Camp Bisco | 07.15-07.17 | New York

Words by: Kevin Schwartzbach | Images by: Dave Vann

Camp Bisco :: 07.15.10-07.17.10 :: Indian Lookout Country Club :: Mariaville, NY

Since moving to the Indian Lookout Country Club back in 2007, most aspects of Camp Bisco had remained stagnant. With its biggest lineup and highest attendance to date, Camp Bisco's ninth incarnation was one of major change and progress. It's no wonder really – The Disco Biscuits themselves have changed quite a bit over this past year, garnering, for better or for worse, a more mainstream appeal with release of Planet Anthem. And this change was most salient vis-à-vis their own festival, with more high-profile acts than ever before, including Wu-Tang Massacre, LCD Soundsystem and Ween, which attracted a turnout out of roughly 15,000. I dare say the flat-rimmed-hat- wearing Bisco ilk has become a minority.

The Disco Biscuits by Dave Vann
The high-profile laden lineup also prompted the addition of a second main stage, adjacent and identical to the first, in order to help facilitate smoother transitions between acts in the main concert venue (though the massive lineup still lead to a considerable amount of overlapping sets, more than any previous Camp). The dance tent, previously a target for biblical style flooding from Camp's habitually torrential weather, was moved to higher ground and closer to the main stage. For the late-night ravers, the hill stage was converted to a silent disco in the evening, with two different channels manned by two different DJs, that raged on well into the wee hours of the morning.

Not all the changes however pertained to music. At long last, Camp Bisco has developed a conscience. In addition to the Marc Brownstein founded Head Count and Strangers Helping Strangers, many organizers this year have gone green, introducing recycling and compost bins to the festival grounds, as well as enlisting the help of green volunteer teams and Zerohero, a Colorado-based company that focuses on reducing the negative impact festivals have on the environment, rendering the festival much cleaner and environmentally friendly throughout. Also, there were various new extra-musical activities such as The Philadelphia Experiment, an interactive art installation along with a pyrotechnic display of flame cannons, and Brainquility, a cerebral, sensory-tickling, trance-like experience, and a PS3 truck.

But for all that changed, there were many familiar elements from previous years found at CBIX. Once again, we experienced several severe thunderstorms, and once again those storms interfered with the schedule. For the fourth consecutive year, the sprawling fields of ILCC served as our playground, and its resident biker gang our security force, who managed to fruitfully keep the peace while still managing to let us enjoy ourselves. Though still with some kinks to work out (please for the love of god, more port-o-potties in the main concert area), this once tiny jam-centric festival has developed into a multifariously ripping good time. One can only imagine what the future holds for this ever evolving, ever growing festival.

Camp Bisco 9 Highlights

Electronic Music and Hip-Hop Reign Supreme

Continuing the musical trend of years past, the 60-plus-act lineup was fraught with hip- hop and electronica acts. Wu-Tang Massacre, arguably the biggest hip-hop act to ever grace the main stage at Bisco, came out with a haughty New York swagger that could only be justified by the mind-blowing performance that was to follow. Though Method Man possessed the most stage presence of the trio of rappers, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah were not without their moments in the spotlight, as the three expertly traded lines. Their powerful, albeit short-lived set was mostly a showcase of their hits, including the Ol' Dirty Bastard tune "Shimmy Shimmy Ya", dedicated to the late Dirt McGirt. "You think you know the Wu-Tang Clan? Well let's see you sing the words to this one," spat Ghostface, letting the crowd sing the words to "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" in the absence of ODB. Hands in the shape of ‘W's shot up into the air as triumvirate, aided by DJ Mathematics, busted out "Ain't Nothi' Ta Fuck Wit", the most energetic song of the set. Wu-Tang was joined at Bisco by other high profile rappers such as Talib Kweli, performing with Adam Deitch's Break Science, and Gift of Gab.

CBIX also saw some of the biggest names in electronic music, running the gamut from all different styles. House maestro Diplo and dubstep phenom Rusko saw some of the most packed crowds the late-night dance tent saw all weekend, while Pretty Lights and Bassnectar both drew comparable audiences to our hosts in the main concert venue.

