I first attended Disc Jam in 2013. I remember driving to Brimfield, Massachusetts from New York with two friends, excited to see what the small festival would bring to the table. It was a pretty new and the lineup was filled with mid-level bands from the northeast. The overall vibe was intimate and the concept was original. Upon arrival, it was apparent that it was culminated by a group of people that loved live music. It was the definition of grassroots and the farthest thing from a corporate event.Read More
The Disco Biscuits and Philadelphia are inseparable. Since the band's inception at UPenn in 1995, they've claimed the city as territory for uncharted musical exploration. From Silk City and TLA to The Electric Factory and The Mann Center, the Biscuits have undoubtedly carved their initials in the pavement of Broad Street for eternity. And now the City of Brotherly Love has another venue for the band to call home, and it's by far the best one yet. The Fillmore is the premier venue that Philly has always needed. It'll be the seventh time that the Biscuits have graced the stage, and you know what they say about lucky number seven.
The Fillmore has quickly become one of the band's favorite venues to play and they're going to bring the ruckus. Between it being a hometown run for two out of four band members, and the Fillmore's layout being supreme, the Disco Biscuits are guaranteed to bring their A game. They're more than comfortable there and it shows throughout the various segments that still have replay value years later. Don't believe me? See for yourself.
Three shows. Six sets. Be there.
It’s December in New York City and the temperature continues to drop as the holidays arrive. The new year approaches with certainty and forcefulness, like the final train at Penn Station on a Saturday night. Piercing winds fly across avenues and around street corners as New Yorkers spend their Christmas bonuses on expensive gifts and stiff cocktails. Tourists wander around midtown, viewing the city through their iPhone cameras. To me, this time of year represents a color wheel of emotions, mostly gratitude for being alive and semi-healthy.Read More
*Alot has been going on in my personal life, so I wasn't exactly in a rush to publish this piece. Since the time has passed, some things have changed, but most have stayed the same. I was actually curious to see how the mind interprets the live music experience after significant time has passed - well, here it is.*
The Disco Biscuits have impressed me countless times over the years. So this isn’t an entirely new feeling, I just thought I’d made it past the point of being in a state of utter disbelief. I guess not. This past weekend left me searching for answers that I won’t find for months. This band produces music that is more pure than most any drug in the world. When they hook you with their highest quality improvisation in the right live setting, you’ll be seeing them for years. Unless you’re unable to grasp the concept of executing highly original music, one brilliant theme after another. The Philadelphia trance-fusion band has a deep history of blowing out city venues for the past twenty years. From Silk City and the TLA to the Electric Factory and Tower Theater, then they made it to the Mann Center, and now they’ve already played six shows at the new Fillmore that opened last year (the most by any artist or band at this time). After a tremendous debut run last year, they kept up the momentum from New Years and played one of the most consistent runs in recent years. If you were in the building that weekend, you already know.
The band wasted no time on Friday night. The opening segment is focused from the start, with textured builds and breaks throughout. It isn’t the first time they’ve used Bernstein & Chasnoff to start off the night on the right foot. Whenever the Disco Biscuits sit into the first jam of the night without feeling the need to rush, they keep it simple and balanced, and that’s exactly what B&C was. As soon as they cranked it up a notch, Allen falls into a powerful multi-measure fill on his toms, it added a primal element in which Barber immediately synced with. Brownie solidified the following jam with a chandelier shaking bassline. Barber and Magner bounced sustained melodies back and forth as Allen added his E drums to the equation.
The musical dynamic moves into a smooth state of trance-fusion induced ecstasy. The band was using massive amounts of space to their benefit; getting to watch them work through jams like the transition into Voices Insane is always a massive treat. Flipping the emotions of the music on their head while keeping every fan on their toes. Brownie leads the transition with good placement of the opening riff as Barber and Magner join in on the parade. Voices Insane can be such an epic song when it’s placed correctly. The first verse felt especially dosed out. It’s such a bipolar song, teetering back and forth between a major and minor feel. In terms of leading the band in the right direction, Brownie may have been the MVP during the opening segment. He had fantastic vision and set Barber and Magner up for success on multiple occasions. The jam back into B&C was a well-executed sprint through the finish line.
The crowd was definitely pleased with the opening sandwich, next came The Very Moon. A classic off Barber’s highly praised rock opera Hot Air Balloon. It was by no means the best i’ve seen them play it, but the drop-segue into Give It To Me Baby was a surprise. The Swift Technique horns joined the band on stage for the Rick James tune. Out of the three covers, I’d have to say that it was the weakest of the run. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t hit me nearly as hard as Let’s Dance did. The fact that I’ve seen them do it with horns before definitely had something to do with it. The jam into the ending of Morph Dusseldorf wasn’t anything special compared to what took place during the following set.
The Biscuits brought the Swift Technique horns back on stage and opened with King of the World. It didn’t have the velocity of the 1/2/16 version with the Philly Stray Horns, but it was a solid start. I have to give the Disco Biscuits props for always giving the spotlight to up and coming bands and artists. They’ve always pushed acts that they believe in, whether it’s Camp Bisco or opening slots, even sit-ins. It isn’t always well-received by the fan base, but they’ve never let that stop them from branching out and doing the things that they want to do. When they counted off into Let’s Dance, I was hyped to see what they’d do with it. It’s a cover that I’ve thought about them doing on various occasions. I felt that Give It To Me Baby and King Of The World didn’t exemplify what the Biscuits can do with a horn section. Well, Let’s Dance did exactly that, and more. It’s no secret that Barber shocked almost everybody in the building with his vocal rendition of Bowie. I was astonished at how well he nailed this song. Even the way he played the guitar parts was very Bowie-esque. Not only did he command the band, he owned the stage. Magner’s synth mixed with the horn section extremely well, right before Barber made great use of his Wah pedal and led them into tremendous section of improvisation.
The jam out of Let’s Dance is a perfect example of how well the band listened to each other this run. It shows the simple yet efficient mechanics that they mastered so many years ago. Starting with an accessible style of improvisation, allowing the crowd to get comfortable and buckle up, before slamming the safety bar on your lap. Then the rollercoaster begins, except this isn’t Six Flags, and you have no idea about the twists and turns that you’re about to endure. Just as fans think they’re about to jump into a peak, they cut a corner and drop the hammer on everyone. Magner and Barber completely switch the energy and Allen comes in with basic yet ferocious E drums. It was a brain-splitting display of pleasant yet hellish proportions, a digital safari through the caverns of your mind. The band was drilling the darkness into walls of The Fillmore, more than a few people looked frightened, it was fantastic. As soon as you started to feel like you knew where this jam was going, they flip the hourglass and head to the water’s surface for an well-placed and well-played inverted Humu. When it comes to a lot of songs written by Marc Brownstein, the placement plays an enormous part of whether it’s pretty good or really great in a live setting.
If I looked at a setlist without attending the show, an inverted Humu wouldn’t be my number one guess as the best song of the night. And I’m not going to say it was, but the improvisation that came from it was spectacular, on both sides of the equation. Barber was smokin’ throughout a large portion of the transition out of it. You could tell that the entire band felt that way, Magner was feeding off of his energy so well, and Brownie was throwing his head back and forth like he was at an Iron Maiden show in ‘85. The way that the Disco Biscuits broke into Astronaut was the definition of rock and fucking roll (if you’re curious as to why I added the “fucking”, you should watch 3:24:55 on the YouTube stream). It was a moment that I won’t soon forget. Even though they didn’t play the SITA section, they gave us something that exceeded my expectations. This time Magner took the reins and propelled the band into an inverted Down to the Bottom. The transition was risky and the execution was impressive.
