A brand-new trip in Vail | VailDaily.com

A brand-new trip in Vail

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily Akron/Family, who play in Vail Thursday, brings percussion toys for the audience to play

VAIL, Colorado -The “curtain of cool.” That’s what the drummer for Akron/Family – which plays n Vail Thursday – calls the barrier that separates the audience from a band performing on stage. It’s also what keeps the bored-looking guy stationed in the corner from having any fun, says Dana Janssen.That’s why Akron/Family first started bringing percussion toys to their shows a few years back.”At times, people would want to have fun and dance with us,” Janssen said during a recent phone interview from North Carolina. “We’d throw the instruments out at people and they just went for it.”While the audience participation component of the show used to happen every once in a while, it has become more of a regular thing, Janssen said. “We want people to feel more involved,” he said. “It’s an attempt to break down that wall, the curtain of cool, and eliminate it from the equation and see what happens.”And while sometimes the chaos that ensues is, well, chaotic, and people might end up falling over a drum set or tripping over cords, it’s almost always worth it. “It’s usually a pretty joyous thing,” he said.

The trio, which formed in Brooklyn in 2002, recently toured Japan for the first time. At a show in Tokyo things got a little out of control.”I was looking down in the front row and there was a guy and a girl just getting crushed into the stage,” Janssen said. “We felt really bad and grabbed them and pulled them onstage and we ended up with 20-some people on stage, falling all over stuff. It’s inevitable that with that many people, it’s going to get messy.”A videographer named Vincent Moon took video of the band performing in New York in March of this year. By the end of the song “Sun Will Shine,” audience members played harmonicas and horns alongside Janssen and his two bandmates, Seth Olinsky on guitar and Miles Seaton on bass. The scene is at once uninhibited and passionate, much like the band.”It’s been a long time since a group has come around that has the unique ability to make hippies and punks love each other – Akron/Family can do that,” said Dick Dime, the talent booker for the Sandbar in West Vail where the band will perform tonight. “I know that they are on the verge of getting really, really big. Hopefully, the road to super-stardom takes the slow and easy route however, because this is a band that I know people will want to see again and again.”

Describing Akron/Family’s music is perhaps the hardest task of all. Even Janssen struggled with a succinct definition before coming up with this:”I suppose it’s rock and roll psychedelic. It’s pretty eclectic,” he said. “I would say the triangle of influence for us is Fugazi, Grateful Dead and Fela Kuti.”Although its clear that 1960s-era American roots rock fuels the band, the sound is layered. Expect everything from folk, to West-African sounding grooves, metal riffs and even jazz progressions. “Their songs are of the best type: what I like to call ‘growers’ because they grow on you with each repeated listen,” Dime said. “Little nuances and sweet spots emerge, engage and demand ones’ attention.”They are at times a nervous collection of sounds and ideas that grow into colorful tapestries,” Dime continued.While the band members primarily stick to their own instruments on stage, in the studio, anything they can lay their hands on is fair game. “A lot of times we’ll have a tune on the table and it needs something, but no one really knows what it needs. So we just try things – a pole that happens to be in the room, or whatever it is, to find some sound to fulfill the frequency we need.”In May the band, which was a four-man job until Ryan Vanderhoof left the band to go and live at a Buddhist Dharma center, released its first album as a trio, “Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free.” The group self-produced the album.Janssen called the experience “pretty awesome.””One of the biggest things I noticed in the studio is I feel like we had a lot more breathing room and space to express our ideas, partly because there’s less cooks in the kitchen.”High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

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