Reviews

Infusion + Dave Seaman

Mike Prevatt
Infusion + Dave Seaman

Infusion + Dave Seaman

City: Hollywood, California
Venue: "Spundae" at Circus Disco
Date: 2003-06-21
Before you enter the doors at Circus Disco in Hollywood, you have to get past Cole, the man who greats you with a ear-to-ear smile, tears your ticket and wishes you a good time. Any veteran nightlifer would be immediately disarmed by Cole's complete disregard for icy nightclub employee elitism; in New York, the same fellow would hold the line of ticketholders just to establish himself as Your Only Way In Tonight. Not in Los Angeles, though, where some of the hottest spots test the limits of the word "casual." Sure, there are clubs that might frown upon khaki or denim pants, and then there is Circus, arguably one of Southern California's most popular nightlife venues, that doesn't think twice about the UCLA kids wearing cargo shorts. But back to Cole. After tearing your ticket in half, he steps in front of you. OK, here we go, I haven't given the secret handshake, you think to yourself. Cole does reach out for you, but all he wants is a hug. You hug Cole back. You wonder -- is club management handing out Ecstasy pills to its security people or what? As you scratch your head and walk into the venue's large smoking patio area, you notice a 15-foot-high replica of Michelangelo's David. It looks pretty faithful to the original, except Circus David boasts a much more flattering endowment. Could the night get any more random? It does. It's 10:45 p.m., and the main dance floor area is a near-ghost town. Circus' popular "Spundae" night is the type of event that sees its guest list close before midnight, its last call announced at 1:30 a.m., and its entrance lines stretch far past the parking lot, sometimes before the club's 9 p.m. opening. Tonight's ticket acquisition, security check and Cole-bonding session only took 10 minutes total, so you wonder where everyone else is. This is the big DJ party in L.A. tonight, the gay pride circuit party downtown notwithstanding, and you hope, for the sake of the performers and the promoters, that the room fills up soon. This may be the reason why Australian live electronic act Infusion is not on at its scheduled 11 p.m. time. One wonders if any of the early attendees even know who Infusion is. There are certainly enough people peering at the temporary stage and intricate synth/mixer rig across from the DJ booth. They have these looks on their faces that seem to say, "Hmm, I don't recall the flier saying BT or the Crystal Method were going to perform tonight. Maybe Deepsky is making a surprise appearance or something. Maybe I just need another pill." Or maybe not. When the Aussie trio finally scales the stage, each musician assuming the knobtwiddler position, a crowd surrounds them and starts cheering and jumping within the first breakbeat number. Either it doesn't take much to get these kids excited, or this is going to be a great audience. Hour one of Infusion's sweaty set is, much like your typical DJ set, the big warm up. The band laces most of its admittedly indistinguishable tracks with minimal melodicism, but every time the digital kickdrum starts up, or the bass gets louder, the crowd shrieks. The musical approach isn't ascetic, like that of your intelligent dance music types, and it's not theatrical, like a Chemical Brothers gig. In fact, I wonder what the hell is so exciting about it. The performance isn't necessarily lackluster, nor is the music, per se. It just doesn't deserve the mania cheering it on. Part of this confusion is fueled by the musicians -- Jamie Stevens, Manuel Sharrad and Frank Xavier -- themselves. Not that one needs to look like a rock star to effectively entertain or move a crowd, but these three guys probably don't dress any differently for a gig than when they're playing PlayStation back in the studio. These are your standard computer geeks, whose choreography is, tragically, of the white heterosexual student variety. However, it is their spirit, everyman ebullience and eagerness to make a connection that makes them so endearing. This isn't John Digweed vinylgazing as if no one's looking, and the crowd notices the eye contact. This makes sense, especially in the second hour of the band's set. "Spundae," like the competing "Giant" megaparty, favors an egalitarian atmosphere -- hence the lax dress code and lovey door staff. It's where glittery boys wearing girls' jeans and day-glowing girls wearing boys' oversized carpenter pants can essentially be rock stars. And it's precisely those nearly androgynous types who make up the swelling, pogoing, Arsenio-arm-crankin' crew the band is feeding from. And speaking of which, Infusion starts relying on more straightaway, 4/4 rhythms, which makes for an easy groove, and thus the set feels slightly more focused. Some ambient, somewhat dramatic synth whooshing creeps in, and you sense the band might go the trance route for the big climax. But they don't; in fact, they revert back to the breakbeat, with more sugar and less tech. It's only during the first set's last song, Infusion's retooled cover of Real Life's "Send Me an Angel", that the melodic element is pronounced, and it sends the crowd into a frenzy. The band reemerges after that by reintroducing the "Send Me an Angel" sample -- likely a programming or computer error -- and ends its two-hour set with material somewhat indicative of Underworld. The crowd is clearly warmed up for the headliner, DJ Dave Seaman, and that's what Infusion was signed on to do. The band doesn't have the chops just yet to headline such an event like "Spundae," and even a two-hour supporting set is overlong. But Infusion has made the most of this opportunity, and one imagines its ascent on the live electronic performance ladder is inevitable. Undoubtedly, Dave Seaman also won over some new fans with his exhilarating DJ set. Among the uplifting, rock-flavored, cheese-free progressive trance he slaps down on the wheels of steel during the night's frenzied peak, he surprises clubbers with likely-white-label remixes of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army", Depeche Mode's ever-reliable "Strangelove" and, earning perhaps the biggest screams of the night, A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran". What makes his approach so appealing isn't just his smoothness behind the decks or his expressive connection with the crowd, but a willingness to sidestep turntablist snobbery for the sake of escapism and entertainment. He might've impressed peers by going a more ascetic route, but the only group he answers to tonight is the one on the dance floor, and the encouragement to keep that group going solidifies Seaman's reputation as a formidable international talent -- and that of "Spundae," still killing clubbers with elating vibes by any means necessary.

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