From Let’s Dance on was top-notch, but the Biscuits threw down a few especially well-developed themes during the inverted Down to the Bottom. They pushed it into some really aggressive territory, four minds moving as a single musical unit. They hit a handful of strides where they could not miss. Allen and Barber were specifically unified, Brownie followed while Magner drifted along with a spacious Fender Rhodes type patch before switching to Grand Piano. The ending of Confrontation was a good runway for the band to land on while closing out Friday night. As I exited The Fillmore, I told a friend that, “I was thoroughly impressed by what just went down and I couldn’t wait for Saturday.”
By the time Saturday night came around, I hadn’t slept a single minute. My eyes wouldn’t shut. I needed the music to be above average, the band was going to have to throw down a show that was bonkers from start to finish. Besides a handful of lackluster moments, they did just that. The opening Morph Dusseldorf didn’t electrify me like I was hoping, the mid-tempo jam felt a bit heartless, but Spaga got the job done. Spaga almost always gets the job done. If Magellan is Barber’s masterpiece, Spaga is Magner’s. From start to finish, it was a magnificent version of Magner’s timeless classic. That word has a lot of power behind it, just know that i’m not using it lightly. It was truly magnificent. Right from the jump, Magner was feeling it, alternating between piano and organ, adding to Brownie’s bassline. While the composition didn’t miss a note, the middle jam was injected with adrenaline. It only took two measures for Barber and Magner to come together with interlocking melodies. Barber’s riff was simple and ridiculously catchy; he did a good job at straying from the path with an exploratory vibe, before falling back into the jam with another layer of energy. He’s a big dude and he cradles that Parker Fly like it’s a toy. When Barber starts mouthing his riffs, buckle up because we’re going deep. Once they started to ascend, all bets were off, there wasn’t a single person in that building that wasn’t directly in tune with the stage. The entire jam was performed with an elegant patience that eliminates any possibility of useless meandering. It was quintessential Biscuits.
What happened next was unforgettable, I’ll listen to Ladies > Magellan for years to come. Brownie instantly started it off with a filthy picked bassline, Barber and Magner set up the play like all-stars in the NBA finals. My heart rate began to increase and I lowered my fitted - it was game time. Barber strummed some heavy open chords which Magner immediately picked up on. On one hand he added a layer to the bassline with his Virus, on the other he mimicked Barber’s licks with sustained synthesizers. Allen dropped the tempo down a few steps and Barber followed with focused emotion. It’s one thing when a bassist and drummer are locked in, but when a guitarist is playing notes the same rhythmic patterns as the drummer, it’s mesmerizing. Once Allen started the tribal grooves on his toms, I knew what was coming. I only hoped that they’d nail the transition. The chemistry between Barber and Brownie was highlighted during this section. Barber was undoubtedly directing the band toward the shore, at times the sonic ocean got choppy, but they went full steam ahead. Magner was able to sit back and fill in the gaps before identifying his place and seizing it. The energy that the band had created was brought to a peak once the Magellan composition hit. Barber was jumping up and down like a toddler on a trampoline, making his Gibson wail and weep. A sight that was most definitely reminiscent of the infamous Barber Freak Out from Camp Bisco 12. Except this time, his playing actually matched his theatrics, for the most part. Fans hugged and high-fived as they shouted the lyrics, “One with the raging wind, alive on the highest tide”. I may have been sleep deprived, but at that moment I felt like I could take on the world. Magner’s piano solo in Magellan could make a blind man see the world. It’s one of the most gorgeous sections of music in the jam band world.
Just as I thought they were going to end on a high note, they rebooted all systems and slowly accelerated back to the stratosphere. This time Magner was in the driver’s seat as Brownie and Allen added gas to the tank. And then out of nowhere, Philadelphia guitarist and longtime friend, Tom Hamilton joined the stage and plugged in. Watching Barber and Tommy play together is always a treat. He added some rhythm guitar that helped fill in the spaces. I knew the melody sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. Then Barber screamed the lyrics and I was in utter shock, Exodus by Bob Marley. This band may not tour but they never lost the ability to try new things and surprise their audience. Barber singing Bob Marley was stuck in my head for a week, for better or for worse. Magner added airy Virus licks over the dual guitars while Brownie and Allen kept the pulse pumping. Once they dropped out of the composition, Allen chopped the tempo in half which allowed for the three melodies to comfortably explore for a few measures. Brownie dropped the bassline again and they re-entered improv on top of a loose chorus.
Tommy is usually the lead guitarist when he’s on stage, but it was a real treat to see him take the role of a Bob Weir type rhythm guitarist. He did a great job sitting behind Barber during the transition into the ending of Astronaut. Barber was shooting him some hilarious looks, he was definitely feeling what Tommy was playing. After a few minutes, they entered the depths of darkness that the Biscuits (and Brothers Past) were always known for. It got real and Barber couldn’t help himself, it was like he was hypnotized, he started shredding like an absolute madman. Although he barely gave Tommy any room to breathe, he seemed to be having a great time in the center of the stage. He hit the ending of Astronaut like a game-winning bullseye in a North Philly dive bar, all in all the first set of Saturday had my eyes wide and blood pumping.
During the second half of Saturday, I felt myself getting tired, so a friend of mine gave me some inspiration, it helped. I took a few shots of Jameson at the bar and headed back to the dancefloor. After a floor-shaking intro to Mindless Dribble, we were off to the races. They started off the second set with no desire to force anything. They seemed to be super comfortable, it was the last set of the weekend, any and all pressure had deteriorated. Did anything remarkable take place? No. Sometimes the most simple improvisation moves you the most. The Biscuits rode the Dribble jam with a certain conviction, one that’s both smooth yet far from perfect - similar to Barber’s current guitar tone. I really respected Brownie during the second set on Saturday for multiple reasons. The Dribble jam is one of those reasons. He committed to a risky bassline that initially threw Barber for a loop, luckily Magner sank his teeth into it. It wasn’t long before Barber jumped on the bandwagon as well.
Now that some time has passed since the Fillmore run, my opinions on certain moments have definitely changed. The jam into the inverted Crickets was vicious and although the peak wasn’t 100% perfect, it more than got the job done. The true highlight was the industrial funk jam, it got violently disgusting, like a Law & Order SVU episode. I had the snarl of a blue-nosed Pitbull that doesn’t get walked enough. It was game time. All across the dance floor and on the balconies, everyone was bringing the ruckus. Then came the Basis ending, and it smacked people in the face - big time.
Spectacle is definitely a well-written song with catchy lyrics. But it all comes down to placement in the setlist, it can be an energy killer. This particular version had an illustrious intro that immediately stood out. It exmplified their obvious jazz influences. Some people weren't crazy about it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then came the Basis For A Day, which featured a mystically intriguing bassline from Brownie in the beginning jam - one minor detail that was one of my highlights of the weekend.
The final transition of the night has unquestionably held up. The band moved toward Ladies with graceful durability, pushing and pulling on the hearts and minds of the audience - a great example of Type 2 jamming. Some fans have said that the second set of 2/4 is extremely over-fluffed, and that's okay with me. Is it the best set ever? Hell no. But it has some astonishing risks and glorious cohesiveness. A month later, and it still makes me move when I listen to it. To end the night with a Hope encore was appropriate and tasteful. A euphoric night-cap to an exhilerating weekend.
It's safe to say that the Disco Biscuits have added The Fillmore to their list of favorite venues. Not only do the musicians love it, Johnny R. Goode says it's one of the best venues to see them play. Now that the band has upcoming shows in Texas, Colorado and Illinios, they'll have a chance to gain new fans, especially if they play at level we've seen during the past year. If the Fillmore run was any indiction as to what 2017 will bring, it's going to be another great year to follow them around the country.
Long Live the Disco Biscuits.
