The Disco Biscuits | 04.03 | S.F.

Words by: Chris Clark | Images by: Dave Vann

The Disco Biscuits :: 04.03.09 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: San Francisco, CA

The Disco Biscuits :: 04.03 :: Fillmore
It had been almost three years since I last witnessed the Bisco spectacle in the flesh. I remember when, some time before that, seeing The Disco Biscuits at Central Park’s Summerstage in 2002, I’d once thought they’d be the next big thing, that it was finally time for the trancefusion pioneers to successful bridge the gap to the next level. Now in 2009, there’s been the replacement of iconic drummer Sammy Altman with Allen Aucoin, the constant talk of a new album (after a developing master copy was stolen) and hundreds of shows, but still, I and the droves of ultra loyal fans have waited patiently for the Penn boys to take it there.

Last Friday night at San Francisco’s famed Fillmore showcased a band with new vigor, a group holding true to its jamtronica roots but now willing and quite able of taking what their sound used to be and making it bigger, better and more refined. Coming out right after openers Heavyweight Dub Champion finished their short set, The Disco Biscuits made a triumphant return to the hallowed hall, a room they hadn’t played in over a half dozen years. From the time they arrived on stage, bassist Marc Brownstein and guitarist Jon “Barber” Gutwillig seemingly basked in an enthusiastic sheath, exchanging glances, head bangs and even a few body rocks from across the stage. Showcasing a slew of new material and an explosive repertoire of electronic rock magic from the past, the Biscuits began the first set with “Uber Glue,” a short, composed warm up before new tune “Rivers” and soon the crowd pleaser “The Very Moon.”

Jon Gutwillig :: 04.03 :: Fillmore
Through the initial 15 minutes, you could feel both the band’s excitement and also the crispness in their playing. Clearly, this seven-show California run was preceded by plenty of practice, nowhere more apparent than in the precision of the “Very Funk” section of “The Very Moon.” As Aucoin and Brownstein laid down in that thick, chunky pocket, Barber’s return to concise note playing moved the band forward smoothly, cascading into an I-can-feel-it-coming “Astronaut.” A Bisco favorite for years, this version of “Astronaut” featured the band in full circus allure. While many naysayers profess their strong disdain for the band’s vocal abilities, or lack thereof, I’ve always been a true proponent of Barber’s raspy, bluesy voice.

As “Astronaut” began to seamlessly mold into the techno-infused “Gangster,” the crowd finally started to get their legs under them as Brownstein’s pulsating basslines grasped onto the lead, delving the quartet into a raucous and electronically titillating rendition of “Spacebirdmatingcall.” In my sleep, I heard a mating call arise from the stage, as the sweaty, crooked-face crowd erupted into a frenzy, as Barber and keyboardist Aron Magner teamed up. Where you wanna be now? To my ears, the transition out of “Spacebird” back into the fiery, set-closing ending of “Astronaut” was the definitive high point of a first set that started off slow but ended with an intense bang.

The brief set break at the Fillmore was a little more colorful than usual and by the time the band returned it was prime time for the lights to go down and the party to continue. Another new tune, “Mirrors,” commenced the second set, a tasty cut with ample room for positive growth as the band continues to explore and define its parameters and style. “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” arose like a phoenix, exploding the Fillmore’s chaotic collage of characters into a fist-pumping fury, as Barber and Magner proclaimed, “Making easy money pimpin’ hoes in style” – without a doubt, one of the best acronyms I’ve ever heard. Long a platform for trance sonic exploration, the Biscuits dove in headfirst, culminating in a heavy, Aucoin-Brownstein led jam that seemed to have the entire Fillmore moving.

The Disco Biscuits :: 04.03 :: Fillmore
The combination of the band’s concise jamming with their always-impressive light show and sound made for quite the sensory experience. The “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” segue into “Caves of the East” was impressive and the brief respite afterwards was a nice time to grab a quick drink before Brownstein’s “Caterpillar” offered yet another choice cut out of the Biscuits’ repertoire. Magner stepped up to the forefront, with his gliding keys soaring alongside Barber’s note perfect guitar playing, patiently ascending the song’s first half into a long, drawn out transition into “Abraxas” and the anticipatory segue into the crowd favorite “Crickets.” In particular, the inverted “Crickets” enjoyed some of the best musical moments of the second set, with all four members truly hitting their stride, moving together ala vintage Disco Biscuits.

This was the impression I got throughout the Fillmore performance: a band that was clicking, each on the same page and jamming with a purpose. As they shifted from the inverted “Crickets” back into the ending of “Caterpillar,” I felt a sense that the first night of the California run was just a miniature glimpse into big things to come for the Biscuits.

Maybe after all these years, trials, tribulations and adversity, all the hard work was now finally paying off as they truly find their sound. The “Rockafella” encore didn’t do much for me, but at that point, I was already more than satisfied because the band I once loved dearly had brought me back into their world and showed me that I haven’t seen the best of them yet.

04.03.09 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA
Set I: Uber Glue, Rivers, The Very Moon > Astronaut > Gangster > Spacebirdmatingcall1 > Astronaut
Set II: Mirrors, M.E.M.P.H.I.S. > Caves of the East, Caterpillar > Abraxas2 > Crickets2 > Caterpillar
Encore: Rockafella
1 unfinished
2 inverted

The Disco Biscuits are on tour now, dates available here.

Continue reading for more pics of Bisco at The Fillmore…

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