The love connection between the Missoula rock scene and Seattle’s heavy rock band, Akimbo, was glaringly apparent at Missoula’s Total Fest this past August. That’s when the crowd frothed for an encore after the band’s 30-minute set, yelling wildly, raising beers, and even throwing a few bras. Guitarist Aaron Walters recalls leaning across the stage toward bassist Jon Weisnewski and saying with amazement, “This feels like France.”
It’s a comparison that could come off as confusing to some local rock fans and mildly insulting to others. But having toured the United States and Europe several times, Akimbo has bonded with fans in particular places, and France happens to be one of them.
“See, sometimes people in France tend to go a little ape-shit at our shows,” Walters explains. “I love ape-shit. I think I can safely say we all do.”
Though Akimbo has experienced hearty reactions in Missoula before, the band said they were floored by the Total Fest response. Afterwards, Weisnewski blogged on the band’s website: “I’m no Hogwarts student, but I can attest that there was magic happening…Shows like that are truly the impetus for us to continue putting off our adult responsibilities and maintain our thundering course along the Akimbo war path.”
Lately, the Akimbo “war path” has dropped to a meandering stroll. The band has declared 2008 a year of rest, a chance to regroup and recharge. In that spirit, Weisnewski jokes that he’s “perfecting the sin of sloth,” though in reality the band (which also includes drummer Nat Damm) continues to play local Seattle shows and dabble in musical side projects. It was only recently, when promoters for KBGA offered Akimbo a headlining spot for the End-of-Thon Prom, a party to close out a week of radio fundraising, the band decided to break their touring fast.
“The [KBGA] show seemed like fun,” says Weisnewski. “Total Fest was such a surprise for us and we’ve never had a better audience out there. When this offer came along it was extremely tempting.”
The band’s current set list includes songs from their most recent album, Navigating the Bronze. It’s the first release featuring Walters, who replaced longtime Akimbo guitarist Jared Burke Eglington.
“I have a huge sense of reverence for the [previous] albums and I was really conscious to be faithful to the spirit of things,” says Walters. “But I don’t play like Burke did.”
This may be true, but considering the diversity of Akimbo’s albums over the years, the addition of Walters only feeds the band’s strange progression of style. For instance, while 2001’s Harshing Your Mellow was more pissed off punk rock than anything else, 2006’s Forging Steel & Laying Stone had an almost psychedelic rock, atmospheric tone. Navigating the Bronze provides yet another sonic dimension to the band’s repertoire with an assault of barbaric riffs.
“[On the new record] we’re like stoned, drunken, sweaty, bearded Vikings from the ’70s,” Walters explains. “Or something like that.”
Akimbo has another album up their sleeve, recorded and mastered but not yet ready for prime time. It’s a concept album about New Jersey shark attacks in the early 1900s, conceived a few years ago but put on the back burner to make room for more straightforward rock creations. With the band on semi-hiatus, it’s been resurrected. Still, don’t expect an outbreak of similar self-serious efforts from these guys.
“There’s a certain balls-out party vibe that doesn’t completely translate to the concept album,” explains Weisnewski. “It’s a vibe that is pretty important to our sound, especially the live shows.”
That vibe will be on full display in Missoula.
“The greatest pleasure for our band,” says Weisnewski, “is what it’s always been—when it all comes together for those rare shows like Total Fest, France, Czech Republic, Berlin, where everyone is having fun and the energy while you’re playing is just immeasurable.”
And while the band does look forward to another memorable, high-octane show in front of Missoula fans, they admit taking this gig wasn’t just about the rock show. There are some aspects of their regular road trips the band simply can’t do without.
“We have two standing traditions for when we’re in Missoula,” says Weisnewski. “We watch Red Dawn at [a friend’s house], and we have breakfast at The Oxford. If anyone wants to meet us for some chicken fried steak and pink gravy...we will be there.”
Akimbo plays KBGA’s End-of-Thon Prom at the Badlander Saturday, Feb. 9, at 8 PM. Black Velvet Elvis, Rooster Sauce and Secret Powers open. $5. KBGA’s Radiothon continues through Sunday, Feb. 10. Call 243-KBGA to make a pledge.