Bisco Inferno | 05.30.09 | Red Rocks

Word by: Jesse Borrell | Images by: Dave Vann

Bisco Inferno :: 05.30.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO

Bisco Inferno :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
From above, the view was vast. Off in the distance, faintly glistening cities acted as the only remnants of the existing outside world. Yet below, a manifestation of sorts was continuing to recreate itself in some dream-like experimental art form. The first annual "Bisco Inferno" was upon us, and our hosts, The Disco Biscuits, trudged on well into the night, determined to leave it all on the stage as they headlined Colorado's epic Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the first time in the band's 14 year existence.

Arriving hours earlier to the northern parking lot under overcast skies, a mellow vibe emanated through the sparsely filled space. Some mixed speculation to the exact starting times caused this writer to take a small hike up the foothills surrounding Red Rocks and, conversely, missed the opening acts of Orchard Lounge and The New Deal. I'd seen Orchard Lounge the previous night at Denver's Ogden Theatre, but felt some disappointment at missing The New Deal, though their type of electronica seems to cater to a more "late night" crowd than their scheduled Inferno daytime set.

Finally strolling in, the massive beats of RJD2's "Final Frontier" pulsed before the half-filled venue. Brief patches of sunlight shot through the clouds, but the temperature could not have been more perfect. "Do y'all mind if I bring a guest out?" asked the DJ. "I was gonna do it anyway - I don't give a shit!" he shouted comically as DJ Z-Trip entered from stage left. Through his hour-long set, RJD2, born Ramble John Krohn, exhibited a passionate effort. His innate ability to spin catchy, multi-instrumented loops over deeply rooted hip-hop beats has been visible on the scene for years now. By patiently setting a just flow on this occasion, he fit in perfectly as the day continued onward.

Lotus :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
After visibly setting up their gear during RJD2's set, Lotus began without hesitation as Red Rocks filled in. Over the past couple years, the overall sound of Lotus has certainly evolved, and their latest studio release, Hammerstrike, added a more concentrated and - dare I say with full encouragement - commercial vibe to their brand of improvised trance rock. The ambitious track "Tip of The Tongue" began slow and easily meandered around Mike Rempel's guitar-infused groove as the sun began to set. Eventually, drummer Steve Clemens added some needed hostility to the cut, and the stage exploded beneath darker surroundings.

In an effort to gain some context of just where we were at this moment, a quick jaunt up to the top of the venue added many feet to our already high elevation. Although dark, brooding clouds to our south added an element of suspense to what could unfold this evening, the up-beat, taunting opening licks of "Sunrain" held our attention. Throughout the journey of "Sunrain" > "Flower Sermon" > "Sunrain" Lotus twisted and tumbled into fittingly darker material with the sun now fully set.

DJ Z-Trip's set started out innocently enough as an orgy of mash-ups from all across the musical spectrum. Bob Marley's "Kaya" was mixed with The Dead's "Casey Jones," Rick Ross' "Everyday I'm Hustlin" crashed with Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine." Obviously an artist with considerable talent behind the turntables, the act got stale quick. In an effort to pump up the crowd, Z-Trip yelled, "Where's my old school crew at?" only to trigger a remixed version of M.I.A.'s gun toting anthem "Paper Planes." Later in the set, Z-Trip went on some strange tangent about "being the #4 DJ in the world," and asked the crowd to vote for him on some random website to increase his ranking. Overall it was fun to "Jump Around" to the House of Pain, like we have many times before, but it wasn't clear what niche Z-Trip was trying to fill when the many artists before him were creating truly original music on the fly.

The Disco Biscuits :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
Both the crowd and the lighting rig exploded with pure energy as The Disco Biscuits appeared from backstage, and without any introduction "Rock Candy" began. The song blasted forward, launching off the familiar siren-like twists of Aron Magner's synth. Keeping within a relatively constrained pocket, exchanges between the band members allowed some improv space within the repetitiously building time sequences. Reaching the chorus, the words shed an obscure light on all of us in this special time and place: "And you got, you got I, and I got, I got you/ And you got, you got I, and now we both have two."

