The Avalanches @ Chevron Gardens
w/ Ziggy Ramo
Sunday, February 25, 2018
The Avalanches inhabit a rare space where people actually care about them even when left waiting 15 years between live performances and slightly longer between albums. The fact that this show was sold out plus the buzzy demeanour of the crowd, was testament to that.
Ziggy Ramo’s opening slot was a politically and emotionally charged set addressing race and sexuality yet inviting and inclusive in manner. So direct in fact he emotionally broke down during a lull in in the beat-heavy set. Acknowledging the tragic death of Kalgoorlie youth Elijah Doughty, Ramo proudly wore a “Justice For Elijah” t-shirt, and wowed the crowd with April 25th.
This writer has been fortunate enough to have seen The Avalanches during their ‘El Producto’ era when they were an outfit of seven gangly 20 year olds. Now reduced to 2 original members in Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi, the live show was augmented by their incredible live drummer Paris Jeffree while Spank Rock and Eliza Wolfgramm provided MC and vocal duties.
Starting with Because I’m Me from Wildflower, the VHS haze that opens many of their songs gave way to an exceptional sound mix despite the layers of sampling and pre-recorded material behind the live players. After the calypso feel of Frankie Sinatra they went back to 2000’s Flight Tonight with a stellar vocal from Spank which lacked the dusty psychedelicism found on the new tracks but certainly suited the open air vibe. Which leads me to conclude that the recorded Avalanches and the live Avalanches are certainly different beasts, not unlike their only comparable counterparts, The Go! Team.
Subways with its Bee Gees-penned sample garnered one of the biggest crowd responses with flailing arms and some slightly daggy dancing by Di Blasi. Energy throughout was high and the MCs regularly called for crowd participation which was politely reciprocated but the transcendent experience I was expecting being a massive fan of their records fell just a tad short. A song that came close was an actual Spank Rock cover called Bump which saw Chater augment Jeffrees’ drumming on a second kit. The effect was effective enough for Di Blasio to exasperate loudly, “how good were those two drum kits?”.
After 45 minutes, the band introduced their last song which prompted looks of confusion and wrist tapping from members of the audience before If I Was A Folkstar, a song Di Blasi expressed hestation in singing earlier in the set stating “I fucked it up in Sydney”. He need not have worried as in place of Toro Y Moi’s album vocal his vocals were mixed almost inaudibly low.
After the customary walk off and some foot stomping pleading from the crowd, the band returned with The Noisy Eater. Finishing with perhaps their most popular song Since I Left You, it was not only sonically impressive to hear a modern update of it but getting Wolfgramm to sing it live instead of relying on the sampled vocal gave the lyrics extra poignancy.
Perhaps an air of workmanlike showmanship and lack of sentimentality was evident but there was no denying the terrific production and polish that was new and punchy melodies which were always there. And with a quick sign off they were gone, but hopefully not for another 15 years.
Photos by Matsu Photography