Words by: Eric Podolsky | Images from: www.infected-mushroom.com
Infected Mushroom :: 07.17.09 :: The Regency Ballroom :: San Francisco, CA
This being my first psytrance concert, it didn't take long after entering The Regency Ballroom to realize I was very out of my element. The anticipatory energy that the young crowd of ravers exuded as they poured into the ballroom was lost on me, as I had no idea what this scene, or Infected Mushroom's music, was about. Throughout the show, the fervor of the audience initially took me aback, as everyone present was clearly there to get down hard to house music, to dance and bump and mosh relentlessly for hours on end. I was merely an observer from the outside, inquisitively looking on at the party as it went down.
DJ Taj opened the night, dropping minimalist house beats to warm up the crowd. Right from the start of the set, I realized I had entered a very different musical realm. There wasn't really any musical element to DJ Taj's set, which was comprised solely of relentless, stripped down beats. But those beats were manipulated and dropped just right, rising up and down at the perfect times to sustain the room's energy and keep the ravers rocking and raging throughout the set.
After a break, Infected Mushroom took the stage and surprised any first-timers in the room with their full-band set up. In the studio, Infected Mushroom is comprised of Israeli-bred, L.A.-based duo Amit "Duvdev" Duvdevani and Erez Eisen. In the live setting, Slash-like guitarist Tom Cunningham and synth drummer Rogério Jardim are added to the mix, giving the show a rock sense of spontaneity that is lacking in most electronica acts. In this configuration, animated frontman Duvdev held it down in the spotlight with growling lead vocals, while Eisen laid low behind his keyboards, playing the man behind the curtain.
Eisen seemed to quietly control the show throughout the night, manning the switches on his computer and keyboards, which seemed to produce the majority of the hard-edged sound that came off the stage. This music was consistently driving and relentless, often laced with a metallic, almost industrial edge, but always danceable. This hardness combined with the group's Middle Eastern motifs at times brought to mind the hybrid sound of System of A Down. Other times, the sheer brute force of the music and Duvdev's gruff vocals conjured up a Rammstein vibe. But underneath the chunky, hammer-strike guitar riffs and metal stage presence, the core of the songs was always rooted in house music, colored in swirling synths and the ever-present driving nn-ttss-nn-ttss rhythm.
| Tom Cunningham - Infected Mushroom :: 07.17|
Taking a closer look at the musicians onstage, it was difficult to tell which sounds were being played live and which were pre-programmed. As the drummer was playing a synthesized drum kit, the techno beats being pounded out were only audible through the P.A. This made for a somewhat odd situation, as the drummer produced no organic sound, and was essentially banging away in silence when heard close-up. The exception was one djembe, which rang out like a shot in the dark when struck periodically, it being the only real drum sound emanating from the stage itself.
This clearly did not matter to the audience, which lapped up every moment of crushing psychedelia. The light show was over-the-top and borderline epileptic, and enhanced the already epic sound coming off the stage. As is par for psytrance, everything was soaked in a good amount of reverb to up the epic factor. Unfortunately, the sheer power of the music completely drowned out Duvdev's vocals, making almost all of his lyrics unintelligible. The only lyric I could make out all night was the chanted word "insane," which I later learned was part of the song "Becoming Insane."
| Infected Mushroom :: 07.17 :: San Francisco|
Throughout the show, I tried to put myself in the right frame of mind to enjoy this hard, synthesized music. I was having a hard time really immersing myself in it, as the barrage of sound was a bit much at times. The lack of dynamics made for a relentless sensory overload, pounding one at all times. However, this seemed to be a good thing to the frenzied fans, who seemingly couldn't get enough of the crushing sound.
As I watched the moshers and ravers sweat it out in the pit down front, I soon realized that I was approaching it all wrong. Unlike a rock show, a live electronic performance isn't so much about a musical spectacle as it is building energy. The music acts as a means to raise a room to a collective height. The huge beats harness, sustain, build and peak a room's collective mind to achieve transcendent experiences. This is essentially what a good live band strives to achieve, but the means of achieving it couldn't be more different in an electronic setting. There is purposely little to no subtlety in this music; it is supposed to envelop and overwhelm you. That is its purpose.
The way that Infected Mushroom takes this house music aesthetic and executes it in a hybrid rock band setting is a testament to their originality. Though it is not for everyone, the bomb-dropping, skull-rattling, mind-fuck of a live show they have created is certainly worth experiencing, if only to get a taste of their unique musical universe.
| Infected Mushroom :: 07.17 :: San Francisco|
Infected Mushroom is on tour now; dates available here.
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