Drummer Allen Aucoin, not relying heavily on digital tricks, added crisp and fast fills that turned the slow pace on its side within a couple of measures. Soon after, the cyclical tendencies of the dancing and shoe-less guitarist Jon Gutwillig intensified the build. Thick spirals of light immersed the crowd, who were already fully invested in the sounds. And as the song progressed forward, all four band members gazed upwards at the view, possibly in their first true recognition of the spectacle before them. Red Rocks was alive.

The lights dimmed and we were lost in a Bisco fog consisting of an effortless mixture of syncopated rhythms. The result disguised structure as the band worked towards a smooth transition, and in triumphant fashion "Strobelights and Martinis" emerged, led by the funky slap bass tempos of Marc Brownstein. At the flick of a button, Aucoin's first foray into electronic drum fills filled the massive space. This version definitely had a possessed energy behind it, and there was a sense of urgency as the band flowed through the motions.

The Disco Biscuits :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
Climbing higher into the stands at Red Rocks, a free for all was taking place. We were all caught up in a mix of grungy computerized tones and expressions escalating higher towards the heavens. After holding a furious pace, a breath of fresh air came to culmination in the form of the crowd favorite "I-Man." Throughout this evening the thematic vehicle of "I-Man" would weave in and out judiciously, giving evidence to the forethought the band uses in creating specific setlists each time they hit the stage. This lingering theme of "I-Man" slowly dissolved into repetitious confusion, only to pick up some serious steam through Gutwillig's introspective riffs.

After returning to the ambiguous ending portion of "Strobelights and Martinis," the band dropped into one of the most ambitious tracks in their catalogue, "Crickets." Performing the end of the song first, "inverted" style as the Bisco community terms it, "Crickets" would turn out to be the longest piece of the evening at nearly 30 minutes. During "Crickets," slow reggae dub tangled with crunchy animated trance. Progressions pounced up and down as if captured within one of those animated "follow the bouncing ball," sing-along cartoons from childhoods past.

Transitioning into "Sound One," off 2002's Senor Boombox, the band resorted to their older, more forced style of playing in contrast to the even-paced development of "Crickets." "Uber Glue" > "Sabre Dance" ended their first set with a preview of what was still in store. From the wings, various glow-in-the-dark creatures emerged and engaged in interpretive dance to the beat of the music as the set came to a close. While the display only lasted for a couple minutes, it was more than enough to keep the crowd intrigued about what was still in store.

Paul Oakenfold :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
There aren't many DJ's out there as prolific as Paul Oakenfold. After lending an ear to my older sister's CD collection, various stints on the Perfecto and Global Underground series would cement my love for electronica from a young age - way, way before the word combination of 'disco' and 'biscuit' joined my vocabulary. Having sold out Red Rocks before during his career, Oakenfold ran through his well-known hit "Badass" under a minimal lighting scheme. Colossal thumps blasted the venue's subwoofers, and during the beginning of his set it seemed a genuine challenge was being made to our hosts. Eventually remixes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Kings of Leon barely got off the ground, and minimal interaction with the crowd left much to be desired from an audience standpoint.

"Everybody give it up for Paul Oakenfold!" Marc Brownstein declared as they arrived on stage once again. "I heard through the grapevine that shows at Red Rocks need to end at midnight." Amidst a wave off boo's, Brownstein followed, "Nah, because it's already 12:05. I want to let you know that we're going to play as late as anyone has ever played at Red Rocks. I just confirmed that fact!"

