Review: Akron/Family and Delicate Steve at the Wex

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

A dude five feet behind me passed out during Akron/Family's first song last night at the Wexner Center. I didn't notice at first because I had my phone trained on the band, filming them as they worked through a slow-burn experimental piece I was expecting to explode at any minute.

It never did, and in a sense neither did the band — a particularly saddening development considering what a rapturous experience I had seeing them two years ago in Austin. They didn't stick to quiet drones and whispery coos all night; eventually the itinerant trio cranked the volume and unleashed their trademark bag of tricks: psych-pop virtuosity, batty noise freakouts, chants, group clapping and even a little dancing among the audience. All of these things could have, should have been inspiring, but Akron/Family somehow managed to make them seem rote.

The band's extraterrestrial folk and rock experiments have always emitted a pungent hippie aroma, but last night they just stunk. The feeling of vitality and spontaneity that usually accompanies an Akron/Family show was absent.

Instead, they seemed intent on trying my patience, indulging in too many of the aforementioned snoozers and allowing the more assertive numbers to peter out rather than build to eruption. In the rare moments when they would cut loose and rock out, it felt more like tired jam band noodling than vivacious rock revelation. More than a few times I thought I might conk out too.

Far more vibrant was opener Delicate Steve, an inspired tour pairing for Akron/Family. The New Jersey quintet is essentially an omnivorous hipster jam band, with elements of a few of indie rock's most eclectic eccentrics in the mix. At times their infectious instrumentals referenced global redux pop of Vampire Weekend, the compositional mad science of Dirty Projectors and the spastic electronic party pulse of Dan Deacon.

It congealed into something familiar but unique, fully realized yet boundless in its possibilities — never as thrilling as Akron/Family can be at their best, but certainly more stimulating than what the headliners offered last night.