The Disco Biscuits | 11.20 & 11.21 | S.F.

Words by: Chris Clark | Images by: Kelsey Winterkorn

The Disco Biscuits :: 11.21.09 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

The Disco Biscuits :: 11.21 :: The Fillmore
Back in early April, The Disco Biscuits made their long awaited return to the West Coast for what was supposed to be a 2009 coming out party of sorts. The band was truly hitting their stride, again, and there was a bevy of talk surrounding the band that this just may be their time. There was consistent banter of the new album, and with it a fresh array of new material and maybe even a decidedly new direction. It had been years in the making, but those four trance fusion pioneers (with Allen Aucoin now in place of original drummer Sam Altman) from Philly were finally ready to make that big leap forward. At the time I experienced a déjà vu-like feeling, recalling back in 2002 thinking, 'These guys are it.' Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and for both the Biscuits and their fiercely devoted fan base, a pressing family matter came up and the band had to cut short their Left Coast run prematurely. All the hoopla and excitable expectations would have to be held in check yet again until the Bisco train could once again arrive back in California.

Seven months later, they returned to the friendly Fillmore, set on making good after April's unfortunate trip. Armed with an expanding catalogue of new tunes, obvious tenacity and enthusiasm, and a mostly packed Saturday night Fillmore crowd, ears were cocked and people ready to party. The Disco Biscuits took the stage (considerably later than expected) and set about building on their momentum from the first Fillmore gig. From what I gathered upon arrival, Friday's night show was solid, but hopes rested on Saturday to take the cake.

The Disco Biscuits :: 11.21 :: The Fillmore
I walked into The Fillmore a little after 9:30 p.m., thinking that even though this was "An Evening With" show and there were no openers that the band would come on somewhat early to take advantage of a Saturday night in San Francisco. Well, about an hour later, the band took the stage and almost without hesitation dropped into the new song "Flash Mob." A few nights prior in San Diego, to commence the run, the band had also opened with it; a somewhat surprising move. "Flash Mob" got the crowd moving before the Biscuits dropped into a heavily composed "42" that built upon the energy and segued into a nice "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a."

A crowd pleaser from the start, "Humu's" goofy lyrics and floaty beginning rather quickly dropped into a dark, pulsating foray that took both the crowd and band's energy up a few notches. After two and half songs, the Biscuits began to settle in and keyboardist Aron Magner and guitarist Jon Gutwillig really started pairing up. Looking back on the night, this exploratory dance groove was probably the highlight of the first set, encompassing a very patient style of playing where you could feel all four members locking in. "Lunar Pursuit" seemed to come rather quickly, leading to a guitar-heavy jam back into the ending of "42," and soon after, a somewhat average set-closing rendition of "Basis for a Day." Normally, a set-closing "Basis" is a true treat where new and innovative ground can be covered on a whim. Not to say this was a bad version in the least, but I was a little bit disappointed. While I have yet to hear "Minions" live, a couple people next to me were convinced the intro was actually "Minions." Regardless, it was still a solid "Basis," just maybe not the explosive, exploratory jam vehicle that it's fully capable of.

Marc Brownstein :: 11.21 :: The Fillmore
The first set boasted a solid setlist with strong playing. There was nothing out of the ordinary, but instead a band playing well and getting warmed up for a second set that would conclude their November Fillmore run. It was clear the band was connecting and playing with vigor, a good sign for what was to come. Bassist Marc Brownstein looked like he was having a blast, Barber was in full shred mode, Aucoin's drumming was ferocious, and the group dynamic and interplay was concrete throughout.

Set two again opened up with a new song, this time the debut of "Naively," kind of a mellow second set opener that felt half baked. I could see the potential but at the same time it's not what fans would look for in an opener. But what came next was something I, and what seemed like the vast majority of The Fillmore crowd, really enjoyed. The run of "Crickets" into an inverted (ending first, then beginning, then jam portion, for those who don't know) "Little Shimmy in a Conga Line" into an inverted "Above the Waves" back into "Crickets" and finishing with a segue into another new song, "On Time," was fantastic. This second set combination was stellar, with the band's tension and release hitting on point through the set's entirety.

Unlike many other aspiring groups out there, the Biscuits are kings at taking their music to a pivotal peak and releasing the tension. "Crickets" is an always-welcome old school track that can go anywhere. Looking around during the "crickets in the night, look out, explode!" portion, you could feel the anticipation mounting in the room, and a zealous impatience began to grow until the jam began. The jam was strong and the transition into the inverted "Shimmy" was performed seamlessly. Barber's playing all night was impressive, and while he does have a propensity to play a lot of notes, he synched up well with Magner's keys, and the rhythm section just killed the bass beats.

The Disco Biscuits :: 11.21 :: The Fillmore
"Above the Waves" was nasty. I heard someone saying there was too much composed stuff going on in the second set, but, to me, the first "Crickets" jam was very smoothly positioned and the jam out of "Shimmy" into the inverted "Above the Waves" was frankly perfect. True, I've always been a fan of "Waves," but this version was played well, both in the vast composed sections and in the band's jamming.

At this point, The Fillmore had their complete attention grasped by the Biscuits. I took a step back to take in their production - an always-impressive light and sound experience that is so Bisco. This is a band that's unlike any other and has always maintained their own path and their own sound. The "Waves" jam back into the end portion of "Crickets" possessed the best interplay of the night, with all four members contributing to a nice trade-off jam that became "On Time." This is a fun song with a great groove, great pacing, and plenty of bass. Out of the new crop of songs the band played this was easily one of the best and a nice set closer. The Biscuits' second set was a lot more fiery than the first, and with it considerably more improv and energy from the band and crowd.

When they came out for the encore, Brownie got on the mic to explain how the song they were about to play was about San Francisco and that it was fitting to be played at The Fillmore. That song was "Wet," and indeed it was moist. Perhaps not the wisest song to close with, at this point it didn't matter. Bisco had won over the faithful and there was nothing but loud cheers and glassy eyes as they walked off stage.

The Disco Biscuits :: 11.21.09 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA
Set I: Flash Mob, 42 > Humuhumunukunukuapua'a > Lunar Pursuit > 42, Basis For A Day
Set II: Naively (1), Crickets > Little Shimmy In A Conga Line (2) > Above The Waves (2) > Crickets (3) > On Time
Encore: Wet
1 = 1st time played
2 = inverted
3 = unfinished

Continue reading for Dave Vann's pics of the night before...

Images by: Dave Vann

The Disco Biscuits :: 11.20.09 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA
Set I: Story Of The World, ¿Donde?, Grass Is Green > Minions > Grass Is Green, Widgets, Stone > The Devil's Waltz
Set II: Abraxas, Loose Change, Spraypaint > Bernstein And Chasnoff1 > Spraypaint
Encore: The City
1 inverted

BLVD opened show


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