It’s no secret that the Disco Biscuits have had their share of ups and down over the past few years. In spite of the fact that 2009 saw the Philadelphia based jam-tronica ensemble at their best since Â original drummer, Sammy Altman, departed the group, three short years later, the very existence of the band seems to be at peril. Â
Entering 2010, fans of the veteran quartet had much to be excited about. The band had literally ended 2009 in as hot a fashion as they had been for the entire year. Then, guitarist Jon “Barber” Gutwillig was sidelined and though his recovery was speedy, it took the band a long time to get back into anything that even resembled the groove that, only a year earlier, had been the nightly norm. Little did anyone know that the heavy touring days of old would soon come to a close.
Fans took note as time grew closer and no announcement came for what would have been the fourth consecutive headlining stop at Red Rocks, an event that at one time gave the impression of an annual occurrence in Bisco Inferno. Needless to say, the event did not happen nor did it seem that anything was going to go down in 2012, causing the natural and all too usual insanity fill up message boards with absurd rumors and wild speculation. Even for the most optimistic amongst the fan base, it seemed that the band was done… for 2012 at least. Â Then it happened: Camp Bisco 11 was announced and later, three additional warm-up gigs coined the â€œRoad To Camp Bisco.â€
Saturday July 14, 2012
Arriving in Mariaville, NY nice and early to avoid any mishaps, things got off to a rough start as “Bonnie the bus driverâ€ turned the key on the yellow school bus and nothing happened. The diagnosis came and it was not good. The engine was shot to hell and the Biscuits were scheduled to take the stage in 45 minutes. As luck would have it, this bus also happened to have a pretty important passenger, Brothers Past member, Rick Lowenberg, who had to be at soundcheck in thirty minutes. It was one of those times that is practiced for as I now made myself responsible for getting Lowenberg to his destination. The day could not have been going any better.
Upon arrival at the venue entrance, courtesy of tour instincts that led me to a cab, the friendly Indian Lookout security called a golf cart to come pick up Rick (which now meant us) … destination Main Stage.
Our trusted golf cart chauffeur laid on the horn as he floored it through the crowded grounds filled with wooks & day trippers and dropped us off mere minutes before the Disco Biscuits blasted into their first set of the day with what, considering the predicaments of the hour, was quite the appropriate and ironic number, â€œPlan B.â€
Played powerfully, the first set stayed in step with the opener with loads of energy under the hot July sun. Highlighted by â€œStory Of The Worldâ€ and its standout “42” style jam that was led by bassist and default front man, Marc Brownstein and his five-stringed weapon.
Brothers Past was up next as the Biscuit crowd shifted to the right. Having been a Camp Bisco staple like Bassnectar, Â Brothers Past wasted no time showing their collective enthusiasm for being at Camp again. Guitarist and vocalist, Tommy Hamilton, took a stroll past the stage monitors to get a good look at the sun burnt crowd as his band pulled off yet another great set in 2012.
Complete with high energy, flawless transitions and impressive improvisation, the set was a keeper by the time that â€œWhoâ€™s Gonna Love Me Now?â€ came to an end. And to beat everything else, the clouds above signaled that a Saturday Camp Bisco tradition may very well be broken with no rain. Â
What came next was a fantastic set. Having done the usual “who should I check out that could be a potentially easy gloss-over? The resounding response: Yacht. Â
Yacht is fueled by the creative genius in Jona Bechtolt & Claire L. Evans. Between the two, an extremely intriguing, unique and all too rare concert experience was (and one can easily suspect, is always) created. Flying across the stage in a manner that is definitely not choreographed, the tone created is one of controlled chaos. By moving between guitar and synth, the harmony of a genuine floral arrangement of emotions pours through PA. Keeping the backbeat on bass and drums, the handiwork of Robert â€œBobby Birdmanâ€ Kieswetter and Jeffrey â€œJerusalemâ€ Brodsky moved the gigantic audience ever closer to a unified achievement of musical bliss with each thump. Needless to say, the act made quite the impression and most likely, a few thousand new fans.
Taking a few minutes to walk around the festival site, it became abundantly clear that Camp Bisco is no longer just for Disco Biscuits fans. It has grown over the years to include something much more vast and not easily Â categorize that isn’t representative of what one expects to see at a more thoroughly-rooted-in-jam festival. Regardless of labels though, from the 17-year-old girl waiting all day to see Bassnectar to the jaded Biscuits tour vet, thematically, pleasure was the obvious common denominator. Both were there with a shared intent to enjoy.
