The Avalanches – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 13, 2017
Over the past 17 years, the Avalanches have carved out a strange and mysterious world for themselves. The Australian DJ collective appeared out of obscurity in 2000 with their classic album, Since I Left You, and it’s remained a gold standard in the world of sampling. The album brimmed with ideas in the same way as Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique or DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing—and it still sounds just as fresh today as it did upon its release. The band remained silent to their fans as the years went by and their legend only grew larger and larger. That all changed in 2016 with the release of their highly anticipated follow-up, Wildflower. It was well worth the wait. With the group’s core lineup now down to the two principal members, Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi, Wildflower is packed with the same mosaic sample style and emphasis on old school drum samples that made Since I Left You such a cohesive masterpiece.
The Avalanches made their long-awaited return to New York City during Governors Ball a couple of weeks back, but decided to add a last-minute stop to Music Hall of Williamsburg last night to return the love. To no surprise, the show was sold out and the room was packed with eager fans not willing to miss out on seeing them. After all, who knows when the next Avalanches album might come out? The anticipation in the moments before they took the stage could be felt in the room like the heavy air outside. Everyone knew this was going to be special and, man, did they deliver. Di Blasi and Chater ran through the hits off of Since I Left You and Wildflower with the help of a dynamite band consisting of Paris Jeffree holding the groove on drums, singer Eliza Wolfgramm covering the hooks and MC Spank Rock taking care of the guest rap spots. They moved from song to song with an insane amount of proficiency that barely gave the audience time to settle down in between tracks. Di Blasi stuck to the electronic triggering of the songs with a huge smile plastered on his face for the entire show, and Chater mainly played guitar jumping up and down during each tune like the rhythm guitarist in a pop-punk band.
The joy coming from stage was infectious and the crowd gave it back tenfold as Music Hall was transformed into one massive dance party. Wolfgramm’s soulful support on the hooks was impeccable and even more impressive was how she danced around while wearing a neck brace for most of the show. It didn’t slow her down for a second and she led the crowd through a fantastic cover of the Clash’s classic “Guns of Brixton” while swinging a baseball bat over her head like a slow-moving helicopter blade. MC Spank Rock did the material justice as well as he easily covered the wide variety of guest rappers’ styles. He was even able to imitate Danny Brown’s verse on the Wildflower track “Frankie Sinatra,” which is no small feat. The biggest reaction of the night came from the Avalanches’ biggest hit, “Frontier Psychiatrist,” its patchwork samples and blasting operatic chorus sounding larger than life. The band played a two-song encore, ending on Since I Left You’s title track. It’s refrain “Since I left you/ I found the world so new” took on a new meaning as much has changed in the world since most of us had last seen the Avalanches in action, but the world seems a little better having them back. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing