Akron/Family is one of those rare breeds of bands that understands the value of multitasking, not just instrumentally but also musically and aesthetically. There were a lot of instruments, genres, sights and sounds being juggled at last Saturday night’s gig at 285 Kent, and yet it all came into place in a terrific belated new year’s show, complete with a round of “Auld Lang Syne.”
The modest lighting of the venue gave the music of the experimental folk-rockers a chance to come to the forefront, and it did. The members went leaping from guitars and synthesizers to drums and sample machines, often at the same time. Rollicking fan-favorite “River” galloped along with joyful abandon, with all of the square-dancing infectiousness that made it so popular in the first place. The guys participated in the fun as well, with plenty of stage dives and even a group sing-along to “Island” that came with its own finger-waggling dance (“Pretend you’re on an island and you’re rich and you don’t care,” instructed singer/guitarist Seth Olinsky).
Perhaps the best aspect of the show was its degree of closeness. The setup of the stage allowed the audience to get exceptionally close to the band and to the wizardry of the entire spectacle: the frantic tension of Dana Janssen’s drumming, the grooves laid down by Olinsky and singer/bassist Miles Seaton…and the thrilled kids jumping off of the stage and reveling in it all. This is a band whose sound thrives on spirit, who can enchant a crowd to loudly (and gleefully) sing the words “Don’t be afraid, you’re already dead” and consider them some of the most positive, liberating words in the English language. Most importantly, Akron/Family knew the importance of a good old, cathartic dance party. Multitasking, indeed.