I Am the Avalanche at Johnny Cupcakes
Brooklyn-based punk rockers I Am the Avalanche doing an acoustic set in an expensive clothing store is a pretty fitting symbol of where punk music is in 2014. The days of punk and its various offshoots being music only fit for garages, house parties, dodgy bars and small venues are gone, and after decades of the mainstream co-opting it, the genre is now welcome in a sweet little clothes shop just off Carnaby Street. It’s hardly breaking news, but it is sad.
The acoustic set isn’t as poor an idea for a punk group as it seems. When folk artists play, whether the instruments are plugged in or not, all the lyrics and sound tend to be perfectly discernible. For a punk band, though, the acoustic set offers the audience a chance to really hear the lyrics and songwriting that can often be buried beneath guitar and drums. Yet sadly frontman Vinnie Caruana’s self-involved lyrics aren’t really deserving of any limelight. Every so often there’s a poetic turn of phrase that impresses, but generally he relies on the sort of clichéd, pained self-reflection that’s come to dominate the post-hardcore and modern punk scenes.
This set being in a shop, I Am the Avalanche are only given time for four songs. The opening pair are from new record Wolverines, and while both Save Your Name and Anna Lee are played and sung competently, one can’t escape the feeling that unplugged they just don’t pack the punch they ought to. What is conveyed over the course of the set is that the whole band, and in particular Caruana, are really down-to-earth, amiable guys. Caruana chats with the tiny audience like they’re friends and, after noticing the total absence of movement in the cramped space, announces “I think we need to get you guys some beer” – a completely accurate statement.
After two equally competent renditions of older tracks Green Eyes and fan favourite Brooklyn Dodgers, I Am the Avalanche call it a night. While the brief set was flawless in a sense, ultimately appreciating this music hinges on the experience you have with it. A large part of its appeal lies in how it makes you move and lose control, and at 6pm with 20 sober people, half of whom are sat on the floor, that visceral, chaotic experience just isn’t possible.
For further information and future events visit I Am the Avalanche’s website here.
Watch the video for Brooklyn Dodgers here: