Words by: Chris Clark :: Images by: Dave Vann
Camp Bisco V :: 08.25 & 08.26 :: Hunter Mountain :: Hunter, NY
Another year down, another Camp Bisco in the books. 2006's installment of The Disco Biscuits' end-of-the-summer blowout bash brought together their finest line up yet. Boasting such prolific acts as hip-hop's premier live band The Roots, the UK's Simon Posford (Sphongle, Younger Brother), as well as eclectic producer RJD2, and the highly acclaimed Brazilian Girls, Camp Bisco V was a party on paper before people even arrived.
The Disco Biscuits :: Camp Bisco V
Nestled quietly within the Catskill State Park at beautiful Hunter Mountain, Camp Bisco V offered festival goers a pristine and picturesque landscape for an all-out weekend party. How else would you describe four sets of The Disco Biscuits and countless musical friends over three stages in two days and three nights? Throw all this together in Bisco stomping grounds with a touch of New York State's rainy fall weather, and there were all the fixings for a true Biscuit good time. As in years past, Camp Bisco V provided quality and innovative music (not just electronica) from start to finish. There were both the welcome surprises (The Juan Maclean especially) and the usual suspects (the return of The New Deal). But this year, it was all about The Disco Biscuits, a host band that played with something to prove.
The festivities began Thursday night in the Dancehall (Hunter's ski lodge) with Biscuits' friend, Quagmire Swim Team and the return of former Biscuit drummer Sam Altman and Moshi Moshi, as well as up-and-comers, Big in Japan.
Quagmire Swim Team :: Camp Bisco V
Although Thursday was a nice warm-up, the real deal got going on Friday with a weekend fully stocked and loaded with some of today's brightest live electronic acts. Playing one of the first Mainstage sets of the weekend was The Pnuma Trio. Young, fresh and ambitious, The Pnuma Trio performs hot, sweat-filled music each time out. I've caught them over a dozen times in their short career, and each time is a dramatic progression from the previous. Their Camp Bisco performance was nothing short of stellar, providing an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred with over an hour of tightly woven, dance-inducing grooves. With Lane Shaw's quick-handed drum and Alex Botwin's thick and groovy bass at the core, the band moved seamlessly through their compositions as keyboardist Ben Hazlegrove showed off his jazzy-electro chops. Clearly, The Pnuma Trio will be making folks get on the dance floor for years to come.
The New Deal made their return to Camp Bisco after taking some personal time off from touring. Despite the fact that I saw just a segment of their Mainstage set, I was pleased to see the Canadian techno trio back at it again. The crowd seemed to share my sentiment as Jamie Shields erupted on the boards.
?uestlove - The Roots :: Camp Bisco V
Looking back, it's difficult to decipher the most impressive and most disappointing moments of the festival. There were countless highlights with very few let-downs. One such let-down came in The Roots' performance Friday night. I was excited to see them again, especially with a new album on the horizon, but today's Roots aren't the Roots of years past. Not to say I thought they were horrible, they just weren't very good. ?uestlove shined on the skins, but Black Thought was muddled. Without even a slice of crowd participation or audience excitement, The Roots played a rather lackluster and unenthusiastic set, making it seem they wanted nothing to do with the festival other than a paycheck.
On the bright side, thank god for The Juan Maclean. Considering that I'd just heard of him a week prior to the festival, he was undoubtedly one of the premier sets of the festival. Performing during a light drizzle at the Sidestage directly in front of the lodge, The Juan Maclean drove the crowd into a frenzy with hard-hitting electro beats. Armed with a drummer and a barrage of electronics, Maclean and crew reinterpreted their way through material off their 2005 release Less Than Human. If you haven't heard this band yet, check out "AD 2003" and "Tito's Way" off of Less Than Human, both of which they exploded into at Camp Bisco. Another notable Sidestage set, well actually it was two sets, was Elemental Harmonics. Yet another electronic product from Georgia, they fused together two tight sets of gadget-driven house, dub, drum n' bass and funk quite nicely.
Brazilian Girls :: Camp Bisco V
And then, there was the first performance of the weekend's crown princes, The Disco Biscuits. Camp Bisco V would be their first hometown festival performance without founding drummer Sammy Altman, offering a bittersweet taste to the band's four sets. But as most Bisco fans know, new drummer Allen Aucion is no joke. After surviving the cut of all the try-outs and drum offs, Aucion proved that his double-bass, rock n' roll drumming was a great fit for the Biscuits. Off the bat, they hit the stage hard with a brief "Cyclone" tease that segued impeccably into a rare dub version of "Mindless Dribble." From there, the first set took off, concluding with an always welcome, inverted "Svenghali" that segued into a solid "Rock Candy."
