Thursday night offered a lot of firsts for me: it was my first time clubbing in Austin, first time seeing Infected Mushroom, and first time at the Vulcan Gas Company, one of the few venues here that gets big name EDM acts.
I’ve never listened much to Infected Mushroom, although I’ve heard their tracks here and there over the years. One of the few things I did know about them before the show was how unpredictable their music is, running over genre boundaries like a tank over barbed wire. This promised an interesting show, even if it’s not what I normally listen to. I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them after hearing my friend Jon talk about the transcendental moment he experienced when he discovered them in middle school on the first episode of The EDMist Podcast.
I was impressed with Vulcan Gas Company. Size-wise, it’s somewhere between a large bar (they all seem to be huge in Texas!) or a medium-large club. (San Franciscans can think of Public Works as the closest analog for a venue, but without the underground feel.) Vulcan is located on “dirty” Sixth Street in downtown Austin, stuck right into the heart of the seemingly endless row of college bars. This makes it highly accessible, especially because Sixth street is closed to vehicle traffic on weekend nights so you don’t have to fight with traffic to get there. I thought the online ticket price of $15 was a good deal, although the $30 price at the door seemed steep to me. Drinks were also reasonable ($5.50 for a gin and tonic), if a little dry. There are two bars in the venue, at which I had no trouble getting a drink. The industrial chic decor meshes well with the building’s exposed brick walls. Glowing columns of lights adorn the walls; I couldn’t decide if they were cheesy or cool. Finally, there is access to a rooftop deck where you can go for a smoke break (for those who partake) or a cooldown from the dance floor, which is definitely a sweet perk of this venue.
The vibe on this particular night was very relaxed, although since it was my first time I can’t be sure if it reflected the vibe of the club, the Austin scene, or the particular fanbase. (Infected Mushroom have been around for a long time and appeal to a crowd beyond the EDM-heads your “typical” dance music duo might draw.) I saw zero aggression for floor space, and there was always plenty of room to maneuver despite a fairly packed dance floor. People upstairs were even allowed to spin hula hoops and glowing poi. (This seemed like an accident waiting to happen but, hey, I don’t run the place.)
The opening DJ (whose name I didn’t catch) played an eclectic mix of trip hop and engaged the crowd with his own fervent dancing. He was followed up by Ram-Z, who served up the typical palate-cleansing pre-headliner house set that people nevertheless seemed to dig.
While Infected Mushroom are known for their wild stage setup, their performance on Thursday was only a DJ set. The Israeli duo came on at 12:15 to cheers, bringing their signature, genre-spanning sound with them. Early on they lit things up with the Zedd-esque riff of “Bass Nipple” before promising a psytrance set, which is of course the sound that they are best known for. While there was certainly plenty of it throughout the night, I heard influences as disparate as trance, hardstyle, dubstep, and electro mixed (or, rather, smashed) in as well. It was an energetic set whose driving beat switched tempos rapidly throughout the show. The fast pace of the changes kept things fresh and interesting, if a little unsettling. The energy really picked up about an hour after the set began, when the veteran DJs dropped the RIOT remixes of their own tracks “Kipod” and “Fields of Grey.” Both tracks brought the room down with their ferocious dubstep beats. See for yourself in the following video.
While I didn’t personally connect with the set, the crowd was clearly eating it up and I was able to feed off of their positive energy and have a good time. I would probably pass on seeing their DJ set again, but as a big fan of stage shows, I’d definitely give their live show a shot next time it comes around.