The Scene: Three nights worth of sold-out crowds piled into The Ogden Theatre for the pioneers of Trance Fusion Rock, The Disco Biscuits. Despite the turmoil and stress of two different venue changes (these shows were originally booked for Sculpture Park, then Ruby Hill Park but were changed for reasons outside of the band’s control) the capacity crowds were in high spirits. The Biscuits crowd can be an interesting one and whenever I am asked to describe what the crowds at these shows are like this quote from Obi Wan Kenobi describing Mos Eisley Spaceport comes to mind. “…You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious” Jedi apprehension aside, the energy level in the room was electric and you’d be hard pressed to find a more passionate and dedicated group of fans in any scene.
I would be remiss and a total idiot if I did not make some room to mention the absolutely mastery that was put on display by lighting designer Johnny R. Goode all weekend long. Whether he was using the more traditional moving lights or the lasers that have grown to be as big a part of a Disco Biscuit show as the music is, Goode showed off his skills with a dazzling exhibition of colors, shapes, textures and tones the likes of which i have never seen in a room of that size. Its obvious that Goode has really grown comfortable at The Ogden and the level to which his lights brought things this weekend was above and beyond any expectations put on an LD, even one with his skills. The lasers used to be thought of by many as a gimmick but what Goode has done to integrate them into TDB shows is breathtaking and something that nobody else is even close to achieving right now. The Disco Biscuits music is mind blowing enough but when you add in the ocular assault that Goode brings to the table, it truly makes for a concert experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
With the stage set and the sold-out crowd ready to go the band came out and showed they were not completely sticking their heads in the sand regarding the previous few weeks of venue mishaps, ticketing issues, and communication lapses. They opened with the aptly name “Spectacle” and we were off to the races. A lot has been made about the band’s lack of touring over the last few years and the impact its had. While I certainly love the idea of a 3- day party in my backyard every few months with all my friends coming, the lack of consistent playing has meant that the first night of these parties usually leaves something to be desired as the band needs time to get their groove back. This run was no different as the foursome struggled to connect during most of the first set. Most of this can be put on the shoulders of guitarist Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig as it sounded, for the most part, that the other 3 members were locked in. Barber’s style is unique and he is at his best when he is playing subtle melodic licks that accent what the rest of the band is doing as opposed to trying to be a guitar hero out in front. It would be unrealistic to expect that kind of interplay to sync up immediately and at this juncture in Bisco history, this kind of thing is par for the course on night one.
Set two kicked off with a taste of what is to come when bassist Marc Brownstein, keyboard player Aron Magner, and drummer Allen Aucoin return to The Ogden on November 14th for The Dance Party Time Machine. For the first time since 12/31/98 the band dusted off Prince’s “1999” and it was obvious that the second set would be much more focused and tight than the previous one. “1999” segued nicely into the spacey and sexy grooves of “Air Song” which led into the raucous fan favorite “Spacebirdmatingcall.” “Spacebird” is driven by euphoric guitar peaks by Barber and was the perfect vehicle to get him firmly implanted into what was happening on stage. With Barber back in the fold, things moved into the dark and dirty “Floes,” an eerie, old school number that hasn’t been played at all this year and not since 2011 out here in Colorado. This “Air Song->Spacebird->Floes” segment was easily the highlight of the night. Though the band was hardly firing on all cylinders, this show was leaps and bounds better than some of the previous night one shows of recent CO Bisco runs and it was obvious that something very special was coming our way the rest of the weekend.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Set I: Spectacle > Hot Air Balloon (unfinished) > Grass is Green, Mulberry’s Dream > Spaga (end)
Set II: 1999 > Air Song > Spacebird > Floes, Spaga (dyslexic), Morph (End)
E: Morph (dyslexic) > Mulberry’s Dream (end)
From the get-go it was obvious that night two was going to be a rowdy one. The band opened by with “And The Ladies Were The Rest of The Night,” a song they wasted no time dropping into the trance-fusion space that is their trademark. The jam from “Ladies” into the ending of “Helicopters” saw all four members syncing up and laying down a dirty dance jam that is at the core of what most fans love about the band. From there we saw a departure from that hallmark sound as “Crystal Ball->Mindless Dribble->Crystal Ball” saw the foursome shift gears into a more psychedelic and swirling style before returning to the four on the Floor, dance driven madness delivered in the jam from “King of The World” into the end of “Ladies.” This set really showcased the band’s ability to shape shift stylistically and while they did not reach maximum Biscosity levels quite yet, it was obvious that we were very close to seeing what this band is capable of when they are on top of their game.
