Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dave Vann
Camp Bisco VII :: 07.17.08 - 07.19.08 :: Indian Lookout Country Club :: Mariaville, NY
Seven has always been considered a lucky number. From Vegas to Yankee Stadium, that simple, sideways slanted numeral has always held larger than life connotations, expectations and some downright magical rolls of the dice. The same could be said for the anticipation leading up to Camp Bisco 7, put on by Meat Camp Productions, and hosted, as always, by The Disco Biscuits.
Albeit a bit earlier this summer, (the festival is usually one of the last of the season), Camp Bisco 7 found itself returning to its first locale in back-to-back years. Site of many familiar festivals in the Northeast, the Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, NY, has a unique vibe, even before you enter. Patrolled by their very own bikers, the feeling is not much different from what I imagine the Hell's Angels looked like walking the beat for The Grateful Dead back in the day. I should note that over the years of being at ILCC the locals have grown to love visitors, treating us extremely fair and doing an outstanding job of policing the grounds on their ATVs with minimal incident.
If the marriage between The Biscuits' trance-fusion rock and overseas psy-trance was consummated a few Camps back, this year's party was a full blown orgy, including straight ahead rock outfits like RAQ and Tea Leaf Green, as well as the hip-hop samplings and mash-ups of DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. But what orgy would be complete with some doggy style. And, boy, that's exactly what we got with the Doggfather himself, Snoop Dogg. In my ten or so minutes speaking to him after his set, Snoop even affectionately mentioned (between gigantic, French-style inhales of his blunt, of course), that the girls at Camp Bisco were "bananas." While the scene backstage was like some alternative reality hip-hop video, the only girl Snoop paid any attention to was good ol' Mary Jane. By my count during our interview, Snoop finished two full blunts to his own head with ease and fluidity, while savoring each hit like Tony Soprano polishing off a T-Bone steak.
Also in attendance was the voter registration outfit, HeadCount, who were filmed by ABC's 20/20 for a fall episode. HeadCount arrived with the goal of registering over 350 voters throughout the weekend, while receiving a spirited stage announcement from Co-Chair and Campo Bisco host, Marc Brownstein.
Whether you like it or not, this festival has grown into an elite, one of a kind experience, with many bands as big or bigger than the Biscuits on a worldwide level, humbly agreeing to join in.
The first day of Camp got started with OurStage winners, The Juice, before the Biscuits hit the stage for an early evening set around 7 p.m. With an opening trio of "7-11" > "Little Betty Boop" > "42," the weekend was off to a strong start. Capped off by the old and rarely played "Trucker's Choice," which proclaims, "We just came for the chicks!" The stage was appropriately set for Snoop Dogg to follow them on the main stage.
|Snoop Dogg :: Camp Bisco 7|
Strolling out at a pimp-like crawl to a stage littered with giant bongs and pot leafs, Snoop brought his own live band to back him, who absolutely killed. Running through a greatest hits set of sorts, he had the crowd waving their hands, lighting up with him and answering his calls of "What's my mothafuckin' name?" Highlights included "Ain't No Fun" and "Gin and Juice." Even though Snoop asked the crowd if they were ready to hear 311, who he has been opening for but weren't on this lineup (whoops!), he still put on a hell of a show.
Oh yeah, did I mention it was only Thursday? Definitely the easiest night to see it all, I made my way for the first time up to the second stage, which was a huge, white circus tent towards the back of the property. Two things immediately hit me upon entrance. One, the light setup was like none other I have ever seen, flat-out badass and extremely pleasing to the eye, combining normal stage lighting and single tubes that were tilted at an angle to produce a very psychedelic sight. Second, this tent was 200-degrees and the heat and humidity hit you in the face harder than a Mike Tyson uppercut. Pnuma Trio took very little time to suck us into their vortex. Lane Shaw, Alex Botwin and Ben Hazlegrove have come a long way since I first met them when we slept on the same Brooklyn and New Paltz floors when they were first on tour. (For the record, they all now have really nice beds in colorful Colorado). Having seen a bunch of Shaw and Botwin's PA sets as of late, it was real treat to here some straight, danceable fire from the Trio and rediscover how utterly insane Shaw is on the kit as Hazlegrove scattered brains with the keys and Botwin held it down like an anchor.
Following the first of a few sets throughout the weekend from Orchard Lounge, who are always a Camp favorite, one of the best sets of Camp came from Lotus to end the night. Maybe because it was the first night, maybe because it was the fact that the final few thousand people had not arrived yet, or maybe it was the fact that these guys are really fucking good, I got down harder and just managed to get lost with everyone around me to the electronic, rock-infused songs and sounds that is the blossoming flower known as Lotus.
After riding the highs of Thursday, I was eager to check out another young band I've been excited about seeing again. Jimkata, a unique bunch of youngsters that have some serious chops, played a spirited set for some obvious fans, or those still too confused to go to bed.
|Mathis & Clark - Tea Leaf Green :: Camp Bisco 7|
Following them was the one-two punch of straight ahead rockers RAQ (who played a shredding version of ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses") and Tea Leaf Green. TLG injected a dose of San Francisco freak into the sideways hat clad crowd, with keyboard player Trevor Garrod sporting some facial hair that fellow scribe and coiner of the term "Camp Bisco," Benjy Eisen later remarked backstage reminded him of a "riverboat gambler."
