28 July 2008

Akron/Family, Vetiver @ Boulder Festival

I thought I had a good idea of what I was in for, but I had no idea what I was IN for. Long story short, Akron/Family blew my mind last Friday evening. (Keep reading for the long story) They wiped our palates clean and then built a musical universe from the ground up until it was towering over us, awesome in scope and power. Excuse the excessive use of superlatives herein, but there is no other way to get across the excellence other than a complete "-est" fest. I knew that I really wanted to catch them--still I almost missed this show for various reasons--but really I didn't quite know why. As in I really didn't know much about them. As in, when they came on stage 6 strong I had no idea that half the band was actually Megafaun (who had played earlier and who I am disappointed I couldn't get there early enough to see in retrospect) I have no idea how they could pull this show off with only 3 guys, let's just hope they somehow manage to always tour as this 6. It was a circus up there. The show started modestly enough, a lot of slow builders that began spacey but morphed into raging noisy rockers. After a few songs in I was thinking that it was growing a bit repetitive, great, interesting, but repetitive in structure. And lacking the all out energy I was expecting. Then they toss in this instrumental piece that had the sweetest little infectious guitar lead, on par with Rana's "Whenever You Can", the type of riff you could just listen to all day and never grow tired of.
Here's video proof:

From there they drifted into a spacey vocal/rhythm interlude and the bass player (who was a badass btw) handed off to the Megafaun guitarist and grabbed the mic. A Lovelight bass groove was produced and before you knew it we were engaged in a full-on Pigpen-esque Lovelight. The energy kicked up a notch onstage and in the small but packed-in crowd. I thought this was a showstopper. But in reality it was the show starter. Immediately after Lovelight came a groove that was so funky it nearly caused widespread instantaneous booty implosion. Think late-70s Stevie. This lasted for a while and I just never wanted it to stop. Insane. The crowd was now full into it and the stage show just getting crazier. At some point a young child who had interrupted the opening of the show by banging some drums at a vendor tent had made it on stage, dancing and banging on his drum. The crowd became a member of the band on multiple occasions with plenty of vocal participation and claps and snaps. The drummer from Vetiver joined in for a 3 drum attack for the 2nd half too. It was a cacophony of sound with tons of percussion, pipes, flutes, recorders, recording devices even, and some hilariously over the top all-out screaming. The show ended with Ed is a Portal that had the crowd in a frenzy, explosive. Then that fizzled out into another vocal jam with vocals regarding the Vetiver drummer's playing of the triangle. This turned into an impromptu song about triangles, circles and squares with hand motions and all. As the song neared its end a small display of fireworks went off somewhere off in the distance. Fitting.

They came out for a quiet, past-curfew encore of I Know You Rider, with the entire band front of stage, mostly acoustic, and with the guitarist from Vetiver joining in on harmonica. Akron/Family's guitarist expertly evoked Jerry Garcia for a beautiful ending solo, and the crowd dispersed in glee.

Akron/Family were the headliner in the first of a three night festival put on by the Boulder Coffee Company. It was a fine little festival, but unfortunately I couldn't catch any more of it. In addition to some great local talent on tap, Dr. Dog was headlining the second day. It was a tough pill to swallow to have to miss that set. Oh well.

I did catch Vetiver though. They get thrown in the freak folk scene a lot, and as such I was not expecting to like them too much. But they really weren't all that "freaky." Pretty straightforward retro-folk rock. Great vocals, good songs, quite enjoyable.

Also took in the set by the local group Baby Shivers' Boutique. They had a unique set-up and showed a lot of potential, but it was so very rough around the edges, and not even just on the edges. I'd like to see how they develop their sound more. A couple of songs fell flat, but others held great promise. I'll keep my eye on those guys...

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