Camp Bisco 8 | 07.16 – 07.18 | New York

By Team JamBase Jul 23, 2009 4:18 pm PDT

Word by: Kevin Schwartzbach | Images by: Dave Vann

Camp Bisco 8 :: 07.16.09 – 07.18.09 :: Indian Lookout Country Club :: Mariaville, NY

The Disco Biscuits :: Camp Bisco 2009
It’s occurred to me that Camp Bisco has a completely different mentality than any other festival I have ever been to. Now of course, every festival has its idiosyncrasies, but more and more festivals seem to be converging on related themes. In addition to the music, festivals these days often attempt to have a broader focus; most have not been shy about promoting progressive ideals regarding society and the environment. Camp Bisco, now in its eighth year, on the other hand seems to be all about immediate gratification. No think tanks about how our actions today will affect the world in the long-term, no green-themed concession stands, hell I don’t even remember seeing any recycling bins. There were a handful of extra-musical activities present focusing on various social issues, such as the Marc Brownstein founded Head Count and Strangers Helping Strangers, but these were inconsequential to the overall Camp Bisco experience.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing (though recycling bins would have been nice). You may not learn about societal problems or the environment but what you do learn at Camp Bisco is how to live in the moment, how to really grab life by the balls and have a good time – this festival truly has an emphasis on the here and the now. It’s not a perfect template – obviously focusing on the ‘greater good’ has its importance, but this shouldn’t stop you from living your own life to its fullest. And well, that’s evidently just what the folks at CB8 came to do. They came to get down.

Our hosts, The Disco Biscuits put together quite the lineup in an attempt to fulfill the best mode of immediate gratification – music. Each year Camp Bisco seems to gravitate more and more towards the electronica and hip-hop scenes and away from its jamband roots. With the likes of hip-hop great Nas and the electronic masterminds Pretty Lights and Shpongle amidst a multitude of other DJs and rappers, this year saw a lineup that was pushed even farther in that direction, while maintaining an eclectic mix of other artists.

For the third year in a row the sprawling fields of upstate New York’s Indian Lookout Country Club served as our playground. It’s high time that this formerly nomadic festival found a place to call home. And on these familiar grounds an opportunity to string golden moments together slowly presented itself over the course of the weekend.

Thursday, 07.16

Asher Roth :: Camp Bisco 2009
Aside from an early Bisco soundcheck that included a “Shem-Rah Boo” and “Caterpillar,” the first band of the festival to be heard was Beautiful Small Machines over at the Tent Stage around 4 p.m. In fully white-clad garb this band sounded like Bends-era Radiohead if they had a female singer and were a tad poppier. Frontwoman Bree Sharp let out passionate wails in what sounded like an attempt to recapture that grungy sound of the early to mid ’90s.

Torrential downpours stranded us at the (relatively) dry Tent Stage so I held tight until Dr. Fameus. The side project of Bisco drummer Allen Aucoin, this was an opportunity to see a creative side of Aucoin that rarely shines through in the Biscuits’ music (not to mention the only time you’ll ever get to hear him talk). While in previous years Aucoin was often joined by DJ Drizno, this year he was flying solo. With a familiar look of diligent concentration, Allen hammered out mesmerizing beats often bordering on breakneck drum-n-bass tempi on top of trancey bass and synth samples manipulated by his laptop.

The eighth Camp Bisco was one of the most hip-hop heavy in years. After my appointment with Dr. Fameus I ventured back to the Main Stage for Kid Cudi followed by Asher Roth, each with a completely different style of hip-hop. Cudi had bumping club beats that he smoothly rapped over with tight lines, while Roth had more of a college rock meets hip-hop feel. I have to be honest; when I first saw Roth’s name on CB’s lineup I thought it was some practical joke that the Biscuits were trying to play on us. And though he seems to me mostly a novelty act (particularly during the song “I Love College”) parts of it weren’t half bad. Steven Ellison, otherwise known as Flying Lotus, sat behind his turntables mixing an array of hip-hop samples in an impressive showing of DJ talent in the slot right before the headliners.