During the past few months I took a break from covering the Disco Biscuits and dissecting their live shows. I had been working a dead-end job that I didn’t enjoy and momentarily lost my passion for music journalism. Then I attended my first ever Holidaze in the Dominican Republic - it reignited my deep-rooted love for the Disco Biscuits, along with the art of true music journalism. My brain instantly began telegraphing imaginative descriptions of the improvisational compositions that I’ve come to love.Read More
by Jack Leahey
I arrived at the 9/17 Tractorbear show in Wilkes-Barre not exactly sure what to expect. The last time I saw them was at Mint Green and I was impressed by their ability to emulate certain aspects of the Disco Biscuits music, but at the same time it was a day set at a festival, and at that time they had only just started really playing shows.
When they hit the stage for the first time at The Other Side in Wilkes-Barre and started the show off with the beginning section of “Save the Robots,” the fact had become quite apparent to me that I had never heard the Biscuits’ music played with anything but custom-made Becker guitars and monstrous stacks of drum pieces and synthesizers. The composed sections were where this difference was most noticeable, but the songs were very well executed and had all the defining aspects of the Biscuits’ sound. Dellisanti used a nice and spacey hollow-body guitar tone, usually leaning on the cleaner side. Steven Lasker implemented a wide variety of synthetic keyboard sounds, and drummer Jay Cohen keptpounding drums almost reminiscent of Sammy’s Pearl kit with a tinge of electronic claps and other hits. Bassist Paul Katz did a great job of picking up brownie’s unique style and was actually the one to sing most of the songs, which I thought was impressive since the setlist contained almost no Brownstein-written material. The jams were, perhaps unsurprisingly, where the real beauty came out, and that’s really where there were plenty of moments that perfectly recreated the sound of the Disco Biscuits. One of my favorite moments of the night was the “Trooper McCue” that created a deep, ferocious trance jam. Other sections which sounded just as good as the Biscuits were the Helicopters > Hot Air Balloon and inverted Abraxas. The particular moments, however, aren’t really what I wanted to talk about in this review, though.
What seemed most important throughout the show was that it was carried out by a group of fans - a group of friends - and the people who were there to witness it were witnessing something uniquely intimate. Having a group of people who truly appreciate the uniqueness of the Biscuits is something great because they aren’t another generic trancefusion band teasing “cyclone” for crowd appeal. They are getting off on the music because they love the Biscuits and they want to recreate that sound and that atmosphere. I looked around the room and counted seventeen people, all there solely to witness Disco Biscuits music. Seventeen people. It is a level of intimacy that cannot be reached with the real band at this point in time.
Tractorbear shows are not only a musically accurate recreation of Disco Biscuits music, they are a fateful artifice of the community that Jon, Marc, Aron and Sammy created so long ago. They give newer Biscuits fans the opportunity to experience an intimacy within the venue that has been long fabled and romanticized by older fans. There were no huge “crews” or people who were only there to “party”. The whole time the band was playing, everyone in the room was connecting with the music and with each other, and they were all paying attention to the band. As someone whose most “intimate” Biscuits experience had been the Trocadero show at City Bisco 2014, I was very impressed by the whole thing and was left with a craving for more.
If you are wondering whether they perfectly recreate the Biscuits’ sound, they obviously don’t. How could you possibly expect that? They do, however, have the drive and ability to do a damn good job of it and bring the jams to a level of energy which was reminiscent of the Biscuits, and I personally am excited to watch them all grow as musicians over time. What they do perfectly recreate is the feeling of community that I was introduced to at Biscuits shows. In that room of about seventeen to twenty-five people, you could tell that everyone felt as if they were part of something special. If you are wondering whether or not they are worth seeing, I would say that they definitely are, and I would even go so far as to say that they are worth travelling for. They have the passion, sense of humor and musical ability that make the Biscuits so unique, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less in a tribute to my favorite band. Seriously, just go see them. As long as the Biscuits are done touring, you might as well bring your ass to the party.
I started attending music festivals in 2010, it was the summer that I graduated high school and my life had come to an intersection of unintended darkness and misplaced passion. There was a void that I was constantly searching to fill and I used various forms of escapism to do so. July came around and I was in an odd place, unsure of what the future held. A few friends told me about a music festival called Camp Bisco that was a few hours north in my home state of New York.Read More
Once upon a time music festivals consisted of rock bands and funk bands, blues music and folk artists. Psychedelic culture mixed with American values. As the 80s took the place of the 70s, and the 90s took the place of the 80s, music began to change. Electronic music infatuated urban cities as raves intoxicated the underworld of the American metropolis. A counter culture that was so different yet so similar to the one that had come before it. As the sounds changed, listeners evolved, and the wheels of the music world kept turning. Then came a young band of college kids from Philadelphia, mesmerized by the wanderlust of both sides of the spectrum. Using their creative intelligence and open-minded influence, they began to experiment with the roots of the past and the shooting stars of the future. A balancing act of sonic gymnastics. They had the foresight to see where the world of music was headed, and the confidence to sprint towards it. Pooling together their undeniable passion and limited resources, they created an intimate event that would change music festivals forever. That small band of college kids was the Disco Biscuits and that intimate event was Camp Bisco. The rest is history.Read More
Photos by Andrew Scott Blackstein
Words by Zachary Franck
There is no question that the Disco Biscuits have hit a pretty remarkable stride as of late. After a few dark years, it seems that the Biscuits have been sprinting toward the light. I remember the exact moment when fans felt the energy that originally got them hooked. It took place on the final day of Camp Bisco 12, the last year at the infamous ILCC in Mariaville, New York. The band sat back and watched Jon "Barber" Gutwillig soar into an adrenaline pumping solo during Magellan > Strobelights & Martinis > Magellan. Everyone gazed on in amazement, realizing that there's a good chance that the band is working their way into the next frontier.
Well, look how far they've come since that very moment.
Since then the band has continued to grow together, finding a balance that allows them to create space. They've been communicating on and off the stage, realizing how grateful they are to have each other as not only band mates, but friends. 2014 was the first year since 2010 that the fans started to become seriously engaged again. The band absorbed the energy of solid runs at Irving Plaza and Best Buy Theatre, then carried it into 2015. Last year was another major step in the right direction. Everybody started to become more and more convinced that the boys were back. The band was proving it to themselves and their fans, over and over again. After solid runs in Colorado, Maine and Vermont, the return of Camp Bisco and a surprise Halloween run - it felt good to be a die-hard fan of the Disco Biscuits. Their performance at Dominican Holidaze was their best in years. The New Year's Eve run at Playstation Theater was the exclamation point at the end of the sentence.
We're only three months into 2016 and it's already a year of hope. The Disco Biscuits have thrown down stellar shows at the Playstation Theater, The Fillmore Philadelphia, and the Capitol Theatre - three of the absolute best venues that the northeast has to offer. They've continued to progress and top their prior best. They blew the roof off of the Fillmore in their hometown of Philadelphia, it was the first time they played at the brand new venue.
Last weekend was another first, one that's a bit more historic. The trance-fusion band from Philadelphia delivered not one, but two sold out shows to an electric crowd at the legendary Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. The shows brought a unique energy that created an unforgettable experience, one that the band and fans will cherish for the rest of their lives.
When I walked into the Capitol Theatre on Friday night, I immediately knew how special these shows were going to be. From their history with venue owner Peter Shapiro to the fame and symbolism of the storied Capitol Theatre. Not to mention the fact that my favorite band had become recharged with inspired passion, and were about to play the best hometown venue around. All these variables combined in fantastic fashion, transforming the Capitol into a digital paradise of light and sound. The Disco Biscuits were basking in the glory just as much as the fans, I mean, how could they not?
They kicked off the two-night run with Pygmy Twylyte, a Frank Zappa song that's one of the best covers in their arsenal. It's not hard to tell how big of an influence Frank Zappa had on the Disco Biscuits. His band also played the Capitol Theatre on multiple occasions during the 70's, so the song was most definitely fitting. As soon as they slipped into the first jam, I could tell that they were feeling it. Marc Brownstein's bass line sat behind Aron Magner's organ with chunky definition and stability. Wasting no time, the band built the jam into a peaking transition that fell into Spraypaint with ease. Delicate with a certain rawness, Brownie placed it in a great spot. The crowd was instantly hooked, shouting the lyrics to one of the Biscuits' most popular sing-a-longs. It marked the start of the two-night celebration. A smooth mid-tempo jam quickly became a disco-funk party before sliding into Rainbow Song, which was a tasteful surprise for those that have been chasing it. It ended the opening segment with a mellow enthusiasm.
