Photos taken by Adam Gulledge at the Georgia Theater (10.19.02)
here's a disclaimer: I like this band a lot. I sincerely think that The
Disco Biscuits are the best live band currently on the road. They've gotten
continually better since I first saw them in the summer of '98. Don't get me wrong-
I can be unbiased when I have to. But, after seeing these two shows (Friday October
24 at the Nation in Washington, DC and Saturday at The Trump Marina casino in
Atlantic City, NJ), there's really not a lot of criticism that comes to mind.
First, a little bit about the band. For any of you that haven't yet been exposed
to the band's music, I will say that it's not for everyone and their shows are
not for the faint of heart. In concert, the "songs" last for an average
of 15 minutes and the band rarely takes breaks between them. Also, if you're the
type of fan who enjoys a lot of singing, stick with the Dave Matthews Band. These
guys are all about music and plenty of it. It's a band built around electronic-based
grooves and jams. Sam Altman lays down machine-line precision beats and
Marc Brownstein fills out the rhythm section with heavy, melodic basslines.
Jon "Barber" Gutwillig plays his guitar in a way that's downright
virtuosic. And, lastly, there's Aron Magner who really makes the band's
sound with his arsenal of keyboards played masterfully and intelligently.
the course of the five or so years that the band has been together, they have
amassed an amazingly good repertoire of material. Not only are the songs very
eclectic in musical style, they're also full of some of the best melodies and
most beautiful chord structures I've heard in any band- and that's saying a
lot. Gutwillig is the most prolific of the band members and has a knack for
writing clever, evocative songs. While these songs represent most of the band's
most well-known material, I find myself drawn to the many of the songs that
were penned by Brownstein while involved with two of his side projects (Electron
and the Maui Project) in 2000.
These unpretentious songs, such as "Kamaole Sands" and "Shelby
Rose" are the type of uplifting, dance-friendly songs that keep attracting
new fans- drawing them from their musical comfort zones to a type of music that
they've never heard before because no one's ever played anything like it before.
That's because The Disco Biscuits have really created their own sound in a way
that only bands like the Dead and Phish have been able to do. (Coincidentally,
Phil Lesh has invited the Biscuits to open up for Phil and Friends several times
over the last couple of years.) They are creating their own success, playing
music their way while making the rules up as they go along. Time to talk about
There was a real electricity in the Nation. The place was near capacity and
everyone was in good spirits (including the security). This venue has been recently
remodeled and is a lot nicer place to see music than the dark, unfriendly warehouse
I remembered it to be. It helped that the band had decorated the place with
colored balloons and banners. The band has also spared no expense when it comes
to the lights. Using some of the most expensive digital lighting that money
can buy, the band is keenly aware that the light show is an integral part of
the fans' experience. Of course, they also did not forget to place a huge disco
ball smack in the center of the ceiling.
first set kicked off with a lively "Jigsaw Earth." This song's definitely
a crowd-pleaser with its hyper-kinetic melodies and dub rhythms. After a mesmerizing
jam, the band lit into a mean version of "Reactor." They then brought
things down a bit with "Haleakala Crater," a rarely played, yet beautiful
number. Although this song is normally mellow, it morphed into a raucous jam.
Next, the band kicked things back up with "Sister Judy's Soul Shack."
This is a great song that the band clearly loves to play. In fact, all band
members were smiling ear-to-ear for this one. With its bright and bouncy groove,
this is the type of song that just puts a positive spin on things. After a long,
pregnant jam, "I-Man" was next. With the line "I've got my
gun in my hand," this song was undoubtedly brought out by the band
as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Sniper's capture. After a scorching "Sister
Judy's" reprise, the band gave a dark version of "Floodlights"
and a standard delivery of "Bernstein and Chasnoff." After a brief
"Basis" tease, they closed out the well-played set with the ending
second set started on an energetic kick with the jubilant "Story of the
World." With a great transition, the band led into the heavier "And
the Ladies Were the Rest of the Night." By this point, everyone knew that
they were in for some full-on "Bisco crack" in the second set. "Confrontation"
was the next tune chosen by the band - and a great choice it was. This song
is one of their best, yet also one of the most accessible songs that the band
plays. For the life of me, I don't know why they left it off their latest CD,
Senor Boombox, a great album that could've been even better with
its inclusion. After playing "Digital Buddha," an unremarkable cut
from the new album, the band launched back into the climatic ending of "Confrontation."