After a short story about how the band first opened for moe. back in 1999, the Biscuits launched into newer instrumental track "M80," just as they have done in many Set Two openers throughout their touring in 2009. The five-minute track did little but warm-up the quartet's chops. Next, TDB unveiled a brand new track for Red Rocks tentatively titled "Park Avenue," where all band members added their own patient artistic flare. The whole time it was cool to envision a utopian songwriting process; one based upon equality for all members' interests and desires. Thoughts such as these add only further anticipation to the release of a new studio album in the coming year.

The Disco Biscuits :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
Shifting into "Caterpillar" got us back into the real business at hand. At about the five-minute mark, a neon caterpillar-sapien inched atop pulsating LED light tubes and engaged in a rhythmic ballet. Rolling musical thunder came off the artists' ligaments with an effortless flow as the creature floated on stage. Thematic twists escalated into the recognizable bassline of an inverted "And The Ladies Were The Rest of The Night," with the group singing the final chorus before continuing onward with a mellow composure.

After the band performed the short middle section of the aforementioned "I-Man," Nintendo-esque keyboard pulsations highlighted a mischievous guitar lick as the song slid into "Orch Theme." A quick stroll towards the front and center of Red Rocks found more than ample dancing space was available to all. I'm sure throughout the evening many found themselves skipping over the many levels in 3-foot intervals to whatever BPM was going.

The eventual return back into "Caterpillar" was something else. The creature that was once a caterpillar now emerged as a flowing butterfly, and Bisco's continual peak held strong for what seemed like a ridiculously long time. Various masked beings flooded the stage and the many video screens. Even though these ominous visions were, perhaps, only fit for minds like the twisted Simon Posford and the greater Bisco community, all present were along for the ride. And without too much speculation, the concluding onslaught of this segment may have given proof of a higher kind of poise and intelligence at the controls of The Disco Biscuits.

The Disco Biscuits :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
With substantial applause, the full lighting rig was put back on a somewhat hoarse Brownstein, who shamelessly plugged their upcoming festival, Camp Bisco, before starting the lighthearted "Mirrors." Debuted in March down at the NorVa at the end of their Winter Tour, "Mirrors" is a new and interesting form of Bisco pop. During the catchy break, many in the crowd waved their arms high, taking Brownstein's lead, and the track came together with much more cohesion than it did months ago.

Taking the lead as the core pop portion ended, Aucoin's highlights were both purposeful and laborious as the track picked up force with a new troupe of colorful dancers taking over the stage. The interaction between art and life headed towards a grand finale and the seminal return into "I-Man" gently brought all back down closer to some past remnant of reality.

Nearing 2 a.m., the first encore of "White Chicks and Gang Signs" reminded us of Bisco's cool sense of humor when interacting with this scene, with Gutwillig giving a strong attempt at rapping. For those sitting at the top of Red Rocks the final pairing of "The City" > "Svenghali" probably inspired gazes off towards the distance, a faint reminder of the mass exodus about to take place once the show had come to an end.

Over the years, it has been amazing to see the growth within The Disco Biscuits. As venues have gotten larger, it is evident that the bond between fans and the band have held firm. This past weekend, as some 7,500 showed up from far and wide for the christening of a new event, something very special occurred. For many natives, this was the first time seeing The Disco Biscuits. For many of us out-of-towners, it was our first time within Morrison Colorado's famed red-rocked walls. Now that Colorado has cemented its spot as a home away from home for The Disco Biscuits it is almost inevitable that this year's Bisco Inferno will not be the last.

The Disco Biscuits :: 05.30 :: Red Rocks
The Disco Biscuits :: 05.30.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO
Set I: Rock Candy > Strobelights and Martinis > I-Man > Strobelights and Martinis > Crickets > Sound One, Uber Glue > Sabre Dance
Set II: M80, Park Avenue, Caterpillar > And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night > I-Man > Orch Theme > Caterpillar, Mirrors > I-Man
Encore: White Chicks & Gang Signs, The City > Svenghali

And one from the Ogden the night before...

Continue reading for lots more pics of Bisco Inferno at Red Rocks...

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