Words & Images by: James Young
Tractorbeam :: 10.25.08 :: State Theatre :: Falls Church, VA
If you asked a science fiction fan what a tractor beam was they would tell you about a mystical device with the power to draw objects together from across the cosmos. If you were to ask a Bisco fan they may give you a similar answer. When Marc Brownstein announced that The Disco Biscuits would be joining up as their alter ego, Tractorbeam, Biscuit kids from all across the country went into a frenzy. Fans were drawn from near and far to the State Theatre. I met concertgoers from Ohio, New York, Georgia and even folks who drove from Florida to experience this extraordinarily rare event. With the show sold out, the floor lights set and the audience ready to burst, an unforgettable evening began.
|Tractorbeam :: 10.25 :: Virginia|
First on the stage was Lo-Life (Clay Parnell) joined by Ian McGuire. This duo warmed the crowd with a heavy bass and deep beats. Their hard, driven electronic sound was a savory taste of the music that would follow. Dr. Fameus (Allen Aucoin) joined up and formed a trio called C.I.A. The three are incredibly compatible with bass and drums complimenting the funky electronic sound. Before their short set was over they had the growing audience moving, shaking and getting generally loose.
The next band, Telepath, has quickly made a name for themselves on the electronic jam scene. Where many bands working within this realm have a fairly generic drum and bass sound, Telepath creates a truly original and fresh concept. They mix dub beats with a touch of the Middle East and subtle electronica for a tone that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. They treated us to a few songs off the new album, Contact, that were rich with a conglomeration of worldly sounds. One raging set was not enough and I will be sure to see them again soon.
Recently, The Disco Biscuits have been pursuing their side projects. Originally this evening at the State Theatre was billed as a Conspirator show, Brownstein and Aron Magner's electronica duo. With the addition of Dr. Fameus and Jon "Barber" Gutwillig, all members of the legendary quartet were present. Barber completed the opening acts with his solo project M80 Dub Station. Armed with an arsenal of synths, keys and a laptop, it was slightly disarming to see Barber performing his special brand of dub step without his guitar. But, he performed well with a gigantic grin on his mug, as he obviously knew he was executing his new craft with a particular magnificence.
|Telepath :: 10.25 :: Virginia|
At this point the tension was palpable. The opening acts, while exciting, were simply teases of the madness to come. For those that don't know - I did not myself until recently - Tractorbeam is The Disco Biscuits playing their songs without vocals. They have long been associated with the break beat and electronica sound common to club and DJ sets, and Tractorbeam pushes them even further in this direction. They drop their vocals, which some people find to be lacking, and allow themselves to reinvent their music, focusing on jamming and opening themselves to experimentation, one of the most appealing parts of their genius.
The first set started with a solid rendition of "Digital Buddha" with heavy "42" teases. For the next song the quartet was joined by Tom Hamilton (Brothers Past, American Babies). Hamilton frequents the scene and is currently touring with Magner, Brownstein and Joe Russo in yet another side project called Electron. The five-piece Tractorbeam hit the ground running, starting "Confrontation" and segueing into Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell." There may not have been any vocals, but everyone in the audience, and even Brownstein himself, could be heard screaming, "RUN! RUN! RUN!"
Hamilton stayed on through the segueing jam, which included a post "Cyclone" jam where Brownstein joined Magner on the keys while dealing with some bass technical difficulties. Before Hamilton left he helped treat the audience to the new Biscuit/Tractorbeam song "Tamarin Alley." There are not enough good things to be said about this song. Although short, this new piece has limitless potential, with its hard driven bass and mind-blowing synthetic electronic funk from Magner.
|Marc Brownstein - Tractorbeam :: 10.25 :: Virginia|
After the first set, the band left Aucoin to perform a Dr. Fameus set during the intermission. For almost twenty minutes Aucoin rocked the theatre, laying down killer drumbeats on top of pre-recorded bass and DJ jams. The band transitioned back in with a seamless "Mindless Dribble." The beauty of being able to reinvent the rules within your own music is that the audience is constantly on edge to see how the band will surprise them next.
The show was heavy with "Abraxas" and "Spacebirdmatingcall" teases and there was the feeling that no song was truly sovereign to its original beginning or end. The show concluded with Hamilton rejoining the band for a fantastic "Orch Theme." There was no time for an encore, nor was there need. Tractorbeam left everything on the stage and the audience was sapped of energy. One hopes that The Disco Biscuits continue to challenge the status quo of the jam band scene. Their innovations continue to impress even the most seasoned concert veterans.
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