Late review – The Avalanches were incredible at the 2001 Witnness Festival. Swapping instruments on every song, beating the crap out of each other and sounding absolutely nothing like they did on record, the six piece’s performance still ranks as one of the most memorable I’ve seen at any Irish festival. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then of course and the band arrive for their second show as a duo, but finally with a second album to show for their endeavours – even if it doesn’t seem to have had the enduring influence of their debut.
Thus, with the myth of their extended absence removed, the 2017 version of The Avalanches are just a band. There’s definitely a sense of event that doesn’t exist at every show, but they still need to prove that they’re able to live with their legacy. This time they definitely do sound like their records, blending their crate digging studio approach with instrumentation beautifully. With Robbie Chater and Toni Di Blasi to the stage sides, the show rests on the shoulders of their three guest members. Drummer Paris Jeffree dominates high at the back, driving the set with barely a pause for breath, while vocalist Eliza Wolfgramm and Spank Rock become the main focal point. They’re a great pairing, with the former in particular emerging as the night’s brightest star – cheerleading in a manner not seen since the glory of days of the Go! Team’s Ninja and most memorably stalking the stage, swinging a baseball bat during an early cover of ‘The Guns Of Brixton’.
Picking up the segued style of the albums, the night rattles along at a fair old pace and the groove never stops. There are moments when the songs don’t quite match the vibe, they tread water a little and you perhaps yearn for a little of the chaos of that Fairyhouse show, but when they hit The Avalanches hit hard. ‘Frankie Sinatra’ and ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ are companion pieces separated by a decade and a half, while ‘The Noisy Eater’ is a daisy age referencing joy. Twelve songs and an hour in it all comes to an end with, of course, ‘Since I Left You’ and, of course, it’s a strikingly lovely moment. Not quite as good as 2001 maybe yet The Avalanches have triumphed, not because of what happened before, but because of the here and now.
The Avalanches photographed for State by Kieran Frost.