Jon Gutwillig :: Camp Bisco 2009
Say what you will about The Disco Biscuits during the year, but when it comes to their own festival, Bisco habitually bring it. This is their kingdom and they reign over it with a trance fist. Jon ‘The Barber’ Gutwillig‘s syncopated guitar matched Brownie’s bass to start Thursday night off with “Morph Dusseldorf.” “Morph is who a boy you see, he’s changing as we speak/ from Adavan to ale man in twenty-forms a week,” sang Brownie – no Tractorbeam nor Perfume this set. One of the main things that make Bisco sets so great is the uncertainty that looms once they start jamming. It was not before long that teases of “Cyclone” began to surface but the band quickly pulled the rug out from under us, segueing into “Digital Buddha.” Symmetric LED lights flashed in synch with Brownie’s pulsing bass as they began kicking out the untz, slowly transforming the “Buddha” into “The Great Abyss.” Barber was hitting all the right notes, but this was undoubtedly a Magner dominated set, his wraithlike synthesizer captivating most of my listening attention.

A plodding crescendo reached “Cyclone” at its apex, fulfilling those shattered expectations from earlier in the set. “Cyclone” indeed got my feet moving but I’ve heard this song peak so much harder than this particular rendition. Aucoin, now in a spiffy paisley shirt, meticulously banged on his kit while the band took us into a powerful “Buddha” ending. With puddles of sloppy mud scattered all across the once grassy field, we were treated to an appropriate “Wet” and “Above the Waves.” Despite being unfinished, “Waves” was the highlight of the set. A rushed “Morph” ending closed off the first of six Bisco sets a bit haphazardly.

While the first set was good it certainly left something to be desired. On paper this looks like an amazing set but they simply didn’t nail the songs like they could have. That being said it was miles ahead of the first set at Camp last year. Luckily, we still had five more Bisco sets coming our way.

Prometheus :: Camp Bisco 2009
A sheath of darkness now covered the grounds as I wandered over to the Tent Stage, now dubbed the “Twisted All Star Tent” to kick off the first late night with some Prometheus. When I arrived, however, I found Ott spinning some of his chilled-out, psychedelic dub music that infused reggae with a heavy backbeat and synthetic noises from another planet. Ott spun a stellar set but the late night party didn’t really get kicked into high gear until Shpongle took the stage.

Shpongle is a master of timbre. Unearthly synthetic sounds that have only ever been conjured by the demented mind of Simon Posford swirled around in my head – we’re talking sounds that are just simply unimaginable to the average human being. Aided by the mysterious Raja Ram on flute and various other instruments Posford mixed these timbres with tribal rhythms, ethnic samples manipulated in the most ingenious and, of course, a lively entrancing backbeat. “Let’s get shpongled,” quipped Posford in his delightful British accent before spinning out Shpongle classics such as “Schnitzeled in the Negev” and “Divine Moments of Truth,” though it’s hard to say how much of what Posford does is “spinning” and how much of it is just hitting a button and dancing.

Continue reading for Friday’s coverage of Camp Bisco…

Friday, 07.17

Camp Bisco 2009
The accumulating heat inside my tent incited me to wake up to a beautiful Friday morning. The weather for the time being was comfortable but the clouds overhead served as a premonition for tempests to come. However, the knowledge of bad weather on the horizon was hardly enough to get me down as looking at the schedule Friday appeared to be the most stacked day of music at the festival.

After minor technical delays Dr. Dog got the music rolling on the Main Stage. Their lyric-driven brand of psychedelic rock was a good start to the day. Their voices swirled in harmony over rugged guitars that had a bit of a poppy feel mixed with a roller coaster of energy making the music very translatable to even someone completely unfamiliar with their repertoire. The rain slowly began to trickle from the sky, but that didn’t stop these guys from thundering ahead.

I wandered over to the Hill Stage for some Otherwise, a band that mixed elements of hip-hop with reggae and electronic music, before heading back to the Main Stage for K’naan. This Somalian artist out of Toronto was quite possibly the best showing of hip-hop this weekend. K’naan (born Kanaan Warsame) takes the fluid beats of American hip-hop and fuses it with the music of his homeland, giving his songs a kind of worldly touch. His style of rapping often sounded like Eminem but his lyrical content relayed a much more poignant social message and on the whole felt much more poetic.

