Photos by Kirsten Cohen
There are few bands out there that are more polarizing than Trancefusion Jamband pioneers The Disco Biscuits. Music fans seem to either love or hate them with very few people falling anywhere in between. Coming on the heels of a 3 night Colorado Bisco Inferno run just a few months ago, Bisco lovers were treated to another 3 night run with 2 nights at The Boulder Theater and a headlining spot at the Feed The Rocks event with by RJD2 and Shpongle.
April 25th and 26th – The Boulder Theater
The Scene: Nestled just off Pearl St, The Boulder Theater has always been one of my favorite places to see The Disco Biscuits. The classic Art-Deco theater has great sight lines and it is always easy to find a place to get down and dance with your friends. The crowd was late to enter as they seemed to enjoy gathering outside the theater doors to take in the sights, sounds, and smells that always accompany a band of this nature. Once inside, energy levels were high and people seemed ready to get their Bisco on.
Night 1 – April 25th: For a band that plays as infrequently as The Disco Biscuits do these days, most were expecting a bit of a warm up show to start the weekend. That is exactly what we got on the first night. With the exception of a few danceable moments, the show was pretty much a throw away with the band struggling to hit the composed parts of their songs and find any sort of groove during the jam segments. That said, by the end of the night things got going a little bit. “Mr. Don,” which closed the second set, finally got things moving and was a sign of things to come.
Night 2 – April 26th: After a pretty disappointing first night, the crowd was eager to see these guys deliver and play to the potential we have come to love from the band. Those hopes were quickly realized as it seemed to be a totally different band on stage from the previous night. “Hot Air Balloon>Confrontation (inverted)” reminded me of why I first fell in love with this band. In my opinion, nothing beats a good inverted “Confrontation” and the band was already firing on all cylinders at this point with guitarist Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig ripping like only he can. Euphoric peaks and seamless transitions are this bands bread and butter and the jam out of “Confrontation” into “Svengali” was another example of what sets this band apart from their peers. While it was a bit sloppy, the band faked out the crowd by building up a “Save The Robots” theme then dropping into the end of “Svengali.” Only The Disco Biscuits can play 2 of their songs at once like this and smiles were a plenty as we all were reminded of what this band is capable of when they are “on.”
The second set was my favorite of the weekend and truly showcased what this band is all about. “Reactor” kicked things off and set the tone for what was a full-on dance party assault on all in attendance. The transition into “Humuhumnukunukuapua’a” and the jam into “Kamaole Sands” contained blissful and happy Biscuits highlighted with some intricate and delightful guitar work from Barber. Not to be outshined, keyboard player Aron Magner brought some seriously dark and nasty dance party themes while backed by earth shattering e-drums from drummer Allen Aucoin. After what seemed like hours of non-stop techno madness, the band slammed through “Bazaar Escape” into the intense shredding peak that is the end of “Reactor.” This put a perfect bookend on the best set of the weekend. “Mulberry’s” Dream was a fitting end to the night and plenty of hugs and hi-fives were seen leaving the theater.
April 27th – Feed The Rocks w/ The Disco Biscuits, Shpongle, and RJD2
The Scene: Not much needs to be said about the scene at Red Rocks. Quite simply it’s the most beautiful venue in the country and I never tire of seeing the look of pure amazement on the faces of first timers walking in.
RJD2: RJD2 kicked things off and, while I am not very familiar with his stuff, it was refreshing to see a DJ up there with 4 turntables spinning actual vinyl records. In the days of laptops and button pushers, it was great to see someone up there truly cutting up records and bringing things back to the roots.
Shpongle: As the sun began to set behind us, a sense of anticipation began to roll in (along with the smell of moth balls and funeral parlors) as Simon Posford, aka Shpongle, took the stage. His Masquerade set up is definitely something to see although I thought it looked more like a screen saver on a laptop than the mind-blowing, 3D mapped visual spectacle it had been described as. (Maybe I should have hung out in that moth ball section for a little longer). Despite the slightly cheesy light show, Posford threw down a thoroughly entertaining and danceable set. His blend of thumping rhythms, classical guitars, and eastern chants always gets even the most jaded crowd going and everyone should make a point to get Shpongled at least once in their lives. Like most artists who get the honor of playing at Red Rocks he seemed humbled by the experience and promised a full Shpongle Live Band show coming soon. That would truly be a site to see.
The Disco Biscuits: With a huge orange moon rising in the east, The Disco Biscuits took the stage and opened with “Spectacle,” a perfect tune for the moment as its playful intro set the stage for what was to come. While most serious Biscuits fans would lament the progress this band has made, or rather hasn’t made, in the last few years, one thing most would agree on is that the addition of the laser beams to the light show have been pretty bad ass. The lasers were on full display transforming Red Rocks into something out of TRON. One could only think what the view from a passing by airplane would look like as travelers wondered what the hell kind of party was going on below.
As the first set wound down, “Rockafella” saw bassist Marc Brownstein put down his Modulus for his midi keys and brought things down to a much more mellow pace. The set closed with Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic on Saxophone for “Morph Dusseldorph.” While it was certainly cool to see a horn player out there with the Biscuits, it seemed forced and the song didn’t have the same action packed ending that it usually brings.
As the last set of the weekend got rolling with the electric segue filled madness of “42>Lunar Pursuit>Aceetobee>Tricycle,” things took a pretty novel turn as the band brought up Dom from Big Gigantic one more time for the disco classic “Disco Inferno” complete with alternative “Bisco Inferno” lyrics. While I am sure this won’t hold up on tape, it lit a fire under the crowd as just about everyone was busting out their best disco dance moves. Ironically enough this weekend was not billed as “Bisco Inferno.” Only The Disco Biscuits would play this song and sing those lyrics the one time they headlined Red Rocks when it was not billed as “Bisco Inferno.” But hey, this is why we love them.
As the novelties subsided, things took a more serious turn as the band decided to end the run with two very heavy compositional rockers “Hope” and “Once the Fiddler Paid.” As “Fiddler” drew towards its climatic peak, Barber, who seemed to be enjoying himself the most (he was literally running around in circles on stage), turned to Brownstein and the two met at the center of the stage. They truly seemed to be connecting on all levels and with all the turmoil, rumors, and bullshit that has surrounded this band over the last few years, it was a moment that would make any true Biscuits fan smile.
“Once the Fiddler Paid” is about as close to “romantic” biscuits as you can get and as the band walked back on stage for the encore this sentiment was echoed. Brownstein welcomed my good friend Sam to the stage and he proposed to his girlfriend Rachel in front of the Red Rocks crowd and the thousands watching the webcast from their homes. Having no clue this was coming, and literally thinking seconds before “Where the hell did Sam go?” we were all shocked and excited as Rachel said yes and the band threw down one last dark and dirty dance party during “And The Ladies Were The Rest of The Night.”
Walking out of Red Rocks I couldn’t help but laugh at what an amazing weekend it was. While I have long given up on the hopes that The Disco Biscuits would take over the world and bring their brand of Trancefusion Rock to the masses, I still feel lucky that they are out there doing their thing and that I live in one of the few parts of the country that they still come to on a regular basis. There is something about Colorado that brings out the best in this band and while they still show us the good, the bad, and the ugly, I treasure the time spent with the band and the friends that I have met through them over the years.
If I were rating the shows simply on the amount of fun had an A+ grade wouldn’t do it justice. But since that was not the point of the review:
Stage Presence: B