Photos by Tim Dwenger
The Scene: Over the course of four days last weekend The Disco Biscuits and their lyricless alter egos, Tractorbeam, delighted fans with what has become an almost annual romp of the front range. From old school heads to first timers most were in agreement that the Philadelphia quartet was firing on all cylinders and reached heights fans have not heard in quite some time.
THURSDAY NIGHT (January 23rd): The sold-out crowd out at the Ogden was primed and ready and the band wasted no time getting into their signature trance-fusion sound. After opening with “Uber Glue,” an instrumental from their 2010 album Planet Anthem, they segued into “Voices Insane.” “Voices” is an eerily dark song with lyrics evoking images of some poor soul losing his mind to the voices in his head. Things picked up quickly as the band segued again into “Bombs” and then back into “Voices.” This segment was the highlight of the first set as keyboardist Aron Magner showed why he is one of the top synth players in the business.
Right off the bat set two got moving and was highlighted with a “Save The Robots>Triumph>The Overture> Triumph>Save The Robots.” This palindrome segment is at the heart of what The Disco Biscuits do best. Seamlessly moving from one song to another and doing so from any part of any song at will. “Robots” is a monster of a composition and even though they had left the song, the spacey Funk that makes up its first jam seemed to permeate throughout the entire palindrome. At the center of the palindrome segment was one of the highlights of the night. The inverted (this is when they jam a song into another but instead of going to the beginning of the second song they jam it into the middle or end) “The Overture” was at the heart of the entire set and this classically inspired song delivered big time. One complaint from fans over the last several years is that the band, and especially guitar player Jon “The Barber” Gutlwillig, have become very sloppy with their highly composed tunes. This “Overture” showed that when they are dialed in they can still perform these insanely complex tunes and this version was flawlessly executed. Barber absolutely nailed the arpeggios and peaks that make this song a fan favorite. It was a treat to hear.
After finally bringing things back into the end of “Robots” the band dropped into what some immediately recognized as a Bisco classic, “I-man.” I-man is a song with many faces. It can be a more straight forward rocker or delve into the trance-fusion world and go “techno.” This version started off on the traditional side of things but, as the intro jam progressed, went into some uncharted waters. While not quite getting to a “techno” pace, the band did get everyone in the venue grooving and I dubbed this version the “Disco I-man.” I was pleased to see the band agreed and called it the same thing the next day. While this version did not reach the same raging heights as a lot “I-mans” from years past and got a little sloppy towards the end, it was a great way to close out the second set and showed that they are still willing to take some chances and try some new things. The night ended with a pretty forgettable “Therapy” and then the cheesy but insanely fun “Highwire.” While not the greatest show ever, night one was definitely better than most of the first nights we have gotten on previous runs and was a precursor to what was to come later in the weekend.
01/23/14 • Ogden Theater • Denver , CO
Set 1: Uber Glue > Voices Insane > Bombs > Voices Insane, Bazaar Escape, Wet
Set 2: Save The Robots > Triumph > The Overture1 > Triumph > Save The Robots, I-Man
Encore: Therapy, Highwire
Stage Presence: B-
FRIDAY NIGHT (January 24th): After getting things off to a strong start on Thursday, anticipation was high and the energy in the Ogden for night 2 was palpable. The band wasted no time getting things going and launched into “The Very Moon.” This song has a beautiful intro before it launches headlong into shredding guitars and a Funk section that immediately got the entire venue shaking their asses. The dance party didn’t stop there as things shifted into “Little Shimmy in a Conga Line” a Latin soaked number that yet again showcased the band’s ability to seamlessly shift gears. Going from the bouncy and bubbly “Shimmy” into a dark and dirty jam that again showed what The Disco Biscuits are all about. Before segueing into “Tempest” the band brought the crowd to a frenzy by going into a “Tricycle” fake out. A “Fake Out,” for the uninitiated, is when the band builds and builds the theme to one of their songs then right before dropping into the song they go into a totally different tune. This is just one of the many tricks in the Bisco arsenal that keeps fans on their toes and separates these guys as pioneers of the Electro/Jam sound. After going into an inverted version of “Aquatic Ape” the set closed with “Story of The World,” another euphorically happy song. As the band left the stage they finally gave the audience a chance to catch their breath after almost 90 mins of continuous playing. Compared to night one, it was almost as if another band had showed up. Its hard to put into words, but anyone who is familiar with this band knows it when they hear it and we knew the rest of the weekend was going to be top notch.
Set two picked up where the first left off with an outstanding stand alone version of “Crickets.” This is a Disco Biscuit staple and one of the bigger tunes in their repertoire. The band truly locked in and the soaring peak that lays within “Crickets” had the entire room going bonkers. From there “M.E.M.P.H.I.S” led the way into another huge segment where the band did not stop playing until the end of the set. After an inverted “Abraxas” things went into “Munchkin Invasion,” another monster and classic Biscuits tune. This “Munchkin” caught fire and as the band pushed towards the epic ending that makes this song so great, drummer Allen Aucoin had the entire room shaking. Allen had the crowd at his mercy as he laid down some insane 4 on the floor beats and his e-drum fills were ground shattering. Despite the amazing build-up things hit the one down point of the weekend as the band struggled their way through the drop of “Munchkin.” I am not one to let flubs or poorly executed segments ruin the night but this was a major disappointment and something that the band has struggled with the last several times they have played “Munchkin Invasion.” Despite the misstep, things flowed nicely into “Aceetobee” and after a punchy “Catalyst” they went back into “Aceetobee” and Barber once again brought the house down with another classic Bisco peak. A “Frog Legs” encore closed things out to rousing applause from the audience as Barber and bassist Marc Brownstein soaked it in and embraced on the stage.
After several consecutive sellouts at The Ogden its has become one of the better places to see The Disco Biscuits and it is easy to see the band loves playing that room. These two nights added to that growing tradition and I would be shocked if the band did not come back again soon.
01/24/14 • Ogden Theater • Denver , CO
Set 1: The Very Moon > Little Shimmy In A Conga Line1 > Tempest > Aquatic Ape2 > Story Of The World
Set 2: Crickets, M.E.M.P.H.I.S. > Abraxas2 > Munchkin Invasion > Aceetobee > Catalyst >Aceetobee
Encore: Frog Legs
Stage Presence: B-