Enmore Theatre, 05/10/17
Photos by Josh Groom
Grandmaster Flash may have been first on the bill, but that’s in no way suggesting that he’s inferior to The Avalanches. The 59 year old DJ is a bonafide music legend, having pioneered and shaped many of the tricks used in hip-hop to this day, and to see him work his magic live is a truly incredible experience.
In an age when ‘DJ’ means ‘that person who plugged their Spotify into some portable speakers’, Grandmaster proves why professionals are still needed, and why making a playlist with crossfades isn’t actually DJing*. His nearly hour long set wasn’t technically complex, with the exception of a few moments of scratching and punch phrasing, but where he truly shines is his ability to read a room, and get the crowd going.
Grandmaster has three strict rules for anyone who wants to attend one of his parties:
- When he says put your hands up, you put your hands up
- When he says make some noise, you make some noise
- When you recognise a song, you singalong as loudly as possible.
With these rules in play, the Enmore quickly became a heaving dance floor, with all punters, myself included, flailing around enough to make Al Harrington proud (how’s that for a dated reference!)
Oh, and of course, he plays amazing songs. Alternating between classics cuts of hip hop (‘The Message’, ‘Can I Kick It?’, ‘Sound of Da Police’), rock (various David Bowie, Queen, Aerosmith) and soul/jazz (‘Billie Jean’, ‘I Want You Back’, ‘Apache’), the set became a game of musical bingo, wherein punters proved their prowess by being the first to recognise and singalong to each song. Talk about your dream support act…
The Avalanches themselves have a bit of a curious catch-22 when they play live. They’re a plunderphonics band, which means that audiences expect cool and obscure mashups from their bands, but their tracks have also become iconic classics, which audiences want to hear untouched. It’s a tough balance which the band didn’t quite nail at Splendour, but luckily a few more months of practice has made all the difference.
Right from the drop in opening track, ‘Because I’m Me’ off Wildflower, The Avalanches made it clear that they know how to be a live band now. Featuring actual Avalanche Tony Di Blasi behind the decks, Spank Rock, Eliza Wolfgramm and Oscar Key Sung on vocals, Jonti on guitar (other Avalanche Robbie Chater who previously filled this role is out sick) and Paris Jeffree on drums, the live band is big enough to recreate the layered and complex samples of the band’s two albums.
Wolfgramm was the true MVP of the evening, effortless recreating the iconic samples in each song (such as the ‘Come Together’ vocals in ‘Noisy Eater’) and nailing hits like set closer ‘Since I Left You’. Rapper Spank Rock was also a joy to watch, and he bounces around the stage, leaning down into the crowd, and rapping his way tracks like ‘Frankie Sinatra’ and ‘Flight Tonight’.
Although it could be a bit weird not hearing original rappers Danny Brown and MF Doom spit their own verses on the former, Spank Rock plays around with the tracks just enough to keep them familiar, but add a fresh take. The rapper is immensely talented, and an unexpected but enjoyable moment came when the band covered his own track ‘Bump’. Although not many in the crowd were familiar with it, Spank Rock no doubt won many new fans over the evening.
After copping flak for mashing up ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ with Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, the band pulled back on the remixes last night, adding inventive and enjoyable touches to songs rather than completely reworking them. Highlights including an acoustic guitar intro to the already chilled ‘If I Was A Folkstar’, opening ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ with the Animals‘ ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, adding a Sound of Music singalong to ‘Frankie Sinatra’ and extending the breakdown in ‘Subways’. The last of which resulted in a boogie rivalling even that of the Grandmaster.
Although it was a shame not having Robbie Chater on stage, it was still a joy to watch Tony Di Blasi work his magic, and he’s clearly stoked to be performing live again. Although he spent most of the evening behind the decks, he jumps around whenever he can and constantly adds his own distinct quirks to the tracks, such as kazoo on ‘The Noisy Eater’ and theremin on ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’.
It’s great having The Avalanches back, and now that they’ve perfected their live show, I can’t wait to see where they go next. I just hope we don’t have to wait 16 years again!
* This isn’t a diss, and I do this at pretty much every party.