Avi Buffalo – Nottingham Bodega, Tuesday August 31.
For such a youthful band, Avi Buffalo draw a remarkably mature audience. Not that this seemed particularly apparent to the players: “Is this a college town?” asked 19 year-old band leader Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg towards the end of the set, seemingly oblivious to the fact that many of us were over twice his age.
For some of the older punters, perhaps it was the band’s label – Sub Pop, still best known for signing Nirvana and breaking the Seattle grunge sound – that first piqued their curiosity. However, the Californian trio’s influences stretch back even further, suggesting a familiarity with Sixties West Coast psychedelia and folk-rock, filtered through the likes of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and bearing occasional traces of Seventies prog.
Following the recent departure of keyboardist Rebecca Coleman, whose relationship with Zahner-Isenberg (better known to his friends as “Avi”) reportedly inspired much of the band’s self-titled debut album, there has been a certain toughening up of Avi Buffalo’s sound. Played live, their songs had a habit of starting gently, before building to intense instrumental codas that brought Avi’s fine, fluid and richly inventive guitar playing to the forefront.
Although this could have become self-indulgent, his flights of fancy were kept in check by Arin Fazio’s deceptively undemonstrative bass runs, and by Sheridan Riley’s loose-limbed, contemplative, almost quizzical drumming, which quelled the urge to turn every climax into a showy freakout. On previous nights, perhaps the balance between control and excess had been struck differently – but for their final British date, a sense of easy-going playfulness prevailed.
“We feel like being silly tonight”, explained Avi, flashing us a goofy grin. For his solo encore, a self-proclaimed “work in progress” called Sleep On The Floor with a wholly improvised ending, his free-form guitar experimentations threatened to become very silly indeed – and yet there was still something thrilling and magical about the way that he coaxed such arrestingly new sounds out of such a familiar instrument.
“We like old things that still feel new – like cool grandparents”, he had told us earlier, introducing one of several new songs. Perhaps it was this mix of tradition and innovation that lay at the heart of Avi Buffalo’s appeal.