After a long-winded intro, the Disco Biscuits stepped into a long-awaited Spectacle. A song that was overdue, the reactions on fan's faces proved it. There was an outpouring of emotional gratitude from a good amount of people. I remember when fans weren't sure if the Disco Biscuits were going to keep playing shows; now we're seeing them play top-notch shows to sold out crowds at world class venues. A lot of people were reflecting on this during the final chorus in Spectacle, and rightfully so. You could sense the collective comfort that was radiating off the stage while they sang the final words, "We're gonna give it all away". They took in the applause for a few moments and dropped into Helicopters with fist-pumping fury. The Capitol Theatre got a nice taste-test of what Bisco is; the throbbing bass lines, galloping hi-hats and kick drum, echoing synthesizers, and heavenly hollow body guitar riffs. All stirred together into a sonic sauce that's more original than every other band's recipe. The band has added a few extra ingredients over the years, but the definition of Bisco will never change. They sank their teeth into Helix and gave the crowd the most riveting improvisation of the set, landing on the ending of Spraypaint with conviction. The final notes sent a buzzing ripple throughout the building during set-break.
Before the Disco Biscuits took the stage at AURA Music & Arts Festival on March 6th, they got some heartbreaking news. Bill Faas, one of their all-time biggest fans, if not their biggest, had passed away. It's obviously some very unfortunate news to receive moments before hitting the stage, they took it in together and let the music carry them away. Bill had been with them since the very beginning, sometimes helping them load gear before they had hired roadies. We all knew that the band would pay homage to him by playing one of his favorite songs, and they did. They kicked off the second set with a massive Mindless Dribble. Its psychedelic melody drifted from the rail to the rafters. Friends knew that Bill Faas was smiling down on the band, as they grinned back with compassionate confidence.
The transition into Crystal Ball wasn't as powerful as I would've liked it to be. The song is one my all-time favorites and it didn't bring me to the place that it usually does. They slammed the door shut on it and opened the next segment with Highwire. The band was feeling it and landed in a few pockets of improvisation. Marc Brownstein was forcing everyone to realize how important he is to the Disco Biscuits. The man does exactly what they need him to do, and he does it very well. They danced their way into a brand new cover, She's a Bad Mama Jama by Carl Carlton. I'm not gonna lie, although it was absurdly random, it was pretty fun. I looked around the crowd and saw a lot of smiles and laughter. To my surprise, Barber didn't do a bad job at singing the funky one-hit wonder. It's not even close to being on the level of A Fifth of Beethoven or Get Down On It, but like I said, it was fun.
The transition back into Mindless Dribble was the impressive part; they teased the songs back and forth like a DJ would, before finally dropping into a full-on Dribble. At that point, the crowd energy was pouring out of the building and onto the sidewalk. Each band member had their time to shine as Aron Magner brought us to the tropics with his piano playing, Allen Aucoin brought the Latin groove for him to lay on. Then out of nowhere Allen broke into one of the best drum solos that I've ever seen him play with the Disco Biscuits. Being a drummer, it was the apple butter on the toast. He paid homage to Bill Faas the best way he knew how. I could tell they wanted to make Mindless Dribble stand out and they succeeded. They continued to push and pull the jam, weaving in and out of styles, keeping us all on our toes.
I saw what was coming next and I liked their approach, climbing their way into Orch Theme with patience. The first seven minutes are promising but during the mid-section, they fall out of time with each other, and the song unravels. They pick it back up and add some crystallized Tricycle teases that smooth things over, before jumping into the ending of Highwire. The band returned to the stage and encored with Frog Legs, a song that they've used a good amount in the past. When I walked out of the Capitol Theatre, I was beyond excited for the next night. I knew that Saturday was going to be one of the greatest shows they've played in recent years.
We all did, and we were right.
The New Deal kicked off Saturday night with an older styled set. The fact is that nothing can bring back their original drummer, Darren Shearer. Point blank, he's not coming back, and the band still wants to play music. I don't blame them. They got the Capitol Theatre nice and warm for their friends, the Disco Biscuits. And let's just say, the Disco Biscuits cranked the heat up a notch, or ten. There was a powerful sensation of joyous gratitude floating through the hallways of the Capitol Theatre. On a completely different level than Friday, the most energy at a Biscuits show in a long time. Every show of every prior run was leading up to this very moment. The band was making history. They were ready to bring their fans on one of the best musical rides of their lives. The Capitol was packed to the gills, it was time to buckle up.
The bell rang and the band came out swinging, opening with a Shem Rah Boo jam that instantly catapulted them into a great place. They dropped into Bernstein & Chasnoff without missing a beat. Right away, the sold out Capitol Theatre was rocking, everyone was riding the same exact wavelength. Brownie and Barber rhythmically connected with each other and moved the band into Bombs, with Magner following them closely. Once Allen's sub-kick was added to the equation, they started to shake the champagne, and the party popped off. The band continued to add improvised layers to the song until the stage literally exploded. Barber was grinning like a kid that just learned how to play Smoke On The Water for the first time - counting the band into the drops, 1 - 2 - 3, before seizing the reins and shooting for the moon. He shredded the peak with soulful excellence, letting loose and supplying us with victorious satisfaction.
The way they jam out of Bombs and into inverted Shelby Rose is outstanding. It's one the best moments that I've personally experienced with the Disco Biscuits. The type of music that can only be made in the moment, stronger than any drug or chemical. Plain and simple, moments like these are why I love this band so much. The Disco Biscuits supply their fans with auditory ecstasy that's uncut and unadulterated. It's a type of high that cannot be found anywhere else. They're the chemists, suppliers, and dealers of music that is totally unique and original. The inverted Shelby Rose is the type of music that can get a junkie off heroin, musical medicine that stimulates the mind and soul. A whirlwind of emotion wrapped into twenty-six minutes of majestic glory. Jon Gutwillig captivated everyone with blissed out riffs that were patient and poised. Marc Brownstein laid down some of the deepest and most impressive bass lines that I've ever seen from him. Aron Magner sealed the deal with intelligent interplay, while Allen Aucoin put the final nail in the framework with dynamic drumming. To see Barber, Brownie, Magner, and Allen become a singular unit through improvised music is one of the most special things in the world. It's a gift that any music lover should be able to understand and appreciate.
I couldn't believe when they dropped into an inverted And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night. The balcony at the Capitol Theatre was legitimately bouncing. Thousands of fans were going berserk. It became a giant dance competition, but everybody was on the same team. At one point, I couldn't help but laugh. People were breaking it down. I noticed how much the Disco songs from Halloween have had an effect on some of their jams. They broke into a serious disco-funk jam during Ladies, before working themselves back into the ending of Bernstein & Chasnoff. By the end of the first set on Saturday, Friday night had become a distant memory.
The second set finalized this feeling.
Not only is Hope one of my all-time favorite songs from the Disco Biscuits, it's one of the best songs that Jon Gutwillig has ever written - from the melodic structure to the lyrics, it's a classic in every sense of the word. When they opened the final set of the two-night run with it, I felt any anxiety I had about life slowly dissipate, even if it was only for a brief moment. I sang those lyrics like my life depended on it, accepting the symbolism that they provide. The combination of seeing my favorite band play one of my favorite songs in my favorite venue had a huge effect on me. Not only did they play it, they rode it and tamed it like a wild stallion . Brownie and Magner catch onto the beginning notes of Crazy Train during the jam and launch it into the crowd with chaotic beauty. We were being controlled like puppets, totally enthralled by the elements of their trance-fusion.
