Words by: Jonathan Reiss | Images by: Jason Flager
The Disco Biscuits :: 09.13.09 :: Starland Ballroom :: Sayreville, NJ
Note to fans of The Disco Biscuits: If you happened to miss the opening run of their fall tour this past weekend, I hate to admit it, but you missed out. The boys from the "city of brotherly love" were truly impressive this past weekend as they carved out three straight nights of energetic, innovative and free form live music with each night building considerable momentum for the next.
After dominating the pristine Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore on Friday with a show chock full of heavy hitters and a monster first set "Palindrome," the band traveled up the road a bit from their Philadelphia studio for two nights at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. Nestled somewhere in between the New Jersey Turnpike and Bon Jovi's childhood home, Starland's intimate yet rowdy environment proved the perfect venue for the Biscuits to jumpstart their extended fall tour in front of their loyal fan base. With a three set Saturday night fiesta in the books, the stars were perfectly aligned for the Biscuits to close out the weekend with a monster show on a chilly Sunday evening.
Taking the stage at a shade past 10:00 pm, the Biscuits threw a bit of a curveball to the overly enthusiastic crowd by performing a set featuring only standalone versions of each song with no jams running in and out or resurfacing. To the surprise of many, this set proved to be one of the more impressive sets of the opening run, as each song was played to near perfection. Kicking things off with an old school combo of "Little Betty Boop," "Above the Waves" and "Magellan," the Biscuits sent an immediate message to all in attendance (and to those watching the setlist at home on the Internet), that the evening's performance was going to be a real treat.
Getting right down to business with the "Boop" bustout, the band literally danced its way through this version, jumping from the catchy verses to the dirty jams. Featuring excellent interplay between keyboardist Aron Magner and guitarist Jon Gutwillig, the Biscuits built a multi-layered jam that had both the crowd and the room shaking. Gently sliding into the song's second section, Gutwillig ripped up the blues oriented groove with his best Stevie Ray Vaughn imitation. A song the band has struggled to nail since drummer Allen Aucoin's inception in late 2005, "Boop" was one of the biggest surprises of the night and certainly is in the running for best version in recent memory.
When the opening notes of "Waves" and "Magellan" circulated through the room, the audience response was so overwhelming one couldn't help but notice the sheer appreciation gleaming from each band members' face. Combining their blissful melodies, deep lyrics and multi-faceted jams, both songs served as terrific reminders of how musically talented these guys truly are and why after more than 14 years as a band they continue to attract new fans and keep the diehards on their toes.
|Marc Brownstein :: 09.13 :: NJ|
But just when everyone thought the set would be nothing more than an old school classic rewind, bassist Marc Brownstein announced that the next tune, "Pimp Blue Rikki," is the second to last new song on their forthcoming album, Planet Anthem, due out next January. Debuted a few days earlier at the Hippodrome, "PBR" took the crowd on an electronic ride through half stepped beats, sizzling synths and hip-hop laced lyrics. Taking on a different sound, style and structure from the average Disco Biscuits tune, the guys have continued their 2009 trend of pumping out fresh, cutting edge material at an astronomical rate. After only one listen, "PBR" appears to have serious potential as a jam vehicle and you can bet money the band will most definitely be taking the training wheels off as the tour moves forward. A perfectly placed "Home Again," led by Brownstein's intimate bass, was the ideal choice to usher the danced-out audience into some much needed rest, relaxation and refreshment during setbreak.
For the final set of the weekend, there probably wasn't a soul in the room that felt like a letdown was even possible. With the previous set featuring no extended jams or trademark segues, one suspected that one last dance party was exactly what the Biscuits were about to dial up for their last set. Slipping onstage with a welcomed cheer, the Biscuits ripped through a perky rendition of "Hope" to open up the second set.
What happened after "Hope" was really quite phenomenal: an enormous 45-plus minute "Caterpillar > Orch Theme > Tempest > Caterpillar" segment that was far and away the highlight of the weekend. Stretching across multiple themes, the band displayed remarkable patience building the jam from "Caterpillar" into "Orch Theme" to an adrenaline-pumping climax, leaving the audience with no choice but to wildly dance in awe. Morphing out of "Orch Theme," the jam took a dark but upbeat turn as Brownstein slowly dropped the "Tempest" bassline beneath the pandemonium emanating from the stage. By far the bust out of the night, "Tempest" was a welcome guest as it provided a seamless transition back into an abnormally mellow Gutwillig shred fest to complete the noteworthy "Caterpillar."
| The Disco Biscuits :: 09.13 :: Sayreville, NJ|
Giving everyone an opportunity to catch their breath, the beautiful strokes of "Spaga" rose from Magner's piano. Engulfing the room in a sea of red lights, smoke protruding from the stage, lighting designer Johnny R. Goode created the perfect backdrop to the classic tale of fire breathing dragons. A bit of a downer piece lately, this "Spaga," like the opening "Boop," was pumpin' from front to back, giving Aucoin the opportunity to show off his drumming chops to the delight of the crowd.
Closing the show with standalone versions of "I Remember When" and "Rivers," the band then acquiesced the crowd's fiendish need for one more rager with a friend requested "Reactor" encore. Always a fan favorite, "Reactor" gave us one last taste of some home cooked Bisco before boarding the tour bus, heading south and hitting up the rest of the country with their trance-fusion.
09The Disco Biscuits :: 09.13.09 :: Starland Ballroom :: Sayreville, NJ
Set I: Little Betty Boop, Above The Waves, Magellan, Pimp Blue Rikki, Home Again
Set II: Hope, Caterpillar> Orch Theme>Tempest> Caterpillar, Spaga, I Remember When, Rivers
The Disco Biscuits are on tour now; dates available here.
Continue reading for more pics of The Disco Biscuits in New Jersey...
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