The Disco Biscuits | 12.31 | New York

Word & Images by: Jesse Borrell

The Disco Biscuits :: 12.31.09 :: Nokia Theatre Times Square :: New York, NY

The Disco Biscuits :: 12.31 :: New York
Arriving for their second annual five-night run at NYC’s Nokia Theatre, The Disco Biscuits found themselves in the midst of personal growth. Following a prolific year of touring and with their new album Planet Anthem set to hit the first week of February, this run was an opportunity to celebrate the past and embrace the future.

The Biscuits preceded the NYE finale with their full arsenal: heavy grooves, solid guest additions, new material, and numerous late night side-project activities. In contrast to last year’s excursions to and from the venue, outside temperatures were a little more forgiving this time around. Add an almost effortless ticket line and a very strong second set from the night before, and spirits were high for all making their way down the escalators and deeper underground.

“What’s up everyone?!” declared bassist Marc Brownstein with his arms held high moments before jumping into “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” After a short-lived peak, the quartet nestled into an effortless pocket of trance-fusion. Thus began the first of three very well executed sets. “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” eventually meandered into the energetic “Caves of the East,” a track that has grown into a beast over the past year.

The Disco Biscuits :: 12.31 :: New York
Before switching to an alternate MIDI-keyboard bass, Brownstein engaged in a short fist-pumping dance meant to rile up drummer Allen Aucoin. Under layers of pink and white lights, the darkest theme of the evening gained speed and turned triumphantly into “Gangster.” An air of confidence was evident from this point on which led to a lighter mood that would continue throughout the evening.

After a simple four-count Aucoin build, the entire Theatre barreled into a futuristic “Above The Waves,” with keyboardist Aron Magner filling in the voids with a wash of synthetic tones. The subsequent “Shem-Rah Boo” was a clutch choice to end the set, adding a touch of variety to the setlist and completing a version from the first night of the Nokia run. Through well-timed sustain and emphasis within the stanzas, the concluding solo by guitarist Jon Gutwillig set a humble, grounded tone before exiting the stage.

For big acts that play huge rooms and utilize massive production, it’s no secret that the show is often only as good as the band’s crew. This fact certainly holds true for Bisco and it was heartwarming to hear the band give props where props are due. A decade ago, when the Biscuits played NYE 1999 at Philly’s TLA, Johnny R. Goode was just a fan. About a year later he filled a last-minute vacancy as lighting technician. “He’s been with us ever since, pretty much the whole decade,” Brownstein explained from the stage. “Nine years and 500 shows he has been lighting us up. He’s got 84 moving lights onstage here for this run. So give it up for Johnny and the rest of The Disco Biscuits crew; a lot of them have been with us for a whole entire decade here!”

The Disco Biscuits :: 12.31 :: New York
A standalone version of “Mirrors” began set two. This track exemplifies many of the qualities featured in the band’s newer material: idiosyncratic Bisco-pop with a necessary tinge of menace. The launch into “Astronaut” continued a lighter mood that quickly transformed into “I-Man,” with Brownstein even teasing the bass line to “Crickets” during the transition. A slight strain in Gutwillig’s voice during “I-Man” was the only evidence that this five-night run might be taking a toll on the performers’ bodies. But with 10 minutes to go until a new year the band stormed on, playing with a fervor that was neither flashy nor excessive; simply making and arranging sounds in a way no other band can.

The ensuing “Countdown Medley” guided all through a surprise tour of the Bisco catalogue, and instead of playing on like years past, all four members took a pause and a well-deserved drink break. Gutwillig sprayed champagne into the crowd, ultimately handing the remains of the bottle to a lucky fan in the front row. With “I-Man” > “Helicopters,” the Biscuits ended set two poised to deliver what most avid fans have come to expect on any given night.

The Disco Biscuits :: 12.31 :: New York
10 years ago The Disco Biscuits were on a comparable rise, with anticipation high for an imminent release of new material. The subsequent album, 2001’s They Missed The Perfume, was recorded in a different manner than the band had tried before. The result, a lengthy compilation of electronica strewn across six songs, caught some off guard who were expecting a release similar to that of 1998’s Uncivilized Area, recorded in an organic “live” studio set-up.

Fast forward to 2009, the greater Bisco community still isn’t shy when sharing opinions and demands about their favorite band. As newer material was introduced over the past year (download “Konkrete” and “You And I” for free), many tracks bound for their upcoming album Planet Anthem were greeted with mixed results. Although the live setting is always where these new tracks grow their legs, the studio tends to be a different creative outlet for the band. This perceived “change” in style was perhaps unconscious, just a continuation of an improvised lifestyle that keeps their world from becoming stagnant. History has shown that the majority of new songs do grow into musical monsters, often catching us by surprise within a creative setlist.

“I let the fans pretty much pick the songs for the run this year. I let you guys do it!” Brownstein explained, adding a new twist to the fan/artist relationship in the age of social networking. “We’re going to have an application in a couple of days that’s going to have a request feature on it so the fans can go in and request what they want to hear at certain shows. That’s going to come straight to me and I’m going to know exactly what you want. So fear not; I enjoy your help.”

The Disco Biscuits :: 12.31 :: New York
Set three opener “Down To The Bottom” reached far back into the band’s catalogue, and featured an obvious lingering “Ladies” tease – paying homage to their impromptu Tractorbeam set a few nights prior at the Highline Ballroom. The jam out of “Naeba” – inspired by a journey through Japan en route to the Fuji Rock Music Festival – could have taken a sinister route, but instead the feeling of triumph returned.

All four band members made eye contact with content smiles on their faces, as if they didn’t believe there was much more to prove. The serene Bisco pocket would suffice, inspiring the 16-minute travels of “Mr. Don.” After performing for nearly six hours, the evening came full circle with the concluding “Spacebirdmatingcall” > “Down To The Bottom” segment and a “Rockafella” encore, solidifying this New Year’s Eve as one of The Disco Biscuits’ best in recent memory.

12.31.09 :: Nokia Theatre Times Square :: New York, NY
Set I: M.E.M.P.H.I.S. > Caves Of The East > Gangster > Above The Waves > Shem-Rah Boo
Set II: Mirrors, Astronaut > I-Man > Strobelights And Martinis > Countdown Medley > On Time , 7-11 > I-Man > Helicopters
Set III: Down To The Bottom > Naeba > Humuhumunukunukuapua’a > Mr. Don > Spacebirdmatingcall > Down To The Bottom
E: Rockafella

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