The Disco Biscuits brought us to our knees with Hope and propelled us Above the Waves. They charged into the inverted version with furious mercy on our souls. Not showing any sign of stopping, fans chugged water and spilled beer, trying their best to keep up with the madmen on stage. Once they finally settled into the composition, the famed lyrics were screamed with pride. During the break in the song, the audience erupted like a volcano that was dormant for one-hundred years. Barber soothed us with the monumental melody before they sang the meaningful lyrics, "All was left one chance to fly away". The ceiling and walls of the Capitol Theatre were plastered with blue skies and clouds.
It was a site that I won't soon forget.
It's impressive how much of a contrast they can develop in one song. After the composition, they flew off the handle into a jam that you'd want to listen to if you were marching into battle. I can envision it being the soundtrack to multiple scenes in Star Wars, especially when the Millennium Falcon goes into hyper-speed. The thematic progression and decompression of their improvisation in Above The Waves is legendary. Brownie has unbelievable foresight when they jam, he is the catalyst that pushes them from one jam to the next. It's astonishing how well Barber and Magner play when they're locked into Brownie's bass lines. Allen is the rock hard surface that allows the Biscuits to build a new foundation in every single jam. Twenty minutes into Waves, I felt like I was in a 80's horror movie. It got eerily dark and gratifying, yet another prime example of the exact reason that I follow this band over other bands. By the end of Waves, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face, the Disco Biscuits were in complete control of everybody in the crowd, Nobody can play the way they do. Other bands can try, but that's it.
Two songs into the second set and my jaw was on the slanted floor below. They sprinted into Mr. Don, dripping swagger all over the stage. I thought to myself, "These four guys are absolute savages". I can't stress how underrated of a bassist Marc Brownstein is, I used to be a critic, and he's made me swallow my words. His performance on Saturday was beyond my expectations. All of them had extraordinary moments, I knew Saturday was going to be great, but I didn't expect to be in utter shock. Their playing was ridiculously cohesive, they weren't trying to overpower each other. It was balanced. Everything was balanced.
They pulled back and hit us with an enjoyable rendition of Home by LCD Soundsystem. Since LCD recently announced their return, and the Biscuits played the song at Camp Bisco last year, it only made sense. Barber seems to love playing it, and whatever makes him happy, makes us happy... for the most part. The song created some bouncy jams and launched them into the ending of Helicopters with pride and joy. I haven't felt that much positivity at a show in a long time. They could hardly leave the stage for an encore, applause poured towards them. After the amazing final encore at The Fillmore, they had a lot of hype to live up to. Well, they did it. Caves Of The East with Check the Rime samples, a tribute to the late Phife Dawg - a creative idea given to the band by a fan. They ended the night by flying into the end of Mr. Don the only way they know how, in spectacular fashion. It was magic.
Everyone in the live music scene knows that the Disco Biscuits are a force to be reckoned with. Anybody that doesn't realize this is in denial. Maybe it was them seeing the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead, after playing a memorable tribute with Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart at Red Rocks, that made them realize how special their music is. And how nothing lasts forever. I truly believe it helped make Jon, Marc, and Aron realize how blessed they are to have a band that means so much to so many. I know it made Allen grateful to be in one of most original bands in the world. The band and fans couldn't be happier to have him, he's easily one of the best drummers in the game.
So here we are, in the midst of a renaissance of the Disco Biscuits. It's true. It's happening and it's real. There are fans who've been seeing them a lot longer than I have, and they'll tell you the same. The band will tell you that they've found a balance, and the proof is in plain sight. From one run to the next, the Disco Biscuits have managed to keep the flame lit, without having to tour. They are doing what they need to do to ensure that they don't burn themselves out, like many rock n' roll bands have done in the past. The road isn't the most rewarding place when you're in your forties. Destination runs have prevented them from having to do that, while allowing their playing to progress.
The Disco Biscuits are attempting to recreate the model that the Grateful Dead built so many years ago.
Long Live the Disco Biscuits
The Disco Biscuits are back at it again, this time they're heading to a historic venue that they've never played before. It's geared up to be one of the band's most exciting runs in recent years. Every musician wants to play the stage of The Capitol Theatre, it's a historic landmark in the New York music scene, and has been for years. The walls are plastered with psychedelic concert posters of the 70's and the vibe is unlike any venue in the New York metro area. Owner Pete Shapiro stepped up to the plate and made sure to transform the old venue while still keeping its soul intact. Like most everything he does, he succeeded in a huge way. The Biscuits have had their eyes on the storied stage since it reopened a few years ago, and all the pieces have finally fell into place. The Disco Biscuits are heading to The Capitol Theatre on March 25th and 26th and they're bringing some old friends with them.
It's only fitting that they invited the New Deal along for the ride. A jamtronica flashback of the late nights and early mornings spent inside the legendary Wetlands Preserve. The two bands haven't played a show together in a while so there will definitely be some surprises. Like bassist Marc Brownstein said, "We felt that that if we were going to come back and play a Peter Shapiro venue, we needed to revive the Wetlands spirit of the late 90s and early 2000s. We may have recently been swayed by the nostalgia of seeing the famous 9/1-2/01 Wetlands poster featuring the Biscuits and the New Deal."
I won't be shocked if synthesizer extraordinaire Jamie Shields joins the Biscuits for a song or two. At this point, who knows what surprises the Biscuits have up their sleeves. They're in a fantastic place right now, and two nights at The Capitol Theatre is only going to add gas to the fire. From one show to the next, fans have fallen in love with their favorite band all over again. The passion has been reignited.
The band's New Year's run was exceptional, and the Fillmore run was incredible, but these shows at the Capitol Theatre are going to be phenomenal. There are few venues that match the vibe of the historic venue. From the staff to the layout, the acoustics and the old concert posters that are plastered all over the walls; they all hold a natural legacy that new venues are unable to recreate. Not only is it one of the absolute best venues in New York or the Northeast, it's one of the best venues in the entire country. The Disco Biscuits have recently proved to Pete Shapiro that they deserve to play on that stage, not one night but two! The shows have gotten a great response, Saturday is sold out and Friday is well on its way. If you're a die-hard fan of improvisational music, I highly advise you to make sure you're inside The Capitol Theatre on March 25th and 26th. The band might even be more ecstatic than the fans, which isn't always the case.
After a few years of rightful worry, the Biscuits fan base has been able to relax. The boys are all on the same wavelength and their sets have been refreshed relics of the past. At the end of the month, trance-fusion will shake the rafters of the Capitol Theatre as Johnny R. Goode uses their top-notch lighting rig to create a priceless experience for everyone in the building. We'll all be basking in the addictive mixture of psychedelic visuals and digital sound's, as they both rise from the dance floor to the balcony. The expected imagery is vivid and alive in my mind. I asked Marc, "Why are you especially excited to play the Capitol, what makes it more special than other venues?", he quickly responded, "I think everyone knows why people want to play the legendary Capitol Theatre. The history alone is enough of a reason to want to be a part of it. So many incredible bands have graced that stage over the decades. The second I heard my friend Pete Shapiro was going to renovate and reopen the venue I knew that we would become a part of the Capitol legacy, and with one show sold out over a month in advance and another right behind it, it seems that we are well on our way." I think every single one of us can agree with that. Easter Sunday is going to be religious with unshakable beats and unforgettable riffs. The energy has continued to build since the shows were announced, and it's not stopping anytime soon. The circus is coming to Port Chester, soon enough we'll all be home again.
by Leo A. Jennings IV
Last weekend brought us to the brink of a second consecutive winter tour closer in Cleveland. The variety and intensity of the band’s playing on this tour certainly had the crowd fired up. Starting with their headlining festival, Summerdance, last year, through New Year’s and throughout their winter tour early this year, Lotus has been firing on all cylinders and they show absolutely no sign of slowing down their hustle.
