Infected Mushroom rocked the stage in a unique way on Oct. 30. The Israeli techno band, now internationally famous, brought an energy that surpassed all of the other bands at Live 105's Subsonic Spookfest. Indeed, their music also stood out, diverging from "classical" techno by adding guitar, drums, and keyboards to their sound. Duvdev, their lead singer, enlivened the performance by adding both lyrics and a bounce-filled energy.
The Mushroom maintains that they identify more strongly as musiciance than as Israelis. They have said countless times that Israel is simply their country of origin, and that Judaism no more inspires their music than any other style or heritage. When I interviewed Duvdev, he explained that they would naturally be inspired by the music of their home country, both Jewish and Israeli. But the similarity was greater than that. Duvdev's role onstage revealed his substantial (if unintended) connection with his Jewish roots.
In Klezmer (upbeat traditional Jewish music from Eastern Europe), each band would include a Master of Ceremonies (MC). The musicians would play the music, and the MC would jump around, inspiring the audience to get up and dance, and interacting with the band members to keep them excited. This was exactly the role that Duvdev played at the Spookfest concert. He also sang, with incredible accuracy and skill, but that could have been accomplished by anyone. The key feature of Duvdev's performance (and, really, the entire set) was his hyper-energetic interactions with each of the band members, and his constant encouragement of the audience to clap, sing, or dance along to the music.
Infected Mushroom's set was received extremely well by the audience. Their international superstardom won them the Spookfest's
headliner slot, and the arena was filled with dancing, singing fans. The entire audience seemed to know the lyrics, especially to fan favorites "Becoming Insane" and "Cities of the Future," and sang along enthusiastically. In our interview, Duvdev said that his only thought onstage is to perform in the moment, and provide the highest-possible energy for the performance. Indeed, he was successful, and the Mushroom has come far since their conception as an underground Israeli techno duo.
The rest of the show was equally high-energy, if less innovative and singable. Several of the opening bands, like Designer Drugs and Zombie Nation, delivered clean, well-connected sets that were inviting to dance and pleasant to hear. The Faint was especially memorable, incorporating (like the Mushroom) traditionally rock-oriented instruments into their techno set. However, other groups were less impressive. Le Castle Vania and Diplo played danceable sets that sounded nice, but their songs were completely disconnected from each other. A concert is an experience, not just a repetition of already-produced songs, and the audience deserves to feel an overarching theme or connection spanning a band's entire set. It's especially important in techno music, where the artists could literally be standing on stage playing one of their records, and the audience might not notice the difference. This is the connection that differentiates a concert from a CD listening session.
Beyond the music, Live 105 chose a memorable venue for their Spookfest. Readers of this publication will remember 2008's ETD Pop concert there, and Live 105 took similar advantage of the Cow Palace's annexes. Spookfest only used two stages, compared to Popsicle's five, but Spookfest easily filled both the large room and the small room, providing an intimate yet energetic concert experience for audiences in both areas.
I spoke with Michael of Classixx, who performed on the small stage in tuxedos (how fly is that?!?). He told me that their shows are generally smaller, and that they only perform for such large audiences on special occasions like Halloween and New Year's Eve. The resultant energy, augmented by the crowd and magnified by the performers, was evident throughout the Spookfest event. Costumed teenagers bring a certain excitement to the atmosphere, and the show is consequently better than the bands' recordings.
But Infected Mushroom was easily the best of the night. From their hummable melodies to their explosive lead singer, from their rockin' guitarist and keyboardist to their hooks interwoven between songs, the Mushroom provided a musically mature, thematically advanced, and easily danceable headline to the Live 105 Subsonic Spookfest.
East Bay Arts and Culture thanks LIVE 105 for providing access to the Subsonic Spookfest.