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The Avalanches make their long-awaited return to SF after more than a decade

The AvalanchesPhotos by Norm de Veyra // Written by Brett Ruffenach //

The Avalanches with Jel //
Mezzanine – San Francisco
April 18th, 2017 //

Amid a flurry of incredible talent that made its way to the Bay Area in April, perhaps the most exciting to see on the list was The Avalanches, considering it has been over a decade since the Australian outfit has toured in the U.S. Walking into a packed Mezzanine on a Tuesday night, Jel warmed up the crowd with some impressive, live-produced hip-hop beats and some decent banter in between tracks.

Shortly after Jel’s set, The Avalanches took the stage, including the five-piece’s two founding members in guitarist Robbie Charter and Tony Diblasi, who manned a mix of drum machines, sampling kits and turntables. The group chose to take its “plunderphonics” style, consisting of intricately woven together samples, and turn it into a live band that boasts drummer Paris Jeffree, singer Eliza Wolfgramm and emcee Spank Rock.

Kicking off with “Because I’m Me”, the opening track on their 2016 sophomore LP Wildflower, which (ranked as my favorite album of the year), there was a clear issue when combining the mixing of their studio samples with what sounded like a conventional funk/rock band.

The Avalanches

While Wolfgramm and Spank Rock could more than hold their own on the mic, the energy coming from the band felt discordant and awkward, forcing Spank Rock to work more as a hype man than as a rapper. As they made their way through classic tracks “Flight Tonight” and “Radio” along with more recent hits like “Subway”, something just seemed … off.

Taking their studio efforts to the stage as a live band may not have been the right decision for The Avalanches, and that’s simply because of what makes them so appealing: their sampling. Sampling, after all, sounds very strange when you’re performing live.

The intricate textures and layers of The Avalanches’ material is what people find incredible about them. Yet, in an attempt to translate these productions into a live show, they ended up sounding more like “Flight Tonight: A Tribute to The Avalanches” than the actual Avalanches.

Setlist:
The Leaves Were Falling
Because I’m Me
Frankie Sinatra
The Guns of Brixton (The Clash cover)
Flight Tonight
Radio
Subways
Live a Lifetime Love
Bump (Spank Rock cover)
Frontier Psychiatrist
Life’s a Bitch (Nas cover)

Encore:
The Noisy Eater
Electricity
Since I Left You

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