Following Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics, Lotus took the stage to warm our hearts and ears one last time for the winter. A screaming, harmonious “Bellwether” kicked off the night perfectly, getting the whole crowd into perpetual motion for the segue into “Slow Cookin’”, the dance-jazz hybrid that will keep your feet moving throughout its deep, swirling jam. Appropriately, funky “Spaghetti” followed “Slow Cookin’” in a song title pun that happened to be very aurally enlightening. The deep, resonant, wah-laden breakdowns of “Spaghetti” gave way to a tempo increase and wandered back in to “Bellwether” to close out the opener to the set. The odd and mysterious tones of “Ashcon”, off the band’s self-titled effort, flowed in next, perhaps just to give the crowd a breath for what was to presented next. The familiar, bouncy rhythm of “Sift” filled the room, and as its tempo progressively increased, so did the intense motion of the crowd, dancing with all our hearts as the jam sped into a radiant “Shimmer and Out” that cemented a smile on every face in the venue. As “Shimmer” concluded, Luke Miller reminded us that Cleveland does indeed rock, and Lotus fed us a bit of the gritty rock n’ roll vibe with a cover of Tame Impala’s “Elephant” to close out the first set.
After a quick smoke and refill for many of us, Lotus commandeered the stage once more to bring us the latter half of the tour closer. Opening the set would be post-rocker “Destroyer”, a multi-faceted tune featuring alternating tempos and an uplifting build with a powerful guitar solo to conclude the song. “Travel” would next take us on yet another improvisational journey, filled with virtuous guitar and synth work that certainly equated to the sonic expedition the title implies. “Travel” sailed into “Hammerstrike”, a hard rocker off its namesake album that once again seemed to melt the faces of the entire crowd. Funky, fun, and new “Pachyderm” was next in the rotation. After first enjoying this live at Ram’s Head earlier this month, the funky synth tones and wildly fun guitar work have simply become addicting to me, and this has quickly become one of my favorite songs to hear Lotus shine on. Billboard single “Eats the Light” would follow, and Lotus again proved to their fans that this is no simple pop tune to turn your head away from, with a deep tunnel of a jam riding through the song that would carry it for over ten minutes. The crowd was then surprised with a rare standalone “Through the Mirror”; drawing large influences from Steve Reich’s adventures in counterpoint, this song is a crowd favorite and always leads to a colorful sonic presentation. The synth pads weren’t let off at the end of the jam, however, and the familiar extraterrestrial nuances of “128” became apparent. “128” led to some amazing guitar interplay between Luke Miller and Mike Rempel, garnished with perfectly tailored percussion work from Chuck Morris. To end the tour closer, the crowd would get its slow-dancer, “Disappear in a Blood-Red Sky”, just to get our emotions reeling before being sent off into the night with a supremely funky “Greet the Mind”, sure to keep excited spirits going well into the early morning hours.
The tour closer in Cleveland proved to be, once again, a rich presentation of sound, light, and love, continuing the trend that follows Lotus, their music, and their fans. At the brink of festival season, and, hopefully, a spring tour, there is no reason to miss a Lotus show right now. With extremely tight harmonies, a gripping sense of melody, and a cohesiveness between its members that is almost unmatched, Lotus is bringing raw emotion, deep sonic textures, and intelligent improvisation to stages all over the country this year. Not getting out to a show would be a huge mistake.
…And Yet They Dance
Lotus - Charlottesville & Baltimore - 2/9-10/16
By Leo A. Jennings IV
The early afternoon of the 9th brought me to some very close friends and one of my favorite towns to see live music in, Charlottesville, Virginia. Lotus made their return here after less than a year, when they presented a beautiful two-night run amidst the budding spring Virginia weather. This year would be a one night stop amidst the cold of winter at the cozy Jefferson Theater, a return to one of last year’s Charlottesville venues. The high ceiling, sloped floor, and awesome acoustics always helps add to the experience, and makes the Jefferson one of my favorite venues.
After Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics put on a pretty fantastic set, everyone got their smokes in and drinks refilled, and put their game faces on. The lights dimmed again, and that was the signal that it was time to dance. Lotus grabbed the crowd’s innate desire to boogie immediately with a hard hitting “Juggernaut” to get the crowd moving quickly. “Middle Road” followed the fantastic peak of “Juggernaut”, and let the crowd catch its breath just a bit with its medium tempo and swirly funk vibe. A deep synth pad filled the room that slowly bled in to the Nomad classic, “Livingston Storm”, which was presented with a long, intense, and gripping jam that totaled over 15 minutes. “Storm” hinted at “Golden Ghost” but ended up at “Cannon in the Heavens”; the hip-hop tune had a few eyebrows raised, but more feet stomping than anything else. Lead guitar player Mike Rempel closed out “Cannon” with a ripping solo that left a few faces a little more than twisted. “Suitcases” followed, another fan favorite from studio album Nomad, and boasted a very tight but explosive improv section, where the band’s synchronicity really shined through on every level. The experimental synth, guitar, and percussion interplay neatly spilled into Mord Fustang’s “We Are Now Connected”, which was kept shorter than in the past, but more direct with where the music was heading. Wah clicks from Rempel sounded out the familiar “Opo”, albeit at a much higher tempo than usual, which had the crowd shaking a little quicker than they may have expected. As “Opo” concluded, the eerie sounds of D’n’B classic “Did Fatt” resounded throughout the room, entrancing the crowd as always. It was pretty clear at this point that we would be witnessing a single set show. Filled with ripping instrumental work from every member of the band, “Did Fatt” once again showed Lotus soaring into new heights of improvisational altitude, bolstered by complex guitar work and a tight rhythm section that had the band filling the entire sonic spectrum. A gradual increase in tempo and change in key brought the crowd back to the previously unfinished “Suitcases”, putting a seal on that jam for the night. The slow plucks of “Invincibility of Youth” followed, a song which has been seeing a more loud and intense jam lately; the night of the 9th proved no different. The ever so groovy “Mikesnack” came up next, and kept the fans on the move with its fun guitar and percussion smothered jam until we were hit with one of the most exploratory and fun “Jump Off”’s our ears have ever been graced with. A screaming guitar solo at the end of the song left the crowd begging for more at the encore break, and Lotus shuffled back to the stage to present us with “…And Yet They Fight”, a new post-rock jam with heartfelt melodies, and concluded the show with a fun and bouncy “Bellwether”. Lotus showed extremely strong working harmony as a unit with their improv, and only left us more excited for next evening’s show in Baltimore.
