20th June | Motion
There’s no barmier action on a baking June evening than herding into a confined sweatbox and dancing a dampathon with 600 like-minded, perspirationally-challenged, moist revellers. When mercurial Aussie sampledelica technogeeks, The Avalanches, came to Bristol, that was precisely the brand of lunacy we persued, somewhat apt for the quintessential eccentricity of the music itself. Original, permanent members Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi turned what could easily be a DJ set into a live band experience, bringing Eliza Wolfgramm and Spank Rock on vocals, as well as Paris Jeffree on drums.
It was, to all extent, Paris Jeffree, featuring The Avalanches. Her drumming was not only awesome, but provided over 50% of what was audible. Considering how most of us were melting whilst executing some mild bobbing, or mid-energy, loose-limbed flailing, her non-stop percussive onslaught, rightfully centre-stage, was exhilarating and admirably superhuman. The more ambient intricacies of the studio sound gave way to a much more booming, rough and raucous hip-hop feel in the live setting. The majority of the remaining sound came from the sample-rich backing tracks and the vocals. Bringing two vocalists implicitly accentuates the value of the words. We could detect tune and rhythm, but being unable to discern most of what was uttered, especially when one person raps, is a self-defeating sound glitch that they ought to resolve. Robbie Chater’s guitar could have been a prop for all that we could hear.
Much-loved favourites from 2016’s Wildflower, ‘Because I’m Me’ and ‘Frankie Sinatra’ got us off to a bouncing start. Whether or not attendees were off their bonces to start with, they quickly lathered into a frenzy during these two tracks. Wolfgramm’s lively stage presence involved significant baseball bat twirling, often round her head, like some weird Highland Games GBH event. Considering the force with which she did that and the potential for sweaty, slippy hands, it brought an extra frisson of peril to the audience’s experience.
Highlights of the set included their cover of The Clash’s ‘The Guns of Brixton’, and early classic ‘Radio’, after which Di Blasi threw water over Jeffree, more out of compassion than cruelty. They tantalised us for a fair while before the temperature-raising inevitability that was ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’; all credit to them for not resorting to this as an encore. The encore showcased Di Blasi’s excellent and entirely audible kazoo skills on ‘The Noisy Eater’, before the room became one glittering disco ball constellation during the final track, ‘Since I Left You’, joyously ending where it all began seventeen years ago.
That the set, encore included, lasted an hour made it just about as long as one of their albums. Maybe they had to stop there so that someone didn’t expire, but when Wolfgramm thanked us for coming and said “have a good night”, it felt like she was letting us out early so that we could get to the pub. There’s a rich seam of cruddy puns to be mined from a name like ‘The Avalanches’, but to save us all, let’s just halt at saying that their Bristol appearance, kicking off a run of only four UK shows, had the force that their name implies, but also managed some of the subtlety of a metric fecktonne of snow in the process.
Check out ‘Frankie Sinatra’ below.