The Avalanches : Benicassim International Festival

The Aussie sample sultans play their first international live show, and bust everyone's preconceptions...

Dexter and James de la Cruz step up to the stage on this, Thursday night at Benicassim. The hiphop fans swarm around the front awaiting a tirade of big beat sampling and funky-flavoured electro pioneering from these much-hyped surfer types. It is, however, the likes of David Bowie, Jackson 5 and Everything But The Girl which gets the airplay under Dexter’s skilled and chubby hand, before James de la Cruz fires Rage Against The Machine at an unsuspecting dance crowd. Teasers like Color Me Badd’s ‘I’m Gonna Sex U Up’ and Daft Punk‘s ‘Around The World’ see a large tongue-in-cheek nod to the crowd and the hype around The Avalanches that’s tagged them the new hope of genre-bashing beat beasts.

Once all together, and ready for the band’s first international live show,
The Avalanches take over. They are impeccable in dress code (afros, white suits) and incomparably eclectic. Not eclectic in the album sense, where they embrace the use of sampling to extremes, but rather by literally

playing several different styles in their set. Six or so band members on live instruments (all older than expected) unleash a seemingly-controlled anarchy of unpredictable sonic shots and fun-fuelled bass.

Suddenly the instruments are down and the band walks off. The boos becoming deafening. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ come over the PA to signal the end. Then, wait… They’re suddenly back on-stage and starting off as a band again.

These dancefloor intervals go on for the next hour, until a distinctly electronic interlude is interrupted by a bassist/keyboard player/drummer fight (all obviously sick of swapping instruments throughout the gig), which sees them launching drum parts across the stage (cymbals, hit hats, all) and some spectacular dives onto one another – all harmless, all Marx Brothers and all very entertaining. The only thing left for them to do, after breaking every preconception anyone could ever have had about The Avalanches, would be to set fire to the tent (or themselves for that matter) or actually play something off the album.

James Pearse