently collaborated with psych rock band Sun Araw and legendary dub pioneers The Congos on a joint release in 2012. That he also was the drummer in Pocahaunted, Beth Consentino of Best Coast fame’s first musical project, is also notable. These projects both scratched at the outer reaches of popular music, incorporating glitchy electronic instrumentation and distorted beats.
However, it would be an understatement to say that Gengras’ music and performance style did not engage an audience anticipating the kinetic energy of Akron/Family. He often faced away from the audience, looking down at his various keyboards and mixers. His volume of down tempo drum kicks and sludgy dub samples only hinted at his potential as an experimental musician. I knew before the show that he would also be performing with Akron/Family, so it makes sense if he hadn’t had time to prepare enough captivating material for a set and instead improvised as necessary.
The second artist, Princess Music, was somewhat of a mystery to me, being a prolific local band whose musical reference points are close to my heart. They are a band comprised of classically trained musicians whose instrumentation comes close to the complexity of Dirty Projectors and whose vocalist, Tyler Ludwick, certainly takes a stab at Dave Longstreth’s iconic warble. Princess Music includes a cellist and violinist in addition to the standard guitar, bass, and drum set-up of a rock band. Not unlike Sufjan Stevens, their controlled volume and string accompaniment certainly set them apart from laconic rock bands. Their studied polyrhythms and quirky vocals added up to an enjoyable bridge between the opening and closing acts.
For about 10 minutes prior to the start of Akron/Family’s performance, I overheard one audience member explain to an apparent stranger the contributions of band members whom she identified by their full names. Between these explanations, she noted that she has seen them many times and that while listening to their records often feels spiritual and is guided by their lyrics.
Akron/Family are neither from Akron, OH nor family members, but their penchant for the forgotten Rust Belt and a desire to become connected through music is apparent. Throughout their performance their connection to each other through their music could be seen from synchronized movements and members allowing each other to perform thrilling solos.
At one point, guitarist and vocalist Seth Olinsky broke a string. The repair was begun on stage, the guitar passed off to the backstage with the provision of a temporary replacement, and then reintroduced before the song finished. At no point did any band member seem upset that this happened and indeed, Seth started the following song with a searing guitar solo as if it had all been planned.
Miles, the bassist and yet another vocalist, continued throughout the show to ask how the audience was in a way that I truly believed conveyed his concern. He played his bass with his head at one moment later in the show, and also sang a song a capella.
Dana, the drummer and third vocalist stepped to the fore on one song and sang while calmly drumming along.
Their three part harmonizing is rather unique in such an experimental outfit. As I mentioned before, Princess Music at times reminded me of Dirty Projectors, outside of the glaring omission of female harmonies. Without these extra voices, a band whose sound reaches into the ether fails to realize its potential for a fuller sound. One voice simply doesn’t convey the intention of a whole the way that various registers working together can.
Akron/Family’s most recent album, released in 2011, bathes in this mystery of a band of voices and instruments clanging together in order to make sense of human emotion. They manage to avoid the cacophony and drone of noise bands as well as the listlessness of hippie dreck. In a way, the inability to classify Akron/Family is exciting. They reach a part of my brain that can’t immediately process their intentions and this mystery was reinforced after seeing them live.
Photos and review by Kerry Nordstrom.