K’naan :: Camp Bisco 2009
Back on the hill the DJ and guitarist duo BoomBox were bumping their tripped out funk-rock music. I had not heard much about these guys previously but the lineage of guitarist Zion Rock Godchaux (son of the Grateful Dead’s Keith and Donna Godchaux) was enough for me to check ’em out. The first couple of minutes were rather enjoyable but the energy level hardly seemed to fluctuate so I lost interest in the meandering beats after a while. Friday also offered a smattering of dub-step for those who were so inclined with Starkey and Martyn each spinning their own unique brands of the electronic genre at the Tent Stage. Wiring two turntables through a computer, Starkey was the most entertaining to watch as he scratched away at his vinyl.

The highlight of Friday midday was without a doubt the Younger Brother live set. Imagine the psy-trance of Posford and Vaughan – the vast spectral timbres, the pulsing beat, the cleverly cut up samples – compounded with a rocky intensity provided by the raucous orangutan drumming of Joe Russo. And of course, Brownie – the perfect bassist for this trance/rock amalgamate – added forceful Bisco-y climaxes with just a tinge of untz. Tom Hamilton, on the other hand, seemed hardly to make a peep, almost inaudible over the rest of the band. Posford switched back and forth from his DJ station and an electric guitar, where he fingered out impressive licks. Though much of what they played came from one of Younger Brother’s two studio albums, this manifestation sounded wholly different from the more down-tempo productions.

Nas & Damien Marley :: Camp Bisco 2009
The sky had held up for a while but the clouds couldn’t bear to pass up this prime opportunity to drop some drizzle on us. We endured the mild wetness while Brownie and Posford shouted, “I am a freak/ I am unique,” in synchronized repetitions before blasting us with a powerful peak. I caught my breath afterwards and ran over to the Hill Stage for Bonobo. Another British DJ bringing his music to life with a live band, Bonobo (born Simon Green) delivered jazzy trip-hop grooves. Green went back and forth between spinning at his turntables and plucking out the often extremely complex basslines on an electric bass. Throwing saxophone and a live drummer into the mix, as well as a guitarist, keyboardist and lush jazz vocals, this incarnation of Bonobo turned out to be one of the best sets at Camp on Friday.

A rain delay kept Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley at bay but the Pnuma Trio and Orchard Lounge were more than enough to satiate me while I waited for them to recover. I took refuge under the Tent Stage as a writhing hoard of people coagulated around for Orchard Lounge. Normally a three-pronged DJ collective, O-Lounge only had a third of its constituency spinning at Bisco. Apparently the overhang of the Hill Stage wasn’t enough to make Pnuma impervious to the rain, as Alex Botwin (bass/computer) seemed to have technical troubles throughout the set. Fortunately, Lane Shaw (drums) and Ben Hazelgrove (keyboards) had no trouble picking up the slack, each turning it up a notch when Botwin’s bass went awry. This set was heavy on the new stuff, playing a bunch of tunes off their latest release, Character, and even some previously unreleased material. Their newer stuff paints strokes of electronica layered with dabs of hip-hop onto a complex jazzy canvas.

The Disco Biscuits :: Camp Bisco 2009
Finally, the rain had died down enough for Nas and his colleague of legendary lineage to start their set. Nas’ slick, poignant lyrics gained a smooth Caribbean edge with the help of Marley. The two artists’ distinct styles meshed together in a congenial manner – a good sign for their upcoming studio collaboration, Distant Relatives. Nas left the stage, giving Damien the chance to uphold his father’s legacy, jamming out Bob Marley classics such as “One Love” and “Exodus.” “Jr. Gong” showed off his own contemporary brand of reggae, though the backing band often seemed to lose step with the vocalist. Though they played a set astonishingly similar to the one a few weeks earlier at Rothbury (read the review here), this is still an act worth going to see at least once.