That Happened

LCD Soundsystem
It's not often that I walk away from a festival with the sense that a single band definitively put on the best performance. But on the drive home Sunday morning I still couldn't get shake the sense that LCD Soundsystem's Thursday night headlining set stole the show. Brainchild of James Murphy, LCD's chimerical concoction of punk, disco, electronica and New Wave is as enticing as it is unique. Indeed, parts of the show felt like they belonged in a mosh- filled punk throw down at CBGB, while others felt like they belonged in a drug-laden rave. Their latest release, This Is Happening, is shaping up to be as enjoyable and influential as their previous two releases, and live Murphy takes his productions and brings them to life with the aid of a full band. Murphy's crew wasted no time pumping out the new stuff, dropping "Pow Pow" and the album's lone single "Drunk Girls" early in the set. It was clear though from the crowd's reactions that the new stuff hadn't quite sunk in like most of their older material. The biggest reaction of the set was from a dark, electro version of "Daft Punk is Playing At My House." "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (Pretentious Version)" and "Losing My Edge," both off the eponymous first album, were two of the highlights of the set.

Yet, whether displaying new material or delving into more canonical LCD material, Murphy always commanded the stage with an authoritative presence. His often David Byrne-like stage antics, from his dance moves to banging away on his cowbells, made it impossible to take your eyes off of him, even with a giant freakin' disco ball suspended above his head. The set closed, appropriately enough, with "New York I Love You But Your Bringing Me Down." The waltzing ballad, filled with hilariously lamenting critiques of the city, took a short detour into a comical a cappella version of Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind."

Live Manifestations

Theivery Corporation
LCD Soundsystem wasn't the only act to bring their often-DJ'ed music to life with a full live band; in fact, it seemed to be a common theme at this year's Camp Bisco. Jimmy LaValle's The Album Leaf drew only a handful of people, as the hordes began to clear out immediately after Wu-Tang's set. Admittedly, it was quite hard to shift gears to the ambient, electro-post-rock of The Album Leaf from Wu-Tang's in-your-face hardcore hip-hop set, but those who made the leap were rewarded for their courage. Often, their plodding, wispy sound is compared to that of other post-rock giants such as Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky, both apt comparisons. LaValle's minimalist beats met Matthew Resovich's serene violin and Drew Andrew's textural synthesizer soundscapes to make for the perfect daytime chill-out set. I grabbed my lawn chair, sat back, and let the ambient waves of sound wash over me.

After Album Leaf, the hordes reformed around me like a flash flood for Thievery Corporation. The DC- based DJ/producer duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton not only have an ear for production, but apparently for arrangement, instrumentation and orchestration as well, allowing them to bring their downtempo, politically and socially charged music to new heights with the aid of a seven-and-a-bit live band. Several guest vocalists were called upon throughout their set, each adding their own unique voices to Thiev Corp's eclectic, dubbed-out sound.

Big Gigantic was another group that brought their electronic productions to life with live instrumentations. Dominick Lalli's hip-hop influenced electro beats caught a funky twist with his own effect-smothered saxophone lines and the animated drumming of Jeremy Salkin.

Plight of the Jam Band

The New Deal
As Camp Bisco grows, the presence of jam bands seems to shrink. Once a jam-centric festival, our jam-tronicca hosts invited only a handful of crunchy ad-libbers to CBIX, including The New Deal, Brothers Past, RAQ, Future Rock, Telepath and Papadosio, all returning acts except for the last.

The New Deal's late night set Friday was one of the most energetic of the festival. With no new studio material released since '03, they're still, for the most part, playing the same stuff they have been for years. Fortunately, their live take on breakbeat house never gets old. Nearly a two-hour set, their lengthy jams took a long time to get where they were going, including abundant detours into Dan Shearer's beatboxing, but once there, they arrived with a vengeance.

Future Rock has grown up a lot in the past few years. Their once meandering sets have become much tighter and more focused and now maintain a much higher level of energy than ever before. Felix Moreno himself has become much better at switching off between his thumping bass and warbling synthesizer, too.

Expletive Deleted

Holy Fuck
Camp this year once again offered an eclectic array of quality late night music, none more captivating than Toronto's experimental rock quartet Holy Fuck. Though I had heard a great deal of their studio work, that did not prepare me for the bizarre exposé that is their live show. I entered the Dance Tent Thursday night, greeted by a wall of coarse sound, to find keyboardists Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh hammering away indiscriminately at their synthesizers. Using an array of miscellaneous instruments, toys and effects, Holy Fuck's goal is basically to create electronic music without the use of the laptops, drum machines and samples traditionally used in the genre. Arranged in a square in the middle of the stage, with the two keyboardists in the front and Matt Schultz (drums) and Matt McQuaid in the back, the foursome were locked in step with each other, feeding off one another to bring the music to epic peaks. Their raunchy distorted intensity was broken up from time to time with light, fleeting ambience, giving their music a slight post-rock feel.