A late arrival to Ram’s Head the next night caused our crew to miss another set from Menert and the Fantastics, but we arrived just in time to get warmed up to Lotus. An exploratory “Wax” would lift off the night, helping fans warm up from the chilly winds rolling in off of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. A three level venue, Ram’s Head offers several vantage points and I soon found myself traversing all sides of the room before “Wax” was over to greet friends who had come from near and far to hear the wonder that is Lotus and spend time with the people they love the most. Sax-filled “Basin to Benin” was up next, followed by the hard-rocking, infamous segue setter, “Lead Pipe”. After a span of heavy synth and vocoder work, standing on the shoulders of some very speedy and solid play from the rest of the band, “Tip of the Tongue” fell upon our ears, giving way to yet another dance party, which has become very commonplace for this song, consistently leaving a lot of room for the band to improvise throughout. The sweet melodies of Caywood sprung forth, displaying some more pronounced and slightly altered, yet very pleasing guitar work in some sections that tickled many of the ears in the room. Organ and guitar spiced Expired Slang crashed in, leading to an expansive jam that had the crowd grooving at its highest capacity thus far in the evening. The drums of Ratatat’s “Cream on Chrome” crashed in, a cover that has been making appearances at shows since mid-2015. Lotus always seems to have a great deal of fun with this cover. Following a short set break was the perpetually grin-inducing “Sunrain”. Even that grumpy bartender upstairs was smiling. A lengthy, blissful expedition through “Sunrain” tunneled its way into “Slow Cookin’”, which brought the house down with fun synth improv interspersed with strong harmonic support from the rest of the band. An in-your-face conclusion to “Cookin” slammed its way back into the outrageously joyful tail end of “Sunrain”, leaving smiles stamped on faces all over the venue. New tune “Pachyderm” was next, which has very fun, whimsical vibe reminiscent of a lot of early 70’s funk and fusion. Billboard single “Eats the Light” came to the proving ground for the crowd following “Pachyderm”. Featuring (sampled) vocals from Pan Astral’s Gabe Otto, “Eats the Light” is a fun dance-rock tune which has a hint of Talking Heads influence, but fully retains the Lotus flavor, and lent itself to a precise groove that showed the band thoroughly utilizing their talents. “When H Binds to O” slowed down the vibe in the room for a moment, though this was not a bad thing at all. “Eats the Light” presented superb danceability that had many of us catching our breath at its end. “Plant Your Root”, another Nomad classic, serenaded the fans into its twirling sonic depths, extensively entrancing us until familiar echoes of “Flower Sermon” hit our ears. A Lotus classic and fan favorite, “Sermon” displayed some vastly fun melodies and high speed interplay between percussionist Chuck Morris and guitarist Mike Rempel, which dropped into a dark, encapsulating sonic journey that took the crowd by the ears and kept us immersed to its end. Beautiful “Colorado” was our first encore tune, followed by the reflective post-rocker “Gilded Age”, and the show was brought to a close.
Lotus put on two amazing shows, and displayed amazing improvisational prowess both nights. Every segue between songs flowed seamlessly, no band member overstepped their bounds, and most importantly, it seemed as if no stone was left unturned. Lotus has been displaying a keen ability to explore the improvisational space of their music to the fullest, especially as of late, and this tour has thus far seen the band exponentiating that ability. Between the amazing music, time traveling on the road, and reconnecting with the most amazing people I know, there is no experience in live music more fulfilling than the Lotus experience. Don’t leave yourself excluded from the pure sonic glory and heartfelt memory making that is Lotus. Stay tuned to The Passion Collective for another in-depth review of Lotus’s show in Columbus, Ohio on the 20th!
The Disco Biscuits are returning to Philadelphia, after a triumphant New Year's run in Times Square. They're prepared to blow the roof off The Fillmore, Philadelphia's new premier music venue. It's always awesome to see the band on stages that they've never played before - it's especially awesome when it's in the city where they started. They've thrown down a number of legendary shows at pretty much every venue that Philadelphia has to offer, so it's going to be a fresh experience for everyone who is in the room that night.Read More
Now that some time has passed since the Disco Biscuits played a four-night New Year's run in Times Square, I feel that I can properly review what took place. Four nights of extensive risks and deliberate bliss from the kings of jamtronica, the Disco Biscuits. I've been listening to the soundboards nonstop since they were released and they haven't gotten old yet. Each night has something that stands out - a segment, standalone, or transition that is worth relistening to. The Disco Biscuits have been playing music for twenty years. Not only that, but they've continued to progress and experiment.Read More
New Year's Eve is one of the most anticipated weekends of the year for any live music fan. For several of us, this meant Lotus would be ringing in our new year once again, in the most blissful way possible.Read More
It's been a magnificent year for the Disco Biscuits and their team. Since the beginning of it, their shows have continuously gotten tighter while staying explorative and balanced. The jamtronica pioneers from Philadelphia have proven to fans old and new that they’re here to stay. It’s as if they caught a second, well third wind. They went into 2015 with a notable New Years Eve show and they’ll go out of it the same way; with imaginative, idealistic set-lists and exceptional execution.Read More
The Disco Biscuits aren't like many other bands, and they don't want to be. They are one in their own; they're original and they're musical pioneers. A top-notch Disco Biscuits show has the ability to hook you for life. There's no band that can do what they do, how they do it. The Biscuits hadn't played a Halloween show in five years so everyone was anxious to see what would take place.Read More
After not playing a Halloween show in five years, The Disco Biscuits are stepping up to the plate with a three night run. Five years ago they joined the String Cheese Incident in Charlottesville, Virginia. This year's Halloween extravaganza will start on the 29th in Boston at The Orpheum Theatre. The band hasn't performed in Boston for a few years so New England fans are very excited. From there they'll head to Syracuse; on the 30th they'll be at the F Shed and on the 31st they'll be at the Crouse Hinds Theatre.Read More
September ended with brisk mornings and warm smiles. Summer is officially over. It's whimsical vibrancy faded into autumn with a certain smoothness, one that can be felt in the body and mind. Catskill Chill eased me into the next chapter of my life with restored confidence. It's true what they say, my batteries have been recharged.Read More
Lotus has created a special reverence that continues to evolve in a way that is deep-rooted and organic. Without forcing themselves onto their audience or using played out promotional tools, they've built a dedicated fan base that is both loyal and respectful. Every year that fan base makes the annual trek to Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, Ohio for four sets of spectacular Lotus. It's quite evident that there's a magical connection between Lotus and Nelson Ledges. Most anyone who has seen Lotus play there will agree. This year proved to be one of the most magical performances of the bands recent history. The quintet returned to Summerdance with four stand-out sets, each one possessing unique elemental energy. This type of energy has become expected of them as of late. Lotus fans came from far and wide to experience the symbiosis that takes place. As the crowd at Summerdance continues to grow so does the love and respect for Lotus, both go hand in hand.
After everybody arrived on Friday and settled into their campsites, the fun began. Most spent their afternoons exploring the venue and swimming in the quarry. Music fans from far and wide reacquainted themselves with friends both old and new. The weather was warm and the water was perfect, it's a great feeling to have sand beneath your feet while you're getting down to some great music. Although Lotus didn't play on Friday, there wasn't a shortage of good music. Broccoli Samurai and the New Deal both threw down killer sets. Broccoli Samurai is a young Ohio jamtronica band that is hands down one of the best up and coming acts in the country. I become more and more impressed every time I see them play a festival set. They're extremely good at what they do - by blending the sounds of bands like the New Deal and Lotus, Broccoli Samurai has created a refreshed and original brand of jamtronica. They can play floating psychedelic jam-rock as well as untzy four on the floor livetronica next to the best.
Up next was the New Deal who I've seen multiple times this year. Since they announced their return with a new drummer, many fans have given mixed reviews of their sets. I'll be the first to say that their set at Summerdance was far from the best I've seen from them. It wasn't horrible but they didn't perform at the caliber that I've seen in the past. It took them a bit to get warmed up but the second half of their set was an all out dance party. Once they connect and get locked in, they have the ability to improvise with the best. Although it wasn't the greatest set that I've seen from them musically, I still had a fantastic time getting down with my friends.
I had one thing on my mind once Saturday morning came and it was two sets of Lotus. Plain and simple. I spent most of the day lounging at my campsite with friends after a quick dip in the cool water of the quarry. After all, I needed rest for a promising night of music and shenanigans. My friends that love Lotus are an interesting bunch of fun-loving characters from. Many of us share the love of traveling to see music and we have a good time doing so. A lot of people that travel to see music have some type of pain or yearning that hides deep beneath the surface. It's these gatherings like Summerdance that give everyone a chance to release and heal. Lotus provides a platform for like-minded people to get together and spread positivity. The reactions on the faces in the crowd proved this theory to be true. Besides my own personal reflection, I spend a lot of time observing how the music affects others. It's always a pleasure to see people getting down to a band they love, especially Lotus.
