Listen to The Disco Biscuits' "CATERPILLAR" off The Wind at Four to Fly
By Chris Clark
Over the last decade, few bands have achieved the prolific notoriety and underground success of The Disco Biscuits. Philadelphia's pioneering electronic quartet ascended from the University of Pennsylvania party scene and into the national spotlight with their trademark trance-fusion sound that paired a DJ-like approach with a true rock n' roll foundation. Bisco, as they have come to be known, signified a new dawn in the jamband world - a day where it was no longer strictly about wandering guitar forays and twirl dancing. They offered something different in the ever-crowded jam world, something with a bit more bite. Finally, a band had come along that could bring some grittiness, darkness, and attitude - that East Coast flavor - to a scene forever filled with happy hippies.
The Disco Biscuits
But life for The Disco Biscuits has not been all euphoric pills and brownies.
After bassist Marc Brownstein left the band on January 11th, 2000, because of ongoing personal disputes within the band while the remaining Triscuits attempted to push forward, the situation looked grim for the group that was supposed to change the face of the jam world. But there was still light at the end of the tunnel. It was six months later that the group would reunite at State College, Pennsylvania's Crowbar. There, guitarist Jon "Barber" Gutwillig pronounced that they "just wouldn't be The Disco Biscuits without one Mr. Marc Brownstein," and just like that, Bisco was back.
As a result of all the tension and struggle, a copious amount of new material ("Home Again," "Triumph," and "Kamaole Sands," among others) and fresh vigor arose. The next two years would bring a healthy dose of touring, highlighted by several remarkable late-night festival performances (Adirondack Fest, Haymaker, and All Good, to name a few), two stellar New Year's runs (especially 2002's The History of The Disco Biscuits), and a couple albums - most notably 2002's Senor Boombox. This studio effort solidified the Biscuits as a premier player in the jam world, earning them "Best Studio Record of 2002" by Relix and one of Guitar Player's "10 Best Jam Band Records of All Time."
Sam Altman :: Camp Bisco IV
After concluding 2003 with a string of stellar shows that sold over 12,000 tickets, capped by a sold-out New Year's Eve performance at New York's famed Hammerstein Ballroom, the band had finally reached yet another pivotal breaking point. The days of Ivy League house parties and after-hours ragers had taken a dramatic toll, and the band ultimately hit the wall. Founding member and drummer Sam Altman informed his longtime friends and band mates late in 2003 that he would be departing the band to follow a medical career, something he'd contemplated for some time. Now the band was left with a career-defining decision. Once again, there were three members left pondering what to do and where to go from there.
"I think Sammy had everything you could ever need in a drummer," says the Biscuits' guitarist Jon Gutwillig. "He had such a great work ethic."