Akron/Family has dazzled Ottawa audiences on a couple of occasions. As the band’s reputation advances with every release, its moved from the small club space of Zaphod’s to the more spacious First Baptist Church, to Barrymore’s, Ottawa’s most prestigious music venue. The question was, would the band’s performance, which on previous occasions had thrived on the group’s ability to interact with the audience, work in the less intimate environs of Barrymore’s?

The band’s latest tour was undertaken with laptop drone artist Greg Davis and avant-folk group Megafaun. Megafaun took the stage first. A trio composed of brothers Phil and Brad Cook and drummer Jan Westerlund, the band built most of the songs around Phil’s banjo and group choruses, with Brad kicking in some frequently chewy guitar. In sound the group was similar to Canadian acts like Golden Famile and Elliott Brood: hillbilly music with more electricity and junkyard percussion. After a half-dozen frenetic tunes (and one audience singalong) the group segued directly into Davis’s set.

Consisting of one long “song” composed while sitting between his harmonium and a laptop, it shifted between a bassy rumble and Davis’ chants. While well-received by the audience, it seemed that Davis wasn’t entirely pleased with the sound he was getting, making frequent motions for a louder monitor feed from the soundman.

The third band on the bill, Ohbijou, put on a sweet-voiced display of folk-influenced chamber pop. The well-staffed band has a keyboardist, cellist, mandolin-player and violinist in addition to the usual drums/bass/guitar lineup and crafts deep, yet delicate, compositions around the voice of singer Casey Mejica.

After the trio of reasonably brisk openers, Akron/Family got on stage – or in some cases returned to it, since the members of Megafaun and Greg Davis have been incorporated in the act for the duration of the tour, perhaps to make up for missing Family member Ryan Vanderhoof. With two drummers and a trio of extra guitarists on board (Davis switched from laptop to Telecaster for his role), the band was equipped to really rock out. The audience was happy to sing along (and clap along, when the band all switched to cymbals, tambourines and drums for one number).

Compared to earlier shows, the band was more willing to pull tunes out into long jams; there were fewer identifiable songs, and a lot more head-bending guitar workouts. By the time the show ended (barring a boy-band tune performed a cappella for the encore) the audience was even looking a bit dazed. While one or two people voiced their disappointment at not hearing a favourite song (or perhaps being unable to recognize it), the vast majority of the crowd was more than delighted, and made one of the loudest rackets I’ve heard for an encore after the marathon set had ended.

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