Avi Buffalo, Admiral Fallow – Nottingham Bodega, Wednesday July 14.
Following a well-received headline appearance in March, Admiral Fallow returned to The Bodega as a support act, filling the venue at an early hour. Fronted by the wryly lugubrious and magnificently bearded Louis Abbott, the Glasgow-based six-piece delivered an elegant, musicianly set, characterised by Abbott’s poetic, autobiographical lyrics and augmented by deft touches of clarinet and flute. Tipped by Guy Garvey and Fyfe Dangerfield, and with a renewed buzz building around their re-released debut album Boots Met My Face, the band made good on their promise, setting happy expectations for the headliners.
This time last year, Avi Zahner-Isenberg was an endearingly goofy 19-year old with an exceptional talent, who charmed all who witnessed him on his band’s summer tour of the UK. Now enrolled at college in his native Long Beach, California, Avi has returned with a revised line-up, with only drummer Sheridan Riley remaining from the original band.
For the first few minutes of the set, we were left wondering whether there had been a fresh schism in the ranks. With no sign of Sheridan or new bassist Barbara, Avi and his guitarist George spluttered into action, sounding more as if they were concluding a soundcheck rather than starting a performance. George drummed while Avi sung – or rather yelped – an unpleasant couple of numbers, stuffed with strong language and gross sexual details, which could almost have been made up on the spot.
Barbara and Sheridan eventually emerged, and some semblance of order began to prevail – but this was fatally undermined by Avi’s rambling asides and general inability to lead his band. Avi was looking forward to visiting Amsterdam, we were told, as he was planning to make full use of the city’s unique network of coffee shops. Given his shambling demeanour and lame attempts at wacky humour – most notably an attempt to convince us that his girlfriend had just been diagnosed as HIV positive (“Haha, I’m joking, there’s no AIDS!”) – it was tempting to speculate that he was already in an advanced state of herbal refreshment.
Flashes of the old brilliance occasionally surfaced, but the band never gelled as a unit, and Avi’s florid guitar runs weren’t enough to compensate. Applause was muted, and a few walked out. It was a pale shadow of last year’s glories, and a troubling display of squandered talent from someone who, rather than ascending into adulthood, seemed more intent on regressing into adolescence.