Our Gracious Hosts

CBIX was one of the Disco Biscuits' strongest showings in years. Though we only got five instead of the promised six sets due to a relentless lightning storm Saturday night, the general sentiment was that of satisfaction on the Bisco front. What made this year particularly special was that Brownie created most of the setlists with the aid of the fans. Bisco took the stage for their first set Thursday evening with a lingering sun still in the sky. A rising drone kept us all anxious to find out what our hosts would open with before dropping into "House Dog Party Favor." It wasn't the most stellar "House Dog," with a few minor flubs from Barber, but the excitement of starting their tenure at Camp with such a heavy hitter kept the version riveting. "Crickets" into an inverted-yet- mediocre "The Great Abyss" brought us into an exceptional "Crystal Ball" that included the oft-neglected middle section, easily the best part of the song. "The Tunnel," a rare gem played for the first time in over a year, was the highlight of the set. The songs were rather ephemeral, but a strong song selection, prompted by fans, and phenomenal playing made it one of the strongest first sets in CB history.

The Disco Biscuits
Friday's first set continued the opening day's pace, with much more in the way of improvisation, particularly during the set opening "Morph Dusseldorf" where Bisco was hitting their stride in style. After a surreptitious segue into the Magner penned "Spaga," the boys unveiled their new light show to boisterous applause. Powerful, fluorescent laser beams cut through the air, twisting and dancing in the night. The ghostly apparitions appeared almost like solid matter, as they hung just above our heads, catching sparkling raindrops and swirling fog in their midst. The beguiling light show was outdone only by drummer Allen Aucoin, who completely owned the rapturous "Spaga." Aucoin has proven time and time again to be the most flawless, if not simply the most talented, of Bisco's musically gifted crew.

A killer "7-11" into "Little Betty Boop" started off Friday's second set with a bang, but unfortunately it slowly degenerated from there. Sub-par versions of "Tricycle" and "Orch Theme" led us into "Bombs," a meandering new song. "Bombs," along with set closer "Naeba," utterly sucked all the energy out of the set, once again illustrating the meager caliber of most of their newer material. However, Saturday's daytime set quickly redeemed Friday night's letdown. Aside from set opener "On Time," which completed Thursday's version, this set was a throwback to the mid to late 90s - heavy on the jazz and good ol' crunchy jams - and there was little untz wrapped up in the concatenated sequence of "Aceetobee > Mr. Don > Pat & Dex" and the standalone "Wet" that followed to close the set.

Apocalyptic spider webs of lightning flashed in the sky as Brothers Past was reluctantly carted off the stage Saturday evening, cutting their set short. The storm rampaged for hours, holding the subsequent Biscuits set, second of three scheduled that day, at bay. The tempest did not die down enough until it was already nearly an hour past the scheduled start time, causing Girl Talk's highly anticipated set to be moved to the late night Dance Tent and Bisco to abandon one of their own. But the solitary set they did play, clocking in at nearly two and half hours, more than made up for the loss. "It wouldn't be Camp Bisco if it wasn't Camp Bisco," ," joked Brownie. "I know that some of you out there know what I mean. I think this is the least rain we've ever had at Camp Bisco."

A standalone "Portal to an Empty Head" aided by RAQ's Chris Micheti (who saved Bisco's ass this past tour, filling in for the injured Barber) finally broke the sound of thunder and rain. Regarded by many as the best of Bisco's new songs, and apparently, the second most requested song of the weekend, "Portal" contained one of the finest jams of the weekend before they embarked on a nonstop, two-plus-hour odyssey.

Mostly instrumental, the Disco Biscuits' ultimate set of the weekend saw the quartet at their tightest and most spellbinding. Brownie's bass gave away the coming segue from a funky "Knight Rider Theme" jam into a glorious "Basis For A Day." It was not long before "Basis" morphed into an inverted "Above the Waves." They would eventually return to do a "Basis" ending out of "Munchkin Invasion" to close their tenure at Camp Bisco 9 on a euphoric peak.

To view the massive Photo Gallery from Camp Bisco, use the viewer below or continue reading for day by day shots.

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