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Infantree at The Bowery Electric

by Joshua Kraus

Cool, confident, and unwavering in the face of a career-defining tour with Neil Young and Crazy Horse this fall, Infantree seems to be ascending their career ladder two stairs at a time. In anticipation of their looming tour, this young L.A.-based ensemble has been playing non-stop, but if they were anxious about their upcoming initiation into rock ‘n’ roll’s inner circle, it didn’t show Saturday night.

Framed by a shaggy mess of black curls, lead singer/guitarist Alex Vojdani guided the band through a tight, dexterous jaunt of surprisingly sophisticated psych-folk. The venue was modestly sized and the crowd was…well…suffice it to say that there were no “pardon me’s” mumbled on the way to the bathroom. But the charming quartet performed as if it were Madison Square Garden and we were an impenetrable mass of screaming die-hards.

The set list skewed heavily toward tracks off their newest album, Hero’s Dose, and the musical stratosphere of the room billowed and furled, ranging from wistful folk to darkly tinted, slightly proggy psych-rock. The deliberate 1-2, 1-2 stomp of “Living Proof” jabbed and parried, jabbed and parried, ushering the audience into its hypnotic groove, while the taut vocal melodies of “What You Wanna Do” skidded atop quick, choked slaps of guitar and snare.

Excited bar chatter could hardly compete with the group’s controlled chaos. Maximizing the stage’s limited square footage, Vojdani and co-guitarist Matt Kronish frequently broke into the much-loved guitar solo huddle, which is absent in too many above-it-all indie bands. These guys actually looked at one another, smiling, shuffling, bonding—reveling in the fact that they were playing music—for an eager audience as well as each other.

Vojdani giggled gleefully as Kronish launched into the double-time solo (clearly taking a note from “Freebird”) that closed out “Fibber,” a breathless tune which the band recently played on Conan. Grins turned to solemn concentration before kicking off “Original Sin,” which opened with those sun-drunk harmonies Fleet Foxes helped revitalize. “Sin” floated along placidly until the sails caught wind, and congruous voices met a determined back beat with somewhere important to be.

It’s not surprising that Infantree was chosen to open for the Neil Young. This is a band that knows precisely when to cut the drums and let the harmonies dangle; when to turn the beat around and end with an electrified freak-out. There are even bits of Young in these songs if you listen closely: the pastoral plains of sprawling guitar, all swathed in spacey reverb.

These guys balance multiple arrangements and—more impressively—multiple ideas with poise, slipping from manic to mellow and anguished to hopeful with an ease beyond their years. After bringing a new (untitled) song to a close, Kronish remarked, “Maybe we’ll hold onto that one.” I think they know they’re on to something.