When you’re an internationally-successful musical act that bends and shapes a genre as complex and intricate as psytrance, how do you keep your work from becoming stagnant, in this ever-shifting world of electronic music with its seemingly endless count of subgenres? You’ve got a lot of competition in the field as 2011 draws to a close. There are the arena-filling behemoths like Tiësto and deadmau5, whose light and projection show rivals that of a second-world country’s first celebration of independence. There are the up-and-coming acts, who manage to pack a dancefloor with just a simple mixer and/or MIDI pad and a laptop chock full of cutting edge software and samples. To break the mold of the constant onslaught of knob twiddlers and fader pushers, it becomes necessary to add a human element and violently active energy to your stage show. It therefore should come as no surprise that Israeli psytrance heavyweights Infected Mushroom decided to move out from behind the keyboards and up to the front of the stage a few years back, and their November appearance at the Fillmore proved that their dynamite performance energy hasn’t dwindled in the slightest — if anything, it’s gotten even wilder than before.
Not everyone in the electronic scene can come barreling out of the gates with the four-piece fury that is the current lineup of Infected Mushroom live, but San Francisco provided its own contenders in the form of Dissølv, a quartet that careened back and forth between crunchy house and rasping vocals to glitchy dance grooves and sparkling synths. Vocalist Liam Shy, who had opened the night with his own set of pulsing rhythms that wafted between dubstep and dark, warping house tunes, provided most of the energy and definition for the performance, hurling himself back and forth across the stage as the thundering tunes around him shifted between acidic psychedelia, snarling industrialism, and otherworldly trance grooves. The energy and mesmerizing visuals offered by Dissølv were closely matched by the steadily-evolving futuristic house landscape of Berkeley trance artist Dyloot, who served as the in-between act that kept the crowd on its feet and twirling about in the long hour that transpired before the headliners were prepared to take the stage.
As enthused and excited as the crowd might have appeared for the first three hours of that cold December night, their level of screaming energy was intensified tenfold when Infected Mushroom finally rushed onto the Fillmore stage near the hour of midnight for a somewhat short, but nonetheless brilliantly explosive, set. Led by the antics and unstoppable energy of singer Amit “Duvdev” Duvdevani, the quartet plowed into their set without even a brief moment of pause between songs. This was an hour-and-a-half timespan that was absolutely lacking in lull or quiet, providing an assault on the senses in the form of thundering bass, glimmering synths and cymbals, howling guitars, and the massive wall of projections behind the band, all the while emblazoned with their name in stark serpentine lettering.
An Infected Mushroom concert seems, at all times, to be fully aware of the implications associated with its main genre: trance music, whether hard, minimal, or psychedelic (as was the case tonight) is characterized with many long passages, as well as brief dips in energy to prepare the audience for an atomic burst in the form of a bass drop and cymbal crash. The gleeful expressions and mad antics of frontman Duvdev mirror the energy of the band’s songs almost perfectly, with those sudden, ephemeral pulses offering him a chance to catch a breather before once more taking up the role of an ecstatic, trampolining dancer, directing the crowd with his waving hands, one of which was often armed with a drumstick which he used to “conduct” the crowd. Second-in-commander Erez Eisen, who provided the backbone of the band’s sound in the form of a wide collection of electronic pulses, wailing samples and bellowing walls of bass, was a solid and stoic force that contrasted sharply with the firecracker that was Duvdev, barely moving a muscle through the performance while he built up his complex collection of sounds.
The band’s set, while occasionally giving way to new numbers like the already-much-loved “Pink Nightmares” and a few bursts of “psystep” that danced precariously on the line between fierce dubstep and intricate psychedelia, mostly stuck to an exciting lineup of classic pieces. Smash hits such as “Becoming Insane”, “Smashing The Opponent” and “Cities Of The Future” kept the audience’s fury at its peak, while other pulse pounders like “Muse Breaks” and “I Wish” put a smile on Duvdev’s face as he led their fans in a waving, swaying sing-along. Also surprisingly well-received was the band’s cover of “The Pretender”, the 2007 single by the Foo Fighters, which Infected Mushroom injected new life into, in the form of a skull-rattling blast of drum beats and the whirlwind guitar work of Tom Cunningham. The set seemed to be over in a remarkably short amount of time, and the band entertained the crowd for a brief but magnificent encore, with a brilliantly chaotic solo from drummer Rogério Jardim segueing into a brutally powerful performance of “Heavyweight”, the centerpiece of their 2007 record Vicious Delicious.
After seeing Infected Mushroom perform two sets at the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, I was curious to see if they would possibly be able to top such a dazzling spectacle as the four hour timespan they had spent on the Opulent Temple stage, covered in lasers and surrounded by jets of fire while several hundred onlookers, clad in all possible manner of clothing and costume, jumped and stomped along with them until the wee hours of the morning. While it would be impossible to recreate the same environment — lasers are seldom seen in a small space like the Fillmore, and open flames are pretty much a guaranteed “no” — it was truly the band themselves that lived up to, and surpassed, all expectations, possessing all of the energy of a punk quartet and the fury of a metal band, while simultaneously filling a dancefloor with undulating bodies that took the energy and communicated it back to the musicians at a full scale response. If the stomping, churning and genre-bending beats of their new numbers were any indication of what is to come from Infected Mushroom, I absolutely cannot wait to experience the rest of their latest offering — whenever that may arrive.