The self-proclaimed “last hair band in Seattle,” Akimbo’s curly locks may be the only frill they brought to their CMJ set at the Knitting Factory. This made them somewhat of an anomaly amongst their Panache showcase compatriots, when you consider that they were preceded by a set which ended with 6-foot inflatable gargoyles being thrown about the crowd and followed by a group that consisted of what appeared to be a coal miner, Steven Tyler’s evil twin, and a demon-possessed bassist. This is all fine, though, since Akimbo doesn’t really need anything extra to bring their brand of ear-splitting rock to the table. The left coast trio are a throwback to punk and hardcore acts of old to be sure, but their driving, almost tribal, brand of punishing rock remains fresh because of the sincere confidence with which it is performed. While they didn’t have the stage presence of An Albatross or The Mae Shi, who followed them, there’s something to be said for a band that can just get up there and throw down a quality set with no bells or whistles attached.
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Unfortunately, due to a room crammed full of folk, my original plan to see Gang Gang Dance was curtailed, and I ended up finishing out the evening with Growing. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Creating a dense sound that utilized a combination of drones and a collage of tweaked sounds and samples, Growing not only proved to be one of the best bands on the Social Registry roster, but also one of the best in modern music. The last time I saw them, a few years ago, they were opening for Mogwai, and the set was much less inspired. Since then, they’ve learned to feed off each other, especially when improvising, rather than getting lost in their own worlds. Like their name suggests, this is a band that continues to grow.
A cloud of fog settled over the room during the Psychic Ills’ set, and it might have been the culmination of multiple joints being lit at the same time because everyone looked stoned—whether they were or not. And while my own drug of choice this evening was gin and tonic, I was still able to close my eyes and got lost in the band’s sound. I honestly think that’s the group’s intention. If people were dancing around during their set, I’m sure they would be a bit freaked out. I saw no dancing, but I did see a room full of people all getting something different out of their set.
If you’ve ever heard a Sian Alice Group record, it’s nothing like experiencing them live. Onstage they are much louder, much more abrasive, and much more insanely psychedelic. With a heavier guitar driven sound taking precedent over piano, Alice’s chants worked more as an instrument in the mix rather then serving as a separate entity. It was quite different than what was expected, but you can’t help but admire a band that switches up the live set to be more fitting to its environment. Truly enigmatic—the psych gods would be proud.
A little too tame for CMJ, Mike Bones would have fit in better opening on a club tour for a band like Sian Alice Group rather than playing to a crowd that seemed to be hyping themselves up for Gang Gang Dance. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him before this show, but he really is an inimitable songwriter, and it’s less about the actual music and more about his clever lyricism. I’d be interested to see him take a full band out on the road and continue to make records on a bare bones level.