The Disco Biscuits | August 15, 2003 | Trade, TN
When I arrived in Boone, NC this past weekend, and was told that the venue The Disco Biscuits were to hold their festival looked like the Shire of Lord of the Rings fame, I had trouble believing it. However, once I was shuttled up into the hills of Trade, Tennessee, and I watched this bright, beautiful, green bowl in the earth open up before my eyes, I had no problem believing that hobbits had once called this place home. Meatcamp Productions and The Disco Biscuits had set up shop in one of the most gorgeous pieces of land I'd ever laid my eyes upon. In every direction, the surreal green mountains rose around us, as if to envelope us in some giant ethereal crater.
As the small venue began to fill in, it was immediately obvious to me that this was going to be a special weekend. I couldn't detect a bad vibe for 20 miles in any direction. The beauty of the place and the anticipation of the shows to come combined to create one of the most chilled, laid back festival atmospheres possible. By the time night fell, and DJ Mauricio began to spin a long set of hypnotic psychedelic-trance tracks, the front of the stage was filled with dancing Biscuit fans, beginning to soak in the strange sounds echoing through the mountains. Kegs flowed and spirits were high as we all awaited the band we had come to see.
The Disco Biscuits took the stage and immediately opened with "Mulberry's Dream," one of the songs from guitarist Jon "The Barber" Gutwillig's rock opera, The Hot Air Balloon. After nailing the composition, The Disco Biscuits began to do what they do best; jam. The "Mulberry's" jam got very poppy and bouncy for a while, before beginning to slow down. As the band slowed the jam, they eased their way into what everyone immediately recognized as the beginning of "Bazaar Escape." However, as Jon played the guitar line to "Bazaar," keyboardist Aron Magner began to play lines from yet another Hot Air Balloon song, "Voices Insane." At this point, and this would become a theme throughout the night, the band was basically playing two completely different songs at once, juxtaposing them over each other and using the mixture to bridge into a third song. "Reactor" slowly began out of this musical stew, as bassist Marc Brownstein and drummer Sam Altman thumped the band through the intro.
I personally thought the "Reactor" jam was the low point of the show and it never seemed to get out very far until the end. As the jam built into what everyone thought would be the ending of the song, the band abruptly dropped into the famous chords of Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell." At this point the place exploded, as people leapt and banged their fists in the air. The "Run Like Hell" jams, both of them, were fast paced, electronic, hypnotic grooves that were impossible to stand still during. The band had really locked in at this point and sent the "Run Like Hell" jam out into uncharted territories of trance jamming, before unexpectedly dropping into Altman's complicated composition "Sound One." The song was well played and the jam took on a familiar sound as it weaved its way back into the end of the opening song, "Mulberry's Dream." Instead of stopping, which this band rarely does, the ending riff of "Mulberry's" was stretched out and a short outro jam ensued, before Magner again started in with the familiar sounds of "Voices Insane." This was a full on fake out, and just as "Voices" should have dropped upon the valley, the Biscuits completely changed directions and segued into the beginning of Gutwillig masterpiece "Above the Waves." The "Waves" jam was enormous and meandered through several different and interesting themes before ending the set.
What was to come during the second set was some of the most exciting and at times frightening music I've ever heard a band play. They opened the second set with Brownstein's latest jam vehicle, "42." The song was played well and led into the darkest jam of the night so far. The band locked into a deep evil groove as Magner and Barber swirled around the pounding rhythm section. At this point the music seemed to bounce off the mountains and swirl us around inside the psychedelic green ladle we were all trapped in. The jam continued like this until the band began to pick up on the industrial sounding, disjointed notes that form the middle of "King of the World." Despite obvious teases, the song would never be played. Instead they again used a jam from one song to transform their shape shifting sounds into another, as Magner again began to play notes from "Voices Insane." This time the rest of the band immediately joined in the madness, and before anyone knew what had hit them, they had segued into the middle section of the song they had been teasing all night long. The first ever inverted version of "Voices Insane" was perfection and the collective jaw of the crowd was laying in the muddy grass of Trade, Tennessee as the band started the beginning of the song right out of the ending notes. The jam out of the beginning of "Voices" was short, but purposeful and patiently segued into the beginning of "Save the Robots." Another song with two completely different, but equally huge jams was unleashed upon us. About twenty inspirational and almost cinematic minutes later the band stopped playing for the first time in over an hour.
They followed with a rare version of the Gutwillig ballad "News From Nowhere," which served as an excellent break after the preceding insanity. Next was a long, standalone version of "Svenghali," which was filled with drum and bass jamming that had the place alive and pulsating. The set closed with a rocked out version of Brownstein's "Chemical Warfare Brigade" and the band returned to encore with Aron Magner's funky piano driven "Spy."
Thus ended one of the best nights of music these ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing, in one of the most beautiful places I've ever stood in my entire life. The festival would continue for another night, which by many people's standards may have even topped the first, containing three full sets, including an entire set of classical music. I'll leave that story to someone else though.
Currently The Disco Biscuits are finishing their summer tour with a run up the East Coast, concluding with a tour-ending bash, at the Electric Factory, in their hometown of Philadelphia, on Saturday, August 23. Their tour dates and some live downloads can be found at www.discobiscuits.com. Definitely come check these guys out, and come prepared for some fun, intelligent, sometimes frightening and always danceable music.
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