The beautiful yet somber "Hope" was next. Then, just when I thought
the set had reached its high point, I recognized the unmistakable beat of "Munchkin
Invasion." This is the type of song that can only come from the twisted
minds of the Biscuits, and this version was one of those moments we go see live
shows for. After finishing the set with a reprise of the "Story of the
World," the set ended as if a locomotive had screeched to a halt. The encore
of "Chemical Warfare Brigade," was a bit of a letdown considering
how upbeat the second set had been. But, the band was surely a little beat at
Onto Atlantic City
Upon arriving, I took a walk around to check out the
scene. Surprisingly, most of the fans kept a low profile in the hours leading
up to showtime. Presumably, they were content to keep the parties in the rooms
for the time being. I got a kick out of hearing the casino dealers and the elderly
patrons trying to figure out what exactly Disco Biscuits were. After losing
a sizable chunk of change at the roulette table, I was ready for some music.
show was a special production planned for weeks by the band. They came out with
the novel idea of letting the fans pick the setlist for the show by spinning
some custom-made wheels, outfitted with the names of songs. The fans had entered
a raffle ahead of time to get the privilege of taking a spin. To make things
even more interesting, the spinning took place while the band was playing onstage!
The band took the stage to a packed house full of hyped-up freaks ready to
throw down. All of the band members were dressed in black tie, looking like
some perverted wedding band. Many of the fans got in on the act and dressed
in black tie or pimped-out 70s outfits. This was clearly the show that the tour
had been building up to and everyone in attendance knew it. Hell, even some
of the band members' parents were there to witness this spectacle.
Appropriately, the first spin was "House Dog Party Favor." This version
was tight, crisp, and funky. Several minutes into the song, every band member
had a silly grin on his face and all were clearly pleased with what they had
pulled off by throwing this party. Next came a flawlessly played inverted version
of "Above the Waves." After such a raging version of "Waves,"
the next spin fell on the beautiful "Home Again"- a song normally
played as a set closer. It's amazing to me that a song with only two lines of
lyrics can evoke so much emotion. Next, the band returned to "Digital Buddha"
with a muscular version that was much better than the version played the previous
night. Fortunately, the next spin landed on "Shelby Rose" and the
band responded with a stellar version of this feel-good tune, complete with
a nice dub jam.
After a lengthy set break, the festivities got back under way with "King
of the World," an almost pop-sounding tune that is alternatively titled
"Float Like a Butterfly" on the Senor Boombox disc. The next
spin brought a new song called "Kitchen Mitts." The performance of
this mellow, soulful ballad made me wonder how the band keeps cranking out such
powerful songs. They dramatically switched gears when the next spin landed on
"Nughuffer." This was a scorching inverted version of the autobiographical
crowd favorite. Next, the band chose to play a comical tune called "Marvelous."
This can only be described as a lounge reggae paean to women. After this comic
relief, the band got back into full gear when someone spun "Save the Robots."
This rare science fiction rocker was played in a way that can best be described
as hypnotic. Next, someone spun "Jamillia." My friend described this
as a song from the band's more immature days. I agree, but this song still brings
a smile to the face. Fittingly, the encore spin landed on "Crickets."
This ambient favorite began with its trademark mellow groove, and then transitioned
into a rollicking ending that really exemplified what the Biscuits' music is
People followed up the show with all-night gambling or simply by loitering
in the enormous casino lobby. It took me until 6:00am to win my money back at
the roulette table. What a night!
The band's currently on the tail end of its CD release Fall Tour. After that
they play NYC on 12/29 and round out the year with two New Year's shows at the
Electric Factory in the band's hometown of Philly. These guys have really hit
their stride, so do yourself a favor and check them out. Don't forget your dancin'
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