Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City
There wasn't a huge crowd at Urban Lounge to see Akron/Family perform, and before the headliners an even smaller crowd was treated to the intricate arrangements of (mostly) instrumental band Delicate Steve, an experimentally-minded but fun-loving rock group. The band bears the name of lead guitarist Steve Marion, but the set was much more than just a showcase for his excellent guitar playing. Each of the five members contributed to successfully recreate the group’s cheerfully varied rock style, with songs ranging from triumphant pop anthems to breezy, melodic jams.
The group opened modestly with a mix of tribal percussion and subtle guitar interplay, but soon broke out into some more anthemic material that encouraged a small yet enthusiastic dance session near the stage. At times Steve would show off with some flashy guitar work and at others he would fade into the mix to help the band create more restrained sonic textures. Each piece was interesting, but the audience was most appreciative of the more up-tempo numbers, especially the penultimate tune, a fiery alt-blues stomp that features some seriously impressive shredding.
For the last song, Steve took his guitar down to the small dance party on the floor while the band pounded away on stage, never missing a beat and offering a solid finale to a strong opening performance. Delicate Steve may be a young band, but the quintet played with the precision and intelligence of seasoned pros. Definitely a band worth experiencing live if you have the chance.
Right from the beginning of their set, it was clear that Akron/Family was going to take their time that evening. They spent some time chatting with the crowd, extolling the virtues of an all-week weekend (this was a Monday show) before launching into a quiet, nature-sounds-infused introduction that must have lasted for five minutes as the band waited patiently for the crowd to quiet. As the noise of the audience died down, the band launched into a delicate blending of voices that demanded everyone’s attention, but the crowd really got going with beginning of the next song, “River,” which involved a great deal of audience participation in the form of clapping and chanting along.
In fact, the band members nearly demanded such participation throughout the evening. At one point guitarist Seth Olinsky lead the crowd in a group meditation session, for another song everyone was encouraged to sing along for what seemed like a ten-minute chorus. And when they weren’t interacting with the audience, the trio were feverishly playing on stage with energetic riffs, spectacular harmonies and deafening blasts of noise. Bassist Miles Seaton even managed to play the bass with his mouth for while.
But it wasn’t all just gimmicks and insanity, Akron/Family is a talented bunch that provided some great moments that night. “Everyone is Guilty” and “Another Sky” were especially electrifying, showing the band’s ability to write and perform deliriously fun pop hooks. The problem was, by 1 a.m. the band had pretty well worn out the audience, trying our patience with a few too many extended jam sessions and head-exploding bursts of noise. Even the encore was a bit of a chore in its length, but the final moments of the show were beautiful, an a capella sing-a-long that faded softly and smoothly, ending a sometimes thrilling, sometimes trying performance on the perfect note. I think it’s safe to say Akron/Family puts on a truly unique show, but be warned, it certainly requires some stamina.