Akron/Family The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON February 20

Akron/Family The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON February 20
On Gravediggaz' classic 1994 cut, "Diary of a Madman," an imprisoned and starved RZA raves, "About to die from thirst that's when a minister quenched my jaws with a cold glass of vinegar." Admittedly, in most contexts, vinegar -- as a beverage -- tastes terrible, but without anything to drink for an extended period of time, it must be pretty damn refreshing. And that's what Akron/Family's Toronto show was like.

The Portland/New York trio have an affinity for found sounds, protracted jams and light lunacy, which on disc and coupled with plenty of patience can be downright amusing. Writ live and juxtaposed with genuine songs, it's supremely frustrating.

Beginning with a post-rock jam, à la Explosions in the Sky, the combo eased into a maddeningly incongruent set that ultimately vacillated between self-indulgent racket and inclusive jubilance. At their best, the band led gospel-inspired sing-alongs, displayed some championship whistling and dropped Neil Young-indebted harmonies.

While the bulk of the gig tended toward standoffish dithering, tracks like "Silly Bears," with its stadium drumming and Hendrix guitar nod, garnered ample good will. Likewise, "Island" proved a tender, earthy jam and "We All Will" started an in-crowd hug-fest.

Sporadically, frontmen Seth Olinsky and Miles Seaton conducted repeat-after-me sessions and dropped affable quips, like the lately obligatory Degrassi shout-out. And then they would return to their prolonged tinkering, alienating the crowd for long stretches and making them beg for that tasty vinegar.