Set Two started with “Shelby Rose->The City->Shelby Rose.” A segment that has become a Bisco classic since “The City” made its first appearance in 2008. At some point in the segue back into “Shelby” things finally clicked and the band ceased playing as four individuals and morphed into the monster that comes when they play as the sum of their parts. What followed is something that I have been dreading trying to write about since Saturday night as it was a mind bending segment that only The Disco Biscuits are capable of pulling off. I’ll do my best to put this into words but unless you are a hardore Disco Biscuit fan I fear this won’t make a lot of sense. With that said you should absolutely listen to this segment when the soundboards are released as it was as impressive as anything I have heard come from this band in a long time. After “Shelby” ended the band dropped into some nasty electro Funk and immediately my mind went to one of the more epic songs in the Biscuit’s catalog: “Basis For A Day.” These kinds of dark and dirty, jammed out intros are a staple of a good “Basis” and are accompanied with a climatic drop into the beginning of the song. As the band built the tension before dropping into the songs start, the crowd was at a fever pitch and had no idea of what was about to go down. As the drop hit and the crowd anticipated the iconic “Oooooohhhhhs” that accompany the first section of the song, the band instead dropped into the groovy intro of “Aceetobee” as fans turned to their friends with looks of “what the fuck was that?” on their faces. This kind of fake out is another bit of setlist shenanigans the band likes to throw at their crowds but they weren’t done there. As the “Aceetobee” jam built it was obvious that the “Basis” we all expected to hear was still coming. This time there was no fake out and, as the “Basis” progressed into its more funky section, the band once again had the crowd in “WTF?!?!” mode. Instead of delivering the playful melodies of “Basis,” Barber instead inserted the melody lines from “Aceetobee” and as this kind of interplay went back and forth it truly showed what this band is capable of when they are on. From there things shifted back into “Basis” and the seething, Techno dance party that followed capped what was easily the highlight of the weekend. I’ve never heard any other band play 2 very different songs at the same time for almost 20 minutes and have it sound as seamless as The Disco Biscuits can. As the band wrapped up the set with “Pilin’ Higher->Aquatic Ape (fakeout)->Pilin’ Higher” and then closed the night with an excellent version of the demented “Voices Insane.” When it was all over most in attendance looked like they had just run a marathon and high fives were abound as the exhausted crowd left the building. The only question left to be answered was how the hell could they top that?
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Set I: Ladies > Helicopters, Crystal ball > Dribble > Crystal ball, King Of The World > Ladies
Set II: Shelby Rose > The City > Shelby Rose, Basis > AC2B > Basis > AC2B > Basis, Pilin’ it Higher > Aquatic Ape (fakeout) > Pilin’ in Higher
E: Voices Insane
After the jaw dropping “AC2Basis” from the previous night, it was hard to imagine that the final show could top Saturday’s performance (or the insane comeback my Chicago Bears had pulled off just minutes before the show started), but as the first few notes of “Hope” filled the room, it was obvious that we may have spoken too soon. “Hope” segued into the ripping peak of “Reactor” and things took a dark and scary turn as it was crystal clear the band was playing for keeps. “Astronaut” saw its’ “Suspended In The Air” segment jammed out into a jungle groove that flaunted the deep pockets bassist Marc Brownstein and drummer Allen Aucoin fell into all weekend. This dancey groove gave way to a more deconstructed jam that had Aucoin and keyboard player Aron Magner exchanging laser beam licks before seguing into the long forgotten “Trooper McCue.” “Trooper” had previously been played just one time since 2004 and, to the delight of the hardcore fans in attendance, the band played it as if it had been in heavy rotation for the last several years. After yet another monster segue into the end of “Bernstein and Chasnoff” the band delivered a flawless “I Remember When” to cap off by far the best first set of the weekend.
With just one set of music left, anticipation levels were high as we wondered what the band would do to end such an amazing weekend. The 80’s classic “The Safety Dance” kicked things off and from there the band let it all hang out and played one of their best set in years. The spectral sounding intro and first sections of “Crickets” smoothly transformed into yet another rowdy dance party turning into “Ganster” before slowing things down to an almost Dub pace. At this point Barber started to tease the licks to “Spacebirdmatingcall” and this Dubbed out tease slowly gave way to a full on segue as the band peaked the “Spacebird” one more time for good measure. From there “Crickets” hopped and bopped its way to a massive peak that sent the entire room into a frenzy. These mammoth peaks are yet another staple of the band’s catalog and this “Crickets” may have been the best peak of the weekend. The band wasn’t ready to release their stranglehold on the audience as yet another dance assault led into “Helicopters” before closing the set with the joyous ending to “Hot Air Balloon” and completing the version they started on Friday night. As the blissful back and forth built up it was all smiles from the band and crowd alike and the “HAB,” though not perfectly executed, was a fitting way to end the set. As the band returned to the stage to thunderous applause from the packed room the siren like intro riff to “Rock Candy” signaled that we still had one more serious chance to throw down and dance our asses off before the weekend was completely over. “Rock Candy” indeed delivered on that chance and the band once again took their bows, reveling in the ovation from a crowd that got just about all they could handle on a Sunday night.
In closing; I had the pleasure of interviewing keyboardist Aron Magner last week [Read that interview here] before the run started and when I mentioned I was grateful that they decided to keep pushing and find a way to make these shows happen despite all the drama he said: “Lemonade Man!!! I think we made some lemonade and everyone is getting a pretty full blast of lemonade.” While this won’t go down as the greatest run in Disco Biscuit history, I think its safe to say that we all got a pretty healthy dose of some damn fine bisco lemonade.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Set I: Hope -> Reactor (ending only), Strobelights & Martinis > Astronaut > Trooper McCue -> Bernstein & Chasnoff (ending only), I Remember When
Set II: Safety Dance > Crickets > Gangster > Spacebirdmatingcall > Crickets > Helicopters > Hot Air Balloon (ending only)
E: Rock Candy (Sinister Minister)
Stage Presence: B-
Set/Light Show: A+