My first venture to the Hill Stage found Bisco drummer Allen Aucoin and his side project Dr. Fameus onstage. Aucoin not only showcased his DJ skills, but also offered up some of his patented work on the kit with DJ Drizno.
Around dinnertime, the main stage was taken over by the uber-hipsters !!!. The band's frontman Nic Offer wore shorts that would have rivaled some of the 1970's NBA players for "too much thigh," while running around like a maniac and poking fun at the weed-smoking hippies. They were entertaining and reminded me of a modern day Talking Heads, but had me cracking up more than anything else. About halfway through their slot I went to the second stage to catch Eliot Lipp's PA set, which was downright dirty. Probably overlooked since most people were at the main stage, Lipp delivered some hard electro-beats that generated one of the biggest dance parties of the weekend.
Further evidence of the full-blown love affair between music scenes, the East Coast debut of the Younger Brother Live Band, featuring Marc Brownstein on bass, Tom Hamilton (American Babies) on guitar and drummer Joe Russo, who also spun a few sets in the VIP tent for a lucky few throughout the weekend. Simon Posford even took a turn at the electric guitar, another sign of all barriers crashing down between genres this weekend.
|Younger Brother :: Camp Bisco 7|
The Biscuits continued the flow of things with two more sets on Friday, sandwiching a performance by MSTRKRFT. A set I was highly looking forward to, one half of the MSTRKRFT duo was not present due to an illness. However, the Biscuits' first set ended in grand fashion with Jon "The Barber" Gutwillig absolutely nailing the classical-laden "Thieving Magpie," an always-welcome slice of the Biscuits' repertoire.
The second set opened with the debut of a new tune, "Meditation," and saw them bust out another signature Camp number, "Tricycle," with Barber raising its three wheels to perfection. An encore of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In The Name" saw Aron Magner jumping around like a fucking lunatic behind his keys, and confirming that the Biscuits were not only playing some very solid sets but were having more fun than just about anyone else in attendance.
Late night at the tent saw Jamie Shields and his band The New Deal supersonic swirl the masses into some more sweaty fun. For the real ragers, Telepath played until nearly 5 a.m. The first full day of Camp saw an influx of a few more fans, a rock & roll afternoon and the Biscuits begin to hit their stride, leaving the real fireworks for the final installment.
Another aspect unique to Camp Bisco is The Color Wars, pitting fans against one another in several teams, which has the feel of a dyslexic Olympics. I personally was rooting for the Green team, whose shirts sported the logo of their clever team name, "The Sour Diesel Patch Kids." That, in a nutshell, is Camp Bisco at its finest.
|The Disco Biscuits :: Sat Night :: Camp Bisco 7|
Groggy at best, Future Rock thumped the beaten worries back to life with a nice mix of rock and crunk, followed by Zack Hagan, who managed to play on all three stages over the weekend. The early afternoon found me back over at the tent where The Bridge were busting out their patented funk and horn driven sound.
After some more straight ahead rock, the Biscuits hit the stage for an afternoon set that began with a 30-minute-plus "Astronaut." Even during the daylight hours, the exploratory ground this superb take covered reached to outer space and back. The rest of the first set had an old school feel, capped off by a perfectly placed set-closing "Shelby Rose" shining in all of her beauty.
A bit later, another of the weekend's highlights was the Dubwar NYC at the tent. A mix of turntables and freestyling had those in attendance bobbing and weaving along to the syrup-covered beats. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist then played a mash-up set on the main stage behind what looked like Plexiglass hockey boards. I was really expecting more from these two and was disappointed, even though they had a cool video screen and one cool mix of the Gilligan's Island theme song.
The final event of this year's Camp saw the hosts step up to the plate and deliver the last of their six sets of the weekend. Set two saw another debut, "Chillin' Briefly," a song that is rumored to mention the Phantasy Tour message board. An atypical, slow but great version of "I-Man" was very impressive while the final set from the Biscuits showcased many of the band's most enjoyable tunes, including "M.E.M.P.H.I.S.," "House Dog Party Favor" and a nasty portion of "Save The Robots."
|The Egg :: Camp Bisco 7|
Bassnectar spun between sets and amped up the crowd well. However, what I will remember most from the last day of this Camp were the two late night shows at the second stage. The Egg, hailing from London, are, simply put, fucking insane. More intense than the SATs and more mind-blowing than an Alex Grey exhibit on DMT, these guys are in a class - make that a world — all their own. If the question was posed, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?," it was answered by this set. The Egg killed the chicken by pumping their sonic madness straight into its beak until it tried to cross the road and got hit by oncoming traffic. Yeah, that's The Egg.
The last act of Camp was 2020Soundsystem, who were also extremely enjoyable, but after The Egg, I just couldn't care anymore. Camp Bisco has certainly grown up in its seven incarnations, and fortunate for all involved, MeatCamp and Bisco made this the luckiest one of them yet.
Continue reading for lots more pics from Camp Bisco 7...