Infected Mushroom bring their 25th Anniversary tour to London.
“It was the third of September, a day I’ll always remember…”, sang the Temptations. I’ll always remember it, but it wasn’t “the day my daddy died”, it was the day there were a shed load of gigs I wanted to go to happening the same night.
In Brixton Academy, The Interupters, The Skints and The Bar Stool Preachers were bringing their amazing package tour to an end. In Blackwood, Dactyl Terra were playing a home town gig at ‘Flemfest’. And in Tuffnel Park, Gaye Bykers on Acid were performing alongside Crazyhead and The Hip Priests. I had actually bought tickets for the Gaye Bykers gig, but after much soul searching and debate, when Infected Mushroom announced their 25th Anniversary tour, we plumped for that instead.
The Troxy is in Stepney at the heart of London’s East End. It is an area that has been a hotbed of working-class turmoil for many years. To the rear of the venue is Cable Street, where Mosley’s British Union of Fascists were given a good tuning back in the 1930s. Just around the corner we see signs for Wapping, where the print unions literally went toe to toe with Rupert Murdoch and his ruthless approach to mechanisation in the 1980s.
To get to the venue, we travelled by bus, train, tube and DLR. The DLR took us through nearby Shadwell, an area of turmoil in the 1990, with the first BNP councillors elected there, stirring up hatred among the local multicultural community. The BNP Headquarters in Tower Hamlets became the focus of much antifascist activity until it was eventually closed.
Shadwell is home to Shadwell Town FC. Or at least it would be if there were such a club. It was the focus of a fictional football firm in the third rate hooli-porn move I.D. (and I.D.2)
As the train makes it way through Shadwell, block after block of sixties council flats roll past the window. An undoubtedly proletarian area, where the working class ‘hero’ Bob Crow was brought up. In the latter half of the twentieth century the area fell into decline, but it is difficult to tell as we flash past on the train if the area is still downtrodden or if it has been gentrified. I suspect a mixture of both.
As we jump off the DLR at Limehouse, we walk straight into a nice little pub selling a wide range of craft beers on tap. It is modern and hipster, but at the same time not too trendy. We find a seat outside on the pavement to watch the world go by and most of the people drinking appear to be preloading before heading to the Troxy.
After chilling and people watching for an hour or so, we gird our loins and head for the venue.
The Troxy is an impressive art deco building that smells of a grand history as soon as you set foot in it. Built in the 1930s, when they took pride in building, it was originally a cinema. The largest cinema in England at the time of its construction. Post war slum clearance took away much of its audience, resulting in it closing in 1960.
It soon had a new lease of life as a rehearsal space for The Royal Opera House until, as many old cinemas did at the time, it became a bingo hall in 1980.
In 2005 it took on the form we see now, a live music venue and hosts many award ceremonies.
Coming at the building from the station it is easy to miss its understated beauty from the outside, but once inside you cannot miss the lovingly restored grandeur of the building. The thorough security search looks for drugs, weapons, cameras (booo) and chewing gum. Yes chewing gum. But you can see why, there is plush carpet throughout and everywhere you look you see it has been lovingly restored in sympathy with its original art deco design.
Once through the ticket hall we are greeted with a huge auditorium, framed on three sides by the ‘circle’ balcony, which is sadly closed tonight.
Florescence (Maharetta Records), the support act is already on. She is a psytrance DJ & Producer based in London. Basically a DJ behind a table of decks, samplers and various gadgets, which is rarely a spectacular sport. She is, however, knocking out some quality psytrance and the crowd is getting well warmed up.
Psytrance, as I see it, was the natural progression from Acid House as music technology evolved, helping to create the soundtrack the ultimate trippy night out. Unfortunately, it emerged just as I was growing out of psychedelic experimentation, so I only really got the full effect a few times. Or maybe I should say fortunately – because my brain might have turned to mush if it had come along a few years earlier. Having said that, you don’t have to be tripping to enjoy it, and I love it anyway.
It is, however, a much-maligned genre, being considered a parody by many. Very few of my friends can tolerate it and it is a pleasant change to be in a room full of people who appreciate it.
The ground floor of the venue is split level. The lower level is filled with people grooving to the music, we stay up on the higher level, admire the light show and check out the bar. With all the seating upstairs in the closed off Circle, we find a spot sat against the wall up back and watch the world go by.
Flourescence’s set goes on well beyond the listed start time for Infected Mushroom and we eventually head our way down to lean against the crowd barrier at the front. We are in prime position, although over to the side, ready for when the band hit the stage.
Infected Mushroom is an Israeli musical duo formed in Haifa in 1996 by producers Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani. They produce and perform psytrance, electronica, dream trance and psychedelic music. They are one of the best-selling groups in Israeli music history in terms of both domestic and international sales. they often utilise ‘proper’ instruments, making them stand out a little from your average psytrance.
Not only is this the first time I have seen the band, I have to confess I’m not overly familiar with their back catalogue – but what I have heard I have liked. I like the hard mix of metal and trance but they have a vocalist with them tonight that softens the sound a little for me.
Talking of sound, initially I’m stood there thinking, “the sound in this venue is surprisingly a bit crap”. But then I realise where we are stood we are directly underneath the PA speakers that are hanging from the ceiling. The sound is literally going over our heads. We hang around for a while, soaking up the atmosphere down the front, but eventually head back up to the higher level. Immediately we note an improvement in the sound.
As can be expected, the lighting and sound in this venue is professional and top of the range. Despite the hundreds of sweaty bodies squirming about around us, the room never feels hot. Presumably this is a sign of high-quality air conditioning. That’s the thing about getting things right, the gig I recently attended in The Marble Factory was notable for lack of air conditioning and the immense heat. No such problems in The Troxy, but you don’t really notice the things that go right.
Standing at the back of a gig is often the worst part of the venue (again, see the Marble Factory gig), but oddly, being at the back of this particular gig was the best pace to be – for me. It was raised, so you could see the band if you wanted to and there was plenty of room to dance.
I didn’t have my dancing trousers on tonight, so we went back to the bar and once again sat on the floor leaning against the wall. But I really enjoyed sitting there watching the more adventurous throwing shapes, juggling glow sticks and generally having a good time. You could almost feel the happiness in the room.
There were a handful of ‘psytrance warriors’ wandering around in ultraviolet shirts and battery powered glowing glasses, but not many. Oddly, they were outnumbered by goths and emos. But the vast majority of the crowd were your average joe and Josephine, out for the night enjoying their music. The number of comments from people about Megan’s ‘Peatbog Fairies’ t-shirt suggested most of them were pretty clued up about their music. But then again, you don’t go to see Infected Mushroom unless you are into your obscure psychedelic dance music.
Eventually it was time to head back out into the night and we added a taxi to our modes of transport home. Had we made the right choice of gig to go to that night? Gaye Bykers on Acid or the Bar Stool Preachers may or my not have put on a better show, but I have seen them many times and on reflection I’m glad I opted for something new. Faced with the same options again id probably make a different choice, but tonight, I sat on the train with a huge smile on my face.