With one set already behind them, Friday’s Bisco sets saw our hosts finally hitting it in full stride. “You guys having fun out there despite the soaked environment?” joked Brownie before the Biscuits jumped right into “Rockafella.” This is a song I previously did not appreciate but Bisco has been killing this one of late, bringing it to places they never would have dreamed of when they first introduced it in ’07. “Strobelights & Martinis” began with a minor flub from Barber but he recovered quickly. As the show progressed, the sonic blips of Barber’s guitar occupied my hearing, and kaleidoscopic visuals displayed on hexagonal panels tripped out my vision. The set peaked in tandem with the monstrous precipitation during two separated sections of “Hot Air Balloon,” each equally majestic. One of Barber’s most beautifully written pieces, this song just breeds feelings of utter elation. Despite bearing its moniker twice on this setlist “HAB” still remained unfinished.

Chromeo :: Camp Bisco 2009
Chromeo played during the set break and aside from a hilarious take on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” they played the exact same set I had seem them play previously at Rothbury and Starscape. Bisco’s second set was Thursday night’s polar opposite. If the night before they had an amazing setlist but did not nail the songs like they could have, Friday’s second set looked rather tame on paper but my god did these guys play the shit out of each song. And it’s a damn good thing too because an epic Bisco set was about the only thing I was willing to sit through during a tumultuous downpour. After “Koncrete,” a forgettable new song that featured Barber’s menacing glottal scraping, the first “Floes” of 2009 was dropped – and a heavy drop it was. “Mirrors” > “Minions,” though each relatively weak songs in my opinion, contained some of the best jamming of the weekend. The set ended with a bang, finishing off the “Waves” from the previous night. A mesh of a sinister trancey synth from Magner and Barber’s classically infused guitar line saw these masters of jam at their best so far this weekend.

The late night Tent Stage had become a quagmire from all the bad weather, but this didn’t stop people from packing in tight for Pretty Lights. Cory Eberhard kept things tight on the drums, constantly laying down thick rhythms while Derek Vincent Smith spun his heart out. Normally keen on contrasting points of extreme ferocity with more relaxed down-tempo grooves, PL seemed to have every intent of making Friday’s late night an absolute rager, throwing down with balls-to-the-wall intensity. Like so many of their other sets, Pretty Lights closed their show with an affable mash-up of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” with Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker.” Two Fresh was up next on the bill. Offering a fun set with a mixture of organic soul, funk and hip-hop samples, an unreal synthesizer and a live drummer, the double DJed trio sounded like a lackluster version of the preceding act, and the fact that Pretty Lights completely killed it didn’t help their case.

STS9 :: Camp Bisco 2009
Sound Tribe Sector 9 closed off Friday’s late night to a packed house. When I first saw these guys about three or four years ago I wasn’t too impressed, but the STS9 of today is a completely different animal from what I experienced way back when. Formerly their shows featured a whole lot of wispy ambience that felt like it should be going somewhere but never did. Over time, however, Sound Tribe reincarnated itself as a straight-ahead, heavy hitting electronic rock outfit capable of erupting into rapturous peaks. Hunter Brown manned both his guitar and a laptop computer (as did three other members of the band), and Brown managed to squeal out phantomous sounds that barely sounded like a guitar at all. His simple themes looped around in the air continuously until they blossomed into flowering melodies that provoked a musical dialogue with keyboardist David Phipps. These melodies often tended to remain stagnant while rhythmic forces propelled the music to new heights. Tribe’s set ended much earlier than expected but just as well because many of us were tired with our feet and legs covered in mud.

Continue reading for Saturday’s coverage of Camp Bisco…

Saturday, 07.18

Camp Bisco 2009
With no music on Sunday, Saturday was the final day of Camp Bisco, and what a day it was. Brownie had predicted the previous night that the weather would be beautiful all day Saturday – and luckily the often-bombastic Brownie proved an accurate meteorologist. The electronic hip-hop stylings of BLVD seeped into my tent from the Main Stage around noon to wake me up. I was more than obliged to groggily crawl out of my tent caked in mud to give them a better listen.

After some breakfast Telepath took the Main Stage. A live trio from Philadelphia, these guys take salacious down-tempo electronic music and add an ethnic twist. Samples of Indian and Arabic music accompanied ambient keyboards provided by Michael Christie while Curt Henry and his ‘fro rocked back and forth to his fluid basslines. Up on the hill I caught a bit of Indobox before returning to the Main Stage for an afternoon Biscuits set.

