Live Photos by Josh Groom
The Avalanches sure know how to leave their fans waiting.
Not only did they take 16 years (which is not as rare as it sounds) to release their second album Wildflower, because of illness they only played two live shows in support of the record when it came out; the Splendour in the Grass Pre-Party and then Splendour in the Grass festival itself. Since both took place in a small coastal town in Australia, most of their fans around the world haven’t had the chance to see them live for over a decade.
Luckily, they’ve just announced a bunch of Australian tour dates (including Falls Festival), with world dates to follow soon.
Their Splendour performance was alright but, somewhat ironically, felt rushed and didn’t live up to the big expectations set by the band.
“We had time coming in to Splendour, but probably not as much as we would have liked, to make the show as good as we could. Now we have the time…Splendour was a matter of playing the songs as they were, but now we’ll be doing extensions and rejigging a few. We’ll take the music to the new level we know it can get to.” – Tony Di Blasi talking to SMH
These are the five key takeaways from the Splendour shows that the band need to fix to take this next tour to the new level.
1. Don’t Fuck With ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’
We’re going to start off with the band’s biggest Splendour sin first; remixing ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’.
Although they’ve had a handful of hits, The Avalanches’ most popular song is still clearly ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’, and rightfully so. With an insanely catchy orchestral hook (from the Enoch Light Singers’ ‘My Way Of Life‘), a trip-hop drum beat perfect for foot-tapping, an array of hilariously bizarre samples and many, many turntable scratches, the track is complex yet somehow fits together perfectly.
If this was any other band, you could understand them being sick of the track and wanting to give it a fresh twist, but when you’ve only played it a handful of times, surely you’ve got nothing to complain about!?
For some inexplicable reason, the band decided to rework the song, and turn their biggest hit into a remix of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’. I’ve never seen a crowd turn on a band quicker. I don’t want to stifle creativity, but sometimes you need to stick to the script and give the people what they want. Especially if they’ve been waiting 16 years.
2. Learn The Lyrics
It hasn’t been as big as ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ but ‘Frankie Sinatra’, the lead single off Wildflower, has still been pretty damn popular. So much so that everyone at the show was able to rap along to the verses – well everyone except The Avalanches’ rapper who had to read the lyrics off a phone!
Although it was exciting to see the band joined by American rapper Spank Rock, the excitement quickly dissipated when we realised he hadn’t yet taken the time to learn one of the band’s biggest songs.
It’s a shame because the other members’ performance, and the huge crowd response, otherwise made it a highlight of the set.
3. Give Robbie Chater Something To Do
Whilst we’re not really privy to what’s been happening behind the scenes, Avalanches members have been dropping like flies, and the Splendour performance featured only two of the original lineup, Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi. The two members are best on turntables, and this is where their chemistry truly shines.
Although Chater did jump behind the decks briefly, he spent most of the live performance on a guitar mixed so quietly it was hard to tell what he was actually adding to the songs.
The most exciting part of his performance came when he ditched the guitar and jumped on melodica and walked around the stage. We’d love to see more of this at their upcoming shows, or at the very least turn that damn guitar up!
4. Grab A Bigger Band
As we said at the time, live singer Eliza Wolfgramm did a pretty amazing job replicating the various samples across the tracks they performed, and Spank Rock too when he wasn’t glued to his phone!
But if The Avalanches do want to recreate their songs live rather than just playing DJ sets, they could definitely do with a few more members. With another singer or two, a bassist, dedicated guitarist and a horn section, they’d have a much bigger sound and come a lot closer to recreating the complex layers that define their music, whilst giving more variety to the set.
The drummer they had at Splendour was a good start, but they still need more.
5. Guest Musicians
Alright, now we’re getting greedy, but imagine how good it would be if the band brought up fellow musicians during the sets!?
Admittedly it’s a big ask getting The Avalanches to bring Danny Brown and Toro Y Moi with them, but surely the guys could get someone else from the festival lineup to join them up on stage for a song or two. Being a band known for their random collaborations and feature slots, surely this would be the perfect fit for their live show.
Having said, Grandmaster Flash is joining them on their Australian tour, so we could have an upcoming live collaboration on our hands…