When one guy steps off the ledge, everybody jumps.
That’s the way it works in Akron/Family, a band prone to some grand artistic lunges.
And so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise on a recent Tuesday morning when singer/bassist Miles Seaton cites polyrhythmic frog calls as one source of musical inspiration.
"I’m always kind of working on music and thinking about music, you know, imagining music and singing, wandering around, listening to the Earth," Seaton says.
"I’m not meaning to get all New Age-y on you," he adds with a chuckle, "but …"
Seaton’s fun to talk to, the kind of guy who can go from waxing poetic about Sly and the Family Stone one minute to speaking on the construction of the pyramids the next. His band’s tunes are similarly nonlinear: Akron/Family’s far-flung catalog is very loosely grounded in free-range folk, but certainly isn’t defined by it.
Colored by three-part harmonies, a shifting backdrop of instrumentation — glockenspiel, horns, strings, etc. — and an almost childlike sense of wide-eyed adventurism, the group largely wriggles out of any rigid genre distinctions.
The band’s fourth disc, the forthcoming "Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free," is a pointedly impulsive, buoyant and busy sounding record that drifts from symphonic funk ("Everyone Is Guilty") to dusky explorations of the fringes of electronica ("Creatures") to a plaintive rural swing ("Set ‘Em Free") to gospel, punk, psychedelia and pretty much any and all points in between.
As malleable as their material is on disc, live, it takes on an even more boundless feel, with the band frequently toying with the structure of its catalog, turning shows into spirited guessing games.
As such, they’re ideal headliners for the second installment of Neon Reverb, the promising downtown, multiday indie music fest that more than 75 acts will play.
The event, which got its start on Thursday and continues through Sunday, is a lot to take in, and seeing this bunch will be like catching three bands in one.
"We’re working on designing multiple set lists that we can work from, and then ideally, we have enough of a repertoire and enough of a musical dialogue with each other that I feel like we can all be like, ‘This isn’t going in the direction we want, let’s take a left turn,’ " Seaton says. "When we play live, it’s not like we’re trying to make it sound like a DAT tape of the record. You get this freedom of having the music take on a new life in that way."
Some other Neon Reverb shows of note:
• Her name’s Aimee Echo, and true to form, her voice reverberates through several eras, from ’80s new wave to ’90s pop punk to contemporary dance floor boosterism. Echo fronts The Start, a long overlooked, synth-happy quartet who possess the chops of a poppier Garbage, if not the record sales. They’ll be joined by fellow female-fronted firecrackers Roxy Epoxy and the Rebound, the Action Design and Vegas’ own Ministry of Love at 9 p.m. today at the Beauty Bar, 517 Fremont St. Tickets are $10; call 598-1965.
• They don’t play with a drummer, but that doesn’t sap any of the rhythmic thrush from The Devil Make Three’s distinctive, throwback blues. The Vermont trio spins damn-the-torpedoes drinking yarns that are equally rustic and ribald, rife with heaven-sent harmonies and hell-bound souls. They site everyone from Dr. Dre to Django Reinhardt as sources of inspiration, though their main influence is poured from a bottle.
See The Devil Makes Three at 9 p.m. today at the Las Vegas Country Saloon, 425 Fremont St., with The Clydesdale, Stampead, See Me River and DJ Lucky LaRue. Tickets are $10; call 382-3531.
• It pretty much started with Sebadoh’s "The Freed Man," a cassette-only home recording from 1989 that would help catalyze the lo-fi movement, which still exists these days in purpose and function if not sound. Say Hi, formerly Say Hi To Your Mom, testifies to as much.
Centered around frontman Eric Ellbogen, who records all the music himself on a Mac and plays most of the instruments, Say Hi is what happens when lo-fi goes high-tech. Gone is the stark claustrophobia of some self-recorded indie artists of the past, and in its place is a more fully realized sound that still manages to sustain the unadorned, personal feel that made lo-fi so appealing in the first place.
Go ahead, introduce yourself to Say Hi at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Beauty Bar, with Telekinesis, The Bleachers, Love Pentagon and Romanteek. Tickets are $10.
• Also, don’t miss psych rockers Spindrift at 9 p.m. today at the Bunkhouse (124 S. 11th St. Tickets are $10; call 384-4536); snarlin’ punks the Glass Heroes at 9 p.m. today at the Thunderbird Lounge at the Aruba (1215 Las Vegas Blvd. South; $10; call 383-3100); hard-hittin’ locals Eyes Like Diamonds at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Box Office (1129 S. Casino Center Drive, $10, call 388-1515); country rockers Merle Jagger at 9 p.m. Saturday (Las Vegas Country Saloon); and punk subverts Japanther at 9 p.m. Sunday (Beauty Bar).
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.Preview
Neon Reverb, with Akron/Family
9 p.m. today
Aruba Ballroom, 1215 Las Vegas Blvd. South