Whether or not you enjoyed Akron/Family at the Grog Shop last night largely depends on how willing you were to embrace the communal spirit. Beyond that, the 90-minute set required you to be patient with three members of the community seemingly content to casually stroll their way through some of their more recent songs.
Openers Delicate Steve would periodically join Akron/Family on stage, and crowd members would sing or clap along when properly provoked. Roughly midway into the night, we were led in a mild form of meditation to imagine ourselves at the beach, “but not Miami because fuck the Heat, right?” Instructed to sway along to the beat as if we were careless at the beach, “Island” provided a solid break from the looser, Grateful Dead moments in the show.
On the other hand, it also reminded us that founding member Ryan Vanderhoof left in 2007 to go live in a Buddhist Dharma center. This is not the same experimental folk act that we were introduced to in 2005. Thankfully, their latest album is their strongest in years despite the disparity between the anti-folk of the original self-titled album and the nomadic jam band found on this years’ S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT.
One of the best songs on the new album, “Another Sky,” was one of the biggest offenders in the communal mode, but mostly worked. Band members walked through the crowd, banged on drum heads and led the crowd in singing along.
Whatever momentum was lost in overlong segments was regained after rousing versions of “Everyone Is Guilty” and “Silly Bears.” Then, of course, it was lost again with an inexplicably bizarre song calling for the audience to repeat and mime a “Circle, Triangle, Square.” The silliness was verbally acknowledged by the band, well aware we expected “serious songs,” but they should have bailed much sooner. Finally, we were treated to “Light Emerges,” which worked hard to redeem an inconsistent set. —Michael Tkach