Hip-hop act Atmosphere was up next and got the late afternoon crowd amped up for the evening ahead. Though their set drifted into the hosts set two time slot, all was pretty easily forgiven when the Philadelphia quintet meandered onto the stage.
As Brownstein’s obligatory â€œHelloâ€ excited the crowd, keyboardist, Aron Magner, made his band mates caused smiles to decorate his band mates’ faces as he teased the intro to Pink Floydâ€™s â€œGreat Gig In The Skyâ€ before smashing into â€œSpaga.â€
The set got off on the right foot as it took no time for drummer, Allen Aucoin, Barber and Marc to get locked into the pocket during the â€œSpaga> Above The Waves> Spaga with Dominic Lolli (Big Gigantic)â€ sandwich and the always-welcomed “Mulberryâ€™s Dream” was played to perfection, causing a new layer of sweat to build up on the already drenched crowd. Next up was the first true disappointing offering of the day in Â â€œKitchen Mittsâ€ that failed to take off in any sort of direction and served as a reminder of what not playing together does to a band.Â
Thankfully the Biscuits saved the best part of the set for last as the Barber led â€œBernstein and Chasnoff> Tempest> Bernstein and Chasnoffâ€ was mind bending, winding through insane guitar licks that split the air as though it was a warm stick of butter.
The wonderfully named Holy Fuck and Jam Cruise Jam Room born Big Gigantic played as the sun began to fall behind the Rotterdam Mountains.
As most of Camp was down at the Main Stage by their set, it was a bit awe-inspiring to see the following that Big Gigantic have amassed over the past few years. Â At first glance, it was hard to recognize them as their stage setup now includes the standard-for-the-genre gigantic platform that made catching what saxophonist Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken were doing near impossible, courtesy of the Daft Punk like vessel additions.
In all fairness though, the big egg-shaped LED covered structures are probably pretty fun to play in.
Speaking of getting big, the three letter word would be the understatement of the century as for Bassnectar who stepped up to his setup with his head held high, looking over 20,000 screaming Dub Step fans before falling short due to sound dropouts that are intolerable in a set that leans so heavy on timing and tension-release. As the set progressed it was hard to not feel sorry for the apologetic Bassnectar who no doubt had come out in this prime slot intent on killing it.Â Unfortunately for him and his fans, it just was not to be in the 2012 installment of Camp.
The Disco Biscuits took the stage for their final set at 11:15pm and wasted no time delivering a non-stop set that had the Bisco faithful hanging on every change, scale, back beat, and bass strike. Moving from song to song with ease and precision, the Disco Biscuits finished night oneâ€™s “Helicopters” and “Basis For A Day” while grinning from ear to ear.
I had come to Camp for many reasons, but for me the main attraction has been and will always be The Disco Biscuits. They sure didnâ€™t disappoint and the sound was even reminiscent of 2009, the aforementioned year in which they seemingly could do no wrong. The justification for this statement can be found in the last chords were hit to end â€œSpraypaintâ€ when I had the luxury of being front row center between Brownie and Barber. Â As the instruments were put down, the two walked toward each other with open arms and huge smiles and as the brotherly embrace ended, I realized why these dudes are still friends… despite any speculation or rumors with which any message board may be may filled. Â Â
Set 1: Plan B > I-Man1, Jigsaw Earth, Story Of The World, Therapy
Set 2: Spaga > Above The Waves2 > Spaga3, Mulberry’s Dream, Kitchen Mitts, Bernstein And Chasnoff > Tempest > Bernstein And Chasnoff
Set 3: King Of The World > Helicopters4 > Digital Buddha > Cyclone > Munchkin Invasion > And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night2 > Run Like Hell5 > Basis For A Day6
Notes: 6completes 7/12 version, 5unfinished, 2inverted, 4dyslexic completion of 7/12 version, 3with Dominic Lolli (Big Gigantic) on saxophone, 1completes 7/13 version
d-_-bÂ To download the soundboard recording of these sets, click HERE.Â
Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?, Big Blue Apples, Let’s Start A Gang > Forget You Know Me > Let’s Start A Gang
Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from Camp Bisco 11’s Saturday festivities by Andrew Blackstein…