I arrived at the Fillmore a little early to make sure I didn't miss a beat of Infected Mushroom, an act whose shows I've damaged many pairs of dancing shoes at over the years. Founders Erez Eizen and Amit Duvdevani began as a duo in Hafia, Israel in 1996 before realizing mainstream success in this country during the early to mid 2000s. The act, known for its experimentation and often psychedelic take on the electronic genre, from trance to techno, currently resides in L.A, and it's most recent effort, 2009's Legend of the Black Schwarma, is a mix of high techno snarls and guitars that showcase the outfit's live-band approach.
The set opened with guitarist Tom Cunningham, grinding into their song "Special Place", riling up the crowd as the band's signature devil mushrooms slowly inflated to life on the stage. From there, it was all one massive thrash as singer Amit held the crowd in the palm of his hand - getting and keeping them dancing. Other songs performed included "Everyday Nightmares", "Sa'eed", and "I Wish."
It was one of the most charismatic performances I've seen in years - never tiring, ripping through each track with increasing enthusiasm. It can be hard to give a positive-vibe to a show when the music is that hard and brutal but Infected Mushroom can pull it off with ease. They ended their set the same way they began it - hard and abrupt. After this experience, I couldn't see Lotus being able to follow without putting the crowd to sleep.
Lotus began as a funky jam band in 1999 at Goshen College in Indiana. By 2001, the group started to evolve its sound towards instrumental electronica -- citing artists such as the Orb and Aphex Twins as inspiration. The act's latest album, 2008's Hammerstrike, shows the outcome of this change from earlier recordings -- hauntingly melodic jams tempered by electronic beats. Given this history, I was expecting a fairly mellow, chilled out listening experience.
Coming on stage, the band picked up their instruments and started in on a song which made me think, "Oh boy, here we go into jammy land" -- a far cry from the energy and speed Infected Mushroom signed off with. Then the second song was played and more electronica seeped in, continuing with the third song. I was listening to a band that smoothly transitioned into a live, funky, fun music experience with definite electronic influence.
The crowd's reaction was far from sleepy as it transitioned adroitly from the fist pumping of Infected Mushroom to the gliding shuffle of Lotus's funk. The whole set was blended so seamlessly that you ceased to notice anything other than the flow between instruments and beats. And the imagery created from the music and lighting/visual effects spoke louder than any lyrics ever could.
The guest violin and cello players contributed to my favorite part of the night -- a pleasant-sounding, lovely song that made me think of sunrises in the mountains. The explosive show of lights that accompanied the end of the show gave cry to well-deserved shorts of "Lotus!" by the crowd screaming for an encore which was obliged. Out of this set, they've definitely made me a fan.
In the end, both Infected Mushroom and Lotus are amazing live bands with creativity that is clearly demonstrated by the seamless integration of electronica and improvisation. The hard edge of Infected Mushroom was a good precursor to Lotus's more sophisticated tunes, leaving us all with a euphoric smile on our faces at the end of the night.
Click through for Critic's Notebook and Setlist
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: For this review, I feel like I overcame a bias more than had one -"jam band sound-a-phobia". I've never really gotten into that style of music before but Lotus made me realize that it is worth a second listen. Random Detail: The two Super Mario Brothers "Luigis" - homage to the constant search for the "magic mushrooms" - in the crowd. By The Way: Kudos to the security staff manning the front of the stage - they were giving the folks pressed up against the barriers water during the shows. One of the best ideas I've seen at a crowded event.
Lotus 11.06.10 | Fillmore Auditorium Denver, CO
01. Age of Inexperience 02. Golden Ghost 03. 128 04. The Surf 05. In an Outline 06. Molluskunk 07. Invincibility 08. Lead Pipe 09. Wax 10. Bush Pilot 11. Jump Off
12. Harps 13. Colorado 14. Hammerstrike
(Setlist via Sean G at LotusVibes.com)