Psychedelic band Akidna Pillow has had its share of strange gigs on the patchouli circuit--and felt right at home. But it was clearly out of its element a few months ago, when it played an Akron wedding with a country theme. "Everybody liked it, but there weren't too many people dancing," acknowledges frontman Will Roth. "They all had cowboy hats on."
The band, named after the passive defense mechanism of a porcupine ("like a pin cushion for your head," says Roth), should play to a less befuddled crowd this weekend at the Hippie New Year concert in Akron. The event doesn't rush things--after all, it doesn't start until two full days after the champagne corks are popped. All manner of laid-back types will be there, from marathon jammers the Waxy Monks to acid-folk philosopher Danny Longhair, who tends to speak in 4 a.m. profundities ("I love meeting people. When I was first born, I met some people and I couldn't stop"). Mo' Shambo will bring its light jazz (like a shopping mall for your head) and headliner Sugar Magnolia, its Grateful Dead tribute, while acoustic duo Willy Mac Music represents the breakaway republic of Crosby, Stills and Nash.
This will be the fourth year for the festival, organized by Roth, who also runs Iguanahead Productions, which puts on the Hippie Fest at Bear Creek Amphitheatre in Canton every year. But Longhair, from Shaker Heights, sounds like the grizzled veteran of the group--the one who could actually drive a Volkswagen bus in the '70s. He spends about three months a year playing art and music fairs around the country, from Jerry Garcia's all-star birthday tribute in Washington, D.C. to harvest festivals in assorted palookavilles.
"If I have a ticket, I'll go play," he says. "It's just what I do." His sidemen are culled from the audience--maybe a musician from another band, or a particularly inspired bongo player plucked from a drum circle back at the campsite.
Led by two psychologists from Columbus, the Waxy Monks are known for endurance of a different sort--improvised performances that have gone as long as ten hours, hence their slogan, "Last Man Standing." A dead ringer for Dead ringer Phish, the Monks don't graze much farther for other influences, though you may hear a little bit of Santana and John Scofield.
Longhair prefers to test his mettle by sitting on his weatherbeaten porch glider (in summer, anyway) and writing songs with meanings revealed "only after extreme Jack Daniel's."
Says Longhair: "I'm hoping to surpass everybody and become America's foremost writer, and nobody will know who I am."
Hippie New Year starts at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 2, and goes till sunrise, at the Highland Theatre, 826 West Market Street, Akron. Tickets are $10, available by calling 216-241-5555 in Cleveland and 330-945-9400 in Akron.