The band opened up their debut set of Summerdance 2015 with Inspector Norse by Todd Terje, one of the best covers in their recent catalogue of songs. The smooth disco hints eased the crowd into the first set of Summerdance. They've really been able to build on the song and make it their own. After a delicate Sunrain, the segment of the set started. Spaghetti into Wax exemplified the range of this band. When it comes to sound, the two songs are at opposite ends of their spectrum. Spaghetti was exactly what I needed in the first set. It instilled in me what I already knew, the weekend was going to be packed with high quality Lotus. Another prime example of the peaks and valleys that this band brings to the table. The riff of Tycho's Awake began and brought an instant feeling of surprise. The song was my favorite cover of the weekend. They nailed the composition without suffocating their creativity. Luke Miller placed it in the set-list perfectly. A phenomenal choice to follow such an explorative segment. A wave of ambience washed over the crowd turning it into a sea of smiles.
Contagion was the one song that I wanted to hear them play the most. I was ecstatic when they opened the second set with it. The song really gets the blood pumping and the body moving. It's a blend of electro-funk and jam-rock with a lot of originality and room to experiment. The rhythm section of Jesse Miller, Chuck Morris, and Mike Greenfield held it down while Luke Miller and Mike Rempel tossed the lead melody back and forth. It built into a super funked out rendition of Tip of the Tongue which always works great in a set. Lotus has really expanded on the original version, pushing it to new heights this year. The vocal samples fit the track very well, it's a soulful competition with a lot of open space. Mike Rempel went off at the end of the song like he always does, I feel like he really pushed a lot of the jams this weekend, Tip of the Tongue was one of them. By the end of the song everybody had holes under their feet from dancing in the sand so hard.
I was definitely impressed by the jam out of Plaid's Shackbu and into Did Fatt. Did Fatt is one of my all-time favorite Lotus songs, and it always will be. The version at Summerdance was another impeccable display of space rock, an eerie feel and extra-terrestrial theme stayed fluent throughout. New fans got a chance to see and feel why I love this song so much. It got re-implanted in the minds of old fans. Every member always gets a chance to shine and show their personal skills. When they're all on the same page, it can be a spectacular musical journey, and it was just that. From start to finish, it was free-flowing. Mike Rempel really opened it up at one point and Jesse Miller was right behind him with a thumping bass line. The entire band broke the song down into its rudimental rhythms and built it back up with a calming tenacity. They slid into Flower Sermon with an idealistic jam that was simple yet refined. Flower Sermon is a staple, if you love Lotus than you enjoy a good Flower Sermon. The set ended with a funky, soulful version of Strawberry Letter 23 and a powerful Hammerstrike. Rempel's tone really shined with the cowbells of Chuck Morris, as it always does on Strawberry Letter 23. The 1977 song by The Brothers Johnson has solidified its position in their rotation. Hammerstrike closed out the set and brought a perfect storm of rhythm and melody. It got everyone amped up for the next night, the energy at that point was palpable.
For any true fan of Lotus, it's no secret that the second night of Summerdance brought the best Lotus sets of the summer. They pushed their usual improvisation to a new level and their musical risks paid off. The jams ignited a burning energy in both the band and crowd. Lotus opened the final night with fan favorite Nematode. Another song that is an absolute staple in their catalogue. It was a sign that they were going to play one of the best Summerdance sets of all time. By opening the final night with Nematode and busting out Epidemic, they let fans know that they've been listening. Epidemic was the first bust out of the night, although it didn't have any type-two jamming, it was cool to see them dust it off. The thirty minute Middle Road was exactly what I want to see from this band. It was one of the deepest jams that I've ever seen from Lotus, if not the deepest. They took a massive step into uncharted territory. An excursion in the opposite direction of pre-meditated ideas. The jam turned into a locomotive that barreled down the tracks, each musician had a different role in keeping it going. It got planetary and explosive at some points, other times it was minimalistic and shadowy. The entire jam was littered with a multitude of elements from numerous genres. A bass fueled halftime drop brought a sharp funk-rock guitar solo by Mike Rempel, which was backed by synthesizers and percussion. The entire Middle Road was epic, lively and on the edge, but never too far over. The transition into Spiritualize was masterful. It was seamless and hit me on all fronts. I'd comfortably say that Spiritualize is the epitome of Lotus. The song represents exactly what Lotus is about. The band speaks to you through their instrumentation and improvisation, if you're in the right mind-state, the song can have a monumental effect on you. Spiritualize brought an intense tranquility that was felt by everyone, they stepped into the song with grace and executed with soul. The entire segment pumped life into Nelson Ledges. It closed the first set of the final night with a triumphant feeling of contagious inspiration. I've never seen Lotus play a four song set. It was impactful
The final set of Summerdance 2015 included a new Rat a Tat cover and an old classic that hasn't been played in fourteen years. The first three songs were cool but the second half of the set is where the real treasure laid. It began with Comptroller which brought out a balanced combination of dark and light, moving back and forth between the two. It set up the following song like a half court alley-oop. When the beginning notes of In The Bliss floated from Mike Rempel's guitar, it was a moment that I will never forget. The atmosphere became spaced out with the feeling of a lucid dream. It was inspiring to see people hypnotized by the drifting melodies of the timeless song; a song that so many fans have chased for so long. In The Bliss is the essence of early Lotus and I'm beyond grateful that I got to experience it live. The only thing that shocked me more than the initial notes what that they transitioned into Soma. Both songs represent what I love about Lotus. While they're both organic and abstract, they're not disjointed or sloppy. Soma delivered a certain poignancy that has become somewhat rare in the livetronica scene. I thought they were going to end it with Soma but I was wrong, they turned it up a notch and got everybody pumped with a throbbing 128. It's a four-on-the-floor dance-rock jam with heavy synthesizer layers, Luke Miller really showed off how the New Deal has influenced him. It rocked the crowd and ended the set on a high note.
Lotus came back out for a two song encore that left fans high and happy. Intro to a Cell was a great choice, the combination of Chuck's percussion and dueling guitars create a synergistic display of dynamic range. With a mighty peak, it had the crowd on their toes before being brought down one last time. Lotus is so good at doing just that, bringing the crowd all the way up and then setting them back down with gentle direction. Behind Midwest Storefronts closed out Summerdance 2015 with an emotional satisfaction, one that was felt by every single individual who truly loves this band. I saw a lot of tears and hugs during the song. It's one of those songs that holds special meaning to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. A symbiosis took place on the beach during that song, it let everybody know that everything was going to be alright. The light is going to shine through and the future is going to be bright. The stars smiled upon us all with a nurturing presence of natural comfort. Lotus ended the weekend with a perfect storm of songs; the band executed with precise playing and showed everyone that they're continuing to move onward and upward. They're doing so by never forgetting where they came from, never forgetting their roots. The sound and songs may chance but the emotion will always stay the same. Underneath it all Lotus is communicating a message of hope and peace, one that the world really needs. Keep your ears and eyes open, this is just the beginning.
Overall, it was the riskiest and most creative that I've ever seen Lotus play. The whole weekend had special moments scattered throughout, ones that I won't soon forget. The magical connection between Lotus and Nelson Ledges is alive and well. I'm curious to see what next year brings the band; I wish them continued success as their fan base grows and their shows evolve, thousands of people become more and more inspired. All five musicians are clicking with an alleviated sense of togetherness. Each band member contributes a necessary aspect; Luke Miller is the mind, Mike Rempel is the soul, Jesse Miller is the heart beat while Chuck Morris and Mike Greenfield are the backbone. The being of Lotus would not be able to function without each member putting forth their best effort. There's something esoteric about Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, and Lotus knows it. The combination of the two create an energy that is one in its own. Their songs filled the air with infectious bliss that was felt by all. Lotus is going everywhere without going anywhere. They are taking the music scene by storm without gimmicks and overzealous promotion. Authenticity goes a long way in music and Lotus has proven that. Summerdance was the pinnacle of their hard work and dedication, the band and fans know it. Absorb the energy and cast it back into the world with a smile on your face. Use what you felt at Summerdance to benefit your life. Remember, the Lotus vibes are everlasting.