DJ Mike Meyers then hit the stage, keeping everyone warm for a second set-opening "Spraypaint Victory." Not played live since late 2003, the Biscuits paid homage to all their loyal fans throughout the set, with the appearances of Aron Magner's "Spaga" and the third "Bazaar Escape" since 2004. Clearly, the band was giving back to all those who've supported them throughout their rollercoaster ride. A "King of the World" and fitting "Magellan Reprise" encore solidified a set including the return of some precious old material coupled with a taste of the new.
The Disco Biscuits :: Camp Bisco V
The late night shows didn't really work for the masses. Though I caught the last sliver of Brothers Past's set and a bit of Future Rock performing the music of Aphex Twin, it was time to head back to the condo and prepare to play through to Saturday.
Following two days of constant drizzle and grey clouds, Saturday began with much of the same. With the forecast calling for more rain, more clouds and possible thunderstorms, Camp Bisco V's concluding day was poised to be wet and muddy. But who cares? It's a Northeast festival at the end of summer; aren't they all rainy?
The Duo :: Camp Bisco V
Saturday became an extension of the two previous days. As the rain continued to drizzle, Lotus played the Mainstage with their jazzy-tronic tones. I only heard a taste of their set, but there was certainly a slew of fans awaiting the Miller Brothers and company when they hit the stage midday. One of my personal disappointments was regrettably missing the Brazilian Girls' set Saturday afternoon. I'd been told such great things, but as we all know, at festivals you can't see everything.
What I did catch was the conclusion of Perpetual Groove's performance at the Mainstage. In the background I'd heard Hootie and the Blowfish and some other odd covers, so I figured that I really should see what all the fuss was about. Upon arrival, the band came out with a "Bulls on Parade" cover - and it was a smoking delivery. Other than seeing Rage Against the Machine live, I'd never heard a band cover their material, and P Groove did it well. After catching portions of both newcomer Benzos and an impressive Sidestage set by Psylab, I returned to the Mainstage for yet another terrific performance from Thievery Corporation. Armed with four turntables, Thievery's DJ set was better than I could've possibly imagined. Truthfully, before the set I was a little disappointed they weren't playing with a full band, but after the two DC-area producers hit the stage, there was little doubt this was a set to remember. With a stage set-up that placed one of them in front of the other, their execution was as tight as it gets, performing material from all stages of their career. This was a set not to be missed.
Perpetual Groove :: Camp Bisco V
And then, the festival was almost over. Camp Bisco V proved to be my favorite Camp experience yet. Everything went off without a hitch - saw very little police intervention (which I'm sure was still there), great music and the weather held out on the whole. All the weekend's festivities came down to the last two sets of the Biscuits. Saturday's first set was a bit slow, but it did contain a striking "Camera B" > "Bach's Inventio 3." It's always nice to see Jon Gutwillig show off a few classical chops. But the set's highlight came in Simon Posford's arrival onto the stage for Hallucinogen's "Gamma Goblins." As soon as one of the UK's favorite DJs hit the stage, the crowd erupted as the band and Posford explored some psychedelic trance and light-laced mayhem. The stage lights were terrific all weekend, and at no time did they shine brighter than during Sphongle's appearance with the more-than-excited Biscuits. Posford added an electronic edge as the Biscuits dropped into dub space - most likely a highlight for many in attendance. After the Biscuits parted, Posford kept the crowd moving with Sphongle tracks until the Philadelphian electronic-rock quartet returned for Set Two.
Simon Posford & Aron Magner - TDB :: Camp Bisco V
When they returned, the Biscuits brought out the big guns. From the opening chords of "House Dog Party Favor" to the band's debut cover of Air's "Kelly Watch the Stairs," the second night's second set offered some of the finest Disco Biscuits of Camp Bisco V. The set-concluding "Crickets," complete with an incredible jams, and the "I Man" encore completed a more-than-memorable festival.
The Disco Biscuits :: Camp Bisco V
The Disco Biscuits came proper for Camp Bisco V. With the help of musical friends, new and old, they put together a festival rivaled by none. What remains to be seen is how will they top it next year?
JamBase | Camp Bisco
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