I braved the muddy field for a rare opportunity for a daytime show. “We’re gonna do a Saturday afternoon set for you guys. Otherwise known as Tractorbeam vs. The Perfume,” said Brownie before diving into a hip-hop version of “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” Brownie and Barber, armed with nothing but their microphones, each jumped around the stage trading off rapping lines, revealing Brownie’s secret desire to be a member of the Beastie Boys. All the while Barber did his classic dance move where he rocked back and forth pumping a lone fist circularly through the air – a move I’ve dubbed “The Barber Shuffle.” For those of you that don’t know, The Perfume is when TDB take their own material and recreate it in different genres. For the most part Perfume versions of their music felt mostly like a novelty, as each time they dropped a song in a different genre I couldn’t shake the desire to just hear the original tune.

Drummers Unite – Altman & Aucoin :: Camp Bisco 2009
Apparently Tractorbeam vs. The Perfume meant that they’d switch off between the two. The Perfume morphed into Tractorbeam before my eyes as Magner’s whistling synth brought us into “Rock Candy” while Brownie and Barber dawned their axes. Tractorbeam essentially removes the two worst parts of a Biscuits show – the singing and the time in-between songs. Seriously though, as enjoyable as Tractorbeam was, and as much as the Biscuits don’t have the greatest vocals in the world, the lack of singing really made it feel like something was missing. “Run Like Hell” just wasn’t the same without Brownie doing his best Roger Waters impersonation. The Perfume-d “Once the Fiddler Paid” was a bit anti-climactic though the calypso take on the song was an interesting twist. I don’t know if the vs. in “Tractorbeam vs. The Perfume” implied that this was supposed to be some sort of competition, but if it was Tractorbeam won.

We were treated to an epic surprise at the end of the first set as a special guest was introduced – Sam “The Professor” Altman. “That’s Dr. Sammy to you,” joked Brownie. This was the former Bisco drummer’s first appearance with the band at Camp in four years and the first ever since (as far as I know) he played “Magellan” with them at an Electric Factory show during the ’07 New Year’s run. The original quartet played a honky-tonk “Sound One” that really was something special.

Few people were willing to wade through the mud for Break Science but those brave enough to do so had their courage rewarded. The breakbeat drumming of Adam Deitch was supplemented by the DJ skills of what was suppose to be Alex Botwin of Pnuma but turned out to be someone else. Nevertheless this mystery DJ held his own, pumping out a mix of trip-hop, hip-hop, dub and some DnB. But, it was Deitch that stole the show with his insane drum chops.

Brothers Past :: Camp Bisco 2009
I gave my feet a break from the mud over at the Hill Stage – the one stage that was not laden in mud – where Brothers Past threw down a dirty set. Tom Hamilton finally got the opportunity to shine after barely having an impact on Younger Brother’s set the day before. Tom McKee laid down an ambient synthetic soundscape over which Hamilton and Clay Parnell dubbed to a rocky high. Most of what they played had a very progressive feel to it as they tightly transitioned through wholly dissimilar sections while somehow managing to maintain a sense of continuity in their music.

I left Brothers Past early to catch STS9’s second set of the festival. With the daylight gradually fading away, Sound Tribe perfectly complimented the aura of the moment, playing a much more laid-back set than their late night rager. There were, of course, moments of epic intensity placed strategically throughout their set. Back over on the hill EOTO offered up a hodgepodge of electronic musical mastery. It’s hard to believe that this glitched-out duo has its origins in the organic jammy goodness of the String Cheese Incident. SCI’s percussive force of Jason Hann and Michael Travis create all the music they play on the spot, relying on the energy and atmosphere of the occasion to guide them, seamlessly jumping from one dance-inducing groove to the next. This particular EOTO showing was heavy on the trance, appropriate given their location.

