Music scene heats up along with Akron

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Columbus funk/R&B band MojoFlo from left: George Barrie, Amber Knicole, Jake Levy and Walter K will perform music from their upcoming debut album "Right On! (Back Around)" at Musica on Saturday night.

Well let’s get this out of the way.

Holy Moly, it’s witch areola cold outside earlier this week!

I voluntarily stood outside for a few minutes just so I could call my Cali cousins and tell them what negative 36 degrees wind chill feels like on your skin.

They were suitably impressed and horrified.

Nevertheless, the weekend is nearly here and the temperatures should be back in the balmy upper 40s, so let’s find out what your musical friends and neighbors are doing.

On Friday night, Annabell’s Bar & Lounge in Akron’s Highland Square will play host to three young local bands — Assassin Broadcast, Extra Spooky, and Clouds and Trees. The first two bands released a split EP in August called The Cat Mooke Split EP, with each band contributing three tunes. I saw both of these bands when the members were just talented wet-behind-the-ears high school kids a few years ago and now they are all damp-behind-the-ears high school graduates, the perfect time of life to devote much of their energy to “The Band.”

Extra Spooky (John Cohill, Henry McCoy, Spenser Nikitin and Logan Patrick) work the angular end of the indie/dance rock spectrum with a bit of a retro New Wave sound. Songs such as the bass heavy, reverb-drenched Comfortable vaguely recall the agitated grooves of Gang of Four if that band had a sense of humor or the taut melodic guitars of Vampire Weekend if leader Ezra Koenig weren’t constantly reminding listeners how he is smart and well-read.

Guitarists McCoy and Nikitin offer weird, dovetailing surf riffs to go with McCoy’s vocal blurts and exhortations laced with melody.

Assassin Broadcast is the trio of Dillon Olmedo, Zack Casey and Cameron Bickley and in their three songs they cover quite a bit of sonic realty. Six Oh’s in a Row is a catchy punk-flavored tune, while Danny Electro works an eerie two-chord synth progression and builds tension to a couple of thrashing barre-chord driven crescendos across its near-seven-minute length.

Clouds and Trees also features Casey along with Kyle Stetzik and Joey Fox. The band has recorded a rather raw unnamed single available on its Facebook page that suggests the band is a trippy indie funk-rock affair or, as the band puts it, “psychopopodelic alternative independent math rock that experiments with genres … and stuff.”

For folks wondering where the next Black Keys or future Akron rock stars will come from, this show has three possible candidates.

Besides the split EP, both Assassin Broadcast and Extra Spooky have recent solo releases available on their Bandcamp pages, the addresses of which are way too ugly and unwieldy to print here. Extra Spooky released two EPs, the six-track The The Devil Devil The Devil in November and the quirky Great Lakes Surf in May. Assassin Broadcast also did the dual release thing in 2013 with a spring EP, Time I Spent in Hell, and a rather odd late summer four-track EP, When the Wheels Come Off.

Full musical spectrum

A gaggle of local disc jockeys and EDM artists are joining forces for The Gateway — Dance Party From Beyond the Beyond. The group of artists, friends and collaborators are taking over Studio Akron above Crave restaurant in downtown Akron for an evening of live, improvised and disc jockey-played electronic music. The event is presented by a collection of local folks and business including Square Records, Good Life Tattoos & Piercings, and Rubber City Noise.

Making musical noises with digital machines will be Roofbeam, Miyamigo, Baloo, Puffy Shapes and the evening’s “Master of Cosmic Ceremony” Random X. In addition, there will be presumably trippy, ambiguous visuals provided by video and projectors and a few dance contests with prizes provided by Akron vintage store Land of Plenty. The event is 21 and up with a $5 cover and it’s BYOB, though Thirsty Dog Brewing Company will have a few refreshments available.

On the nondigital end of the musical spectrum, the Happy Days Lodge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park will play host to award-winning neo-folk group Mountain Heart. The acoustic sextet has been around since the late ’90s and the band and its members Josh Shilling, Jim Van Cleve, Barry Abernathy, Jason Moore, Aaron Ramsey and Seth Taylor have either won or been nominated for numerous prestigious awards including Grammys, Academy of Country Music and Country Music Awards and played the Grand Ole Opry more than 130 times.

The group, whose music mixes traditional country/folk/bluegrass music with some very pop-oriented original tunes, hasn’t released any new material since 2010’s That Just Happened, which contains a pretty cool cover of the Allman Brothers classic Whipping Post.

On yet another end of the musical spectrum (Isn’t it awesome how wide and varied the musical spectrum actually is?), comes a funky retro-flavored R&B/funk outfit from Columbus called MojoFlo which will be at Akron’s Musica on Saturday. Yeah, I hate that name too, but the taut, horn-laden band’s funky mojo does indeed flow quite freely.

The band, officially a quartet, travels with a full horn section. It plays classic-sounding funk grooves laced with punchy horn charts rooted in the ’70s with modern touches such as the occasional rap verse and singer Amber Knicole doing the soul diva riding the beats.

Later this month, MojoFlo will release its debut album, Right On! (Back Around), and already has the title track and lead single available as a free download at Also on the bill are the Alan Brooks Trio and Elk.

This is a talented band that doesn’t come around these parts very often (if ever), so folks looking for more live R&B/funk played by live musicians should put on their dancing shoes and head down to Musica Saturday night. Surely a MojoFlo, Winslow double bill is in the works for later this year, right Musica folks?

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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