The chorus of “Avalanche United! Avalanche United! Avalanche United!” ring loudly as the sound resonating from the amplifiers becomes a whisper. We’re packed tightly inside an unassuming red building. The front casually branded with the word “Parkside” in a baseball script reminiscent of the typography used by the Philadelphia Phillies of the 1970s. Fitting for a building situated across the street from several you baseball fields.
I’m one of the few lucky enough to find themselves jammed uncomfortably close total strangers on warm Friday night in late April. As is typical, the awkwardness of the situation is quickly erased by the bands captivating stage presence and... well... our collective excessive drinking.
Now, as we chant in unison without provocation, the crowd can sense that the catharsis is coming to an end. But we’re not ready. We have spent the evening elated, listening to the crunching guitars and gritty vocals of Brooklyn’s finest rockers I Am the Avalanche. Predictably, we our wishes are temporarily granted as vocalist Vinnie Caruana leads a chorus of adoring fans in a song that ostensibly reminisces about the disappearance of baseball team. A fitting end to an amazing evening
Nights like the one we spent with I Am the Avalanche speak to the power music has to bring people together. To heal. To, well, be fucking awesome. Perhaps the single greatest element that makes this possible during a live performance is the energy a band brings to the show. The ability to draw an audience in. To make each and every member of the crowd feel as if they are being sung to. Sung about. To play with such enthusiasm that every member of the audience is physically drawn to the stage. When done well, it can seem as if even the bartenders, who typically show no interest in the performers, are being pulled out of their shoes. The energy is infectious. I Am the Avalanche has this in spades.
On this night we were celebrating the recent release of I Am the Avalanche’s newest release Wolverines. The follow up to 2011’s Avalanche United, Wolverines is yet another painstakingly emotive album from a brand that can’t seem to do anything else. This is a good thing. This creates a discography where every crowd they play for knows every word to every song. The audience can’t help but be connected to the powerful vocals that pour out of Vinnie’s mouth. I Am the Avalanche may not be right for everyone. They are everything for the right people.
The are among a handful of bands whose concerts would seem completely appropriate in a basement circa 2002, during the glory days of Pop Punk. They weathered the lethargic era of the mid aughts, when many concerts... and bands... were painstakingly void of enthusiasm. To those familiar with the band, this should not be a surprise.
I Am the Avalanche has it’s roots firmly placed in the rise and fall of Drive Thru records. Singer Vinnie Caruana fronted the Pop Punk stalwarts the Movielife until their breakup in 2003. A year later, Vinnie and his new partners Brandon Swanson and Brett "The Ratt" Romnes returned to the Drive-Thru stable as I Am the Avalanche. Their self titled record, released in 2005, seemed to me, at the time, as a bit of a departure from Caruana’s previous work with the Movielife. It was slower, but more mature and refined. This sound was coupled with some of the more tortured vocals I can remember. These were the lyrics written by someone who had faced some of the more difficult challenges in life.
The fall of Drive-Thru records was not kind to I Am the Avalanche. Held hostage, they did their best to maintain an audience through touring for the next six years until they were finally able to release Avalanche United in 2011. In some ways, the time that transpired between the releases, though excruciating, may have been a godsend. The time allowed I Am the Avalanche to learn what worked and what didn’t about their initial release. The result was an collection of rock and roll anthems that was faster, more polished, and a hell of a lot of fun.
This leads us to Wolverines. When compared to Avalanche United, Wolverines initially seemed slightly less catchy, but significantly more mature. As I listen to the record more, I am forced to admit that I was wrong about the lack of catchiness. This is prime example of why it is so difficult to follow up an amazing record.
Since 2011, the songs on Avalanche United have become a part of who I am. I’ve listened to them in the happiest and darkest times. Using the album as a catalyst, I helped create a Pop Punk dance party during a hurricane in a pool house with a dozen or so of my closest friends. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in the last few years. My initial issues, though slight, were not with the music itself, but with the emotional baggage I brought with me.
The next time I see I Am the Avalanche(which better be soon), I will undoubtedly be pouring my heart out with Vinnie and the crew, singing every syllable of every track they play from Wolverines. These are the kind of songs that sneak up on you, but you can’t get them out of your head. And you don’t want to.
After the show, I had the chance to exchange a few words with members of the band. They were kind, approachable, and sincerely grateful that we had taken the time to come see them play. While I don’t know them well, this is the impression that I have gotten each time I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a member of the band. I can’t say enough about the character, dedication, and passion that they bring each and every time they take the stage... and probably to the rest of their lives.
Now, I live in a somewhat sheltered bubble here in San Francisco. I’m getting older and somewhat less culturally aware of the pulse of rock and roll. I go to bars that play Fugazi and the Stooges more often than those that play whoever is supposed to be the big thing right now (Lordes? That song about being happy?). A pulse still dominated by teenagers and college radio hosts. With that being said, I confidently place I Am the Avalanche on the shortlist of most underrated bands in the genre(along with the Swellers and Red City Radio). Their music deserves your ears. Listen to it. Then sign up for the Modern Industry mailing list.