Night of the Living Dopplegangers. I swear up and down I was stuck between
folks who looked like Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Morrison, and Dee Dee Ramone--an
odd trio to envision--but that's what a show billing Sir Richard Bishop and
Akron/Family will bring.
I walked in just as Richard Bishop began his set. If you've never seen Bishop
work his magic, then you'd be in for a real treat. This is another in a long
line of classic Bishop performances. The man is able to make one guitar sound
like an army of them (take that, Broken Social Scene!) with little effort.
Watching his fingers move so nimbly across the frets becomes mesmerizing.
There are times when you forget about the actual music being produced and just
focus on figuring out his tricks. Once you do snap out of the trance and
listen to the sound, you're blown away by how Bishop is able to switch from
the gritty sounds of the OK Corral to a playful cover of "Somewhere Over the
Rainbow," before launching into a 15 minute collision of quiet tones meeting
deafening strums. He had the crowd by the ear, and those who didn't know him
beforehand would never be able to forget him.
As Akron/Family began setting up for their whirlwind performance, I listened
in on the crowd. Many seemed swayed to check out the band from an article
written by The Stranger--one person even quoted it to the best of his memory.
I got a chuckle because they were expecting some Dylanesque performance of
folk rock that they would never get, though Akron/Family would tease them with
"Awake." Many in the crowd were lulled into a false sense of calm and
nostalgia while others waited with baited breath for the real surprises to
begin. And the minute the band exploded into the frenzied beginning of
"Moment," some eyes lit up as most faces tried to stop their jaws from
dropping. No longer was the group behind me talking about Dylan and how
beautiful the first song was. They were now in the midst of a fray, and not
one of them knew what to do.
From then on out, it was a battle of attrition. It was Akron/Family versus
convention, and the four Brooklynites were willing to pull out all the stops
as the crowd quickly melted into their hands. Whatever the band wanted, they
received. The band teased the crowd with haunting melodies and bone-jarring
jams. They kept us on edge throughout the night, and no matter how jovial
their conversations with the crowd were (even promising to bust out some CCR
if we were good), everyone expected them to blow the roof off at any moment.
We were hostages with friendly captors.
When the bird calls, slide whistles and harmonicas were unleashed to herald
"Future Myth," the crowd was ready to spend their last amount of energy as the
song devolved from a ruckus tune into a wall of distortion and tribal drum
beats. As we all prepared for the big sendoff and a chance to catch our
breath, one by one the band began to climb off the stage and congregate in the
middle of crowd. Armed with a banjo, an acoustic guitar, and small percussives,
the band launched into a beautiful sing-along, even getting the crowd to
"drink the kool-aid." Soon the room swelled as everyone loudly sang "Love and
space" on a loop. It's one of those rare moments when a band trusts its crowd
and gives back the best way they know how. After the campfire moment, the boys
gravitated towards another part of the room and tackled Neil Young's
unappreciated "For the Turnstiles." The crowd was once again moved to
participate, this time without the goading from the band. When they finally
returned to the state for one last go, everyone left standing had been
converted. No one left without a smile, and no one would ever forget what they
had just witnessed. Akron/Family transcended the music and actually reached
out to their audience with no hidden agenda or false pretense. In a musical
world brimming with cynicism and criticism, it's nice to have bands like
Akron/Family nurturing a heartfelt family mentality.
Photo: Emily Wilson