KJ Sawka with Biscuits :: Camp Bisco 2009
Keeping with the spirit of inciting people to dance to trance, The Disco Biscuits jumped right into their second set of the day. Night now upon us, this was the Biscuits’ darkest, most evil set of the festival, and every song they played had a surreal ominous overtone. “Sister Judy’s Soul Shack” – the first since 2006 – started the set with an eerily jazzy melody from Barber while the rest of the band held down a dark, trance-heavy groove. An uncharacteristically sinister inverted “And the Ladies Were the Rest of the Night” segued flawlessly into the ending of “Save the Robots.” This one-two punch was the highlight of the set, particularly the vigorous climax of “Robots” that Barber completely owned.

LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy graced us with his DJ stylings during Bisco’s set break. It had the same LCD Soundsystem feel with an in-your-face punk edge mixed with house music that can make you dance your ass off, though Murphy didn’t spin any actual material from his most noteworthy project.

In typical Bisco fashion, they kicked off their final set with the beginning of “Robots” and then proceeded to play the remaining parts of the song out of order. The music finally took an exultant turn with the transition into “Hope.” As it should be, this ultimate set was shaping up to be their best. KJ Sawka replaced Allen on drums during “Hope” and utterly cleaned up sitting behind the thrown.

Brownie & Barber :: Camp Bisco 2009
A jam reminiscent of early Pink Floyd brought us into a “Basis for a Day” that rolled along its many peaks and valleys. After nailing the tightly composed section of the song, we reached the track’s sublime ending. There is this feeling of supreme visceral pleasure that for many can only be triggered by music – endorphins flood your brain as your knees go weak – a feeling that no other physical realm seems to have the ability to reproduce. Even within music few pieces are capable of inciting such gratification. And if there ever was a piece of music that had this capacity, the breathtaking ending of “Basis” was it. It’s moments like this that people are referring to when they tell you to live in the moment. The victorious ending of “Hot Air Balloon” gave us closure to finish off what might well have been the best of all six Bisco sets. Their only encore at this year’s Camp continued this epic trend, as our hosts treated us to “Very Moon” > “Mr. Don” to end their tenure at Camp Bisco 8.

The DFA Disco Tent ended this mother of all weekends starting with Holy Ghost. This was no misnomer – ’70s style string section samples abound over bumping beats – this was straight discothèque fare. James Murphy took the stage once more, this time joined by LCD Soundsystem cohort Pat Mahoney for CB8’s finale. And what a finale it was, as the duo let loose an energetic blend of disco and house music to cap off the weekend.

The moments had come and gone, but thanks to that carpe diem attitude produced by Camp Bisco’s mentality it was possible to grab hold of all of them. Though it would be nice to see Camp become a bit more environmentally friendly in years to come, since it would not really compromise our ability to live in the moment, it is undeniable that over the last eight years Camp Bisco has evolved into one bitchin’ good time.

Continue reading for more of Dave Vann’s Camp Bisco pics…

Thursday, 07.16

Asher Roth
Flying Lotus
Land Squid
Marc Brownstein – The Disco Biscuits
Allen Aucoin – The Disco Biscuits
Aron Magner – The Disco Biscuits
Shpongle with Raja Ram

Continue reading for Friday pics of Camp Bisco…

Friday, 07.17

Joe Russo and Simon Posford
Joe Russo
Joe Russo, Tuphace, DJ Harry
Younger Brother
Younger Brother
Dirty Paris
Dr. Dog
Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Orchard Lounge
The Disco Biscuits
Pretty Lights
Hunter Brown – STS9
David Murphy – STS9
Conspirator in the VIP Lounge

Continue reading for Saturday pics of Camp Bisco…

Saturday, 07.18

The Disco Biscuits and Crew
Brownie and Alan with #1 Fan contest winners
Brothers Past
The one and only Super D
Break Science ft Adam Deitch
KJ Sawka
Mike LaSage and the Stumbling Troubadours
Two Fresh
AC Slater
Break Science ft Adam Deitch
Brownie – The Disco Biscuits (Day Set)
Allen Aucoin – The Disco Biscuits (Day Set)
Joe Nice
Zach Velmer – STS9
Bisco FOH engineer Patrick Hutchinson with Johnny R. Goode (background) Biscuits Lighting Designer
The Disco Biscuits
The Disco Biscuits
The Disco Biscuits
The Disco Biscuits

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