I wasn’t going to go out last night. This weekend is all about resting and preparing for the new semester. But then my neighbor, Nelson from “Hunter’s Run,” dragged my ass out to see our friends play.
Now I’ve known most of the Akron Family band members, Dana, Seth, and Ryan, for at least a year now. I’ve hung out with them, goofed around, enjoyed their company, and been invited to their shows. I’m lame though – or didn’t you know? It’s hard to fathom why I put off seeing them play for so incredibly long.
Not only was it titillating to see guys I know on stage in front of a crowd of at least a hundred at 66 North Six; it was also enlightening. I now understand why their popularity is growing. First of all, their personalities are woven throughout the music. The music exists because they write wholesomely and from the heart, a rare marketing tool these days. I think the average songstress figures out what the kids are dancing to, and he or she writes accordingly. Not so here; they are the genuine article: fun, respectable, and respectful young men playing what they’ve lived and dream about to music they love, all with a sincere hope that you’ll love it too.
If I had read my own characterization of the Akron Family’s music prior to going to their show, I probably would not have gone. It doesn’t sound like music I would spend a late Saturday night listening to. But after such pleasure, an attempt is warranted nonetheless.
The Akron Family’s music is akin to a reworking of really well-wrought, long-play-feel-good hippie stuff (dare I say a distant relative of the Dead’s?), along with a strong measure of blue grass and carefully-crafted Appalachian spiritual mixed in. Imagine long stretches of mellow immersion without the peyote, countered by bouts of invigoration that would make an atheist leap to her feet and handle snakes for God.
Not your cup of tea? Listen up. These guys are attuned to the wonders of their instruments, which include a banjo, a recorder, a synthesizer, guitars, bass, and the piece de resistance: their voices. Each voice is, indeed, unique and equally engaged in the task of wooing anyone within dancing distance (even if you don’t dance, you’ll end up swaying & slapping your thigh). No member of this family sounds the same, and very often, they’re all singing together, though they never turn choir-like. They harmonize for the refined modern ear. Sometimes, a voice comes to the front while the others support and accentuate in just the right spots.
This family embraces the ideals of a cooperative, old school family that knows how to work well with others and puts their downhome, gently-oiled machine onstage for the rest of us to rock with. They play and sing very, very nicely together. It is my recommendation that you marry one of these boys just to become part of this sweet & lively family – or at least pick up their cd so that you can sleep better at night.
p.s. Be delighted: the Brooklyn show was just a kick-off. The Akron Family is now on tour in a city near you. See them before they play to sold-out shows.
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.