The Disco Biscuits Deliver A Solid Three-Night Run In Philly
The Disco Biscuits did it again; they threw down a solid three-night run in their hometown of Philadelphia. Back to the E factory, I was in attendance for both Friday and Saturday. There's a certain vibe at a Biscuits show in Philly, it's unlike any other show you'll ever attend. From the pre-show cheese steaks to the infinite amount of circle logos, the Disco Biscuits are highly praised in the City of Brotherly love. The band has become a staple to the Philadelphia music community and it definitely shows, they created an entire scene. Twenty years have gone by since they were that college band covering Phish at house parties and a lot has changed. At the same time, a lot has stayed the same. They may have switched drummers and tweaked their sound a bit but they're still the same old Biscuits. Some of the same fans that were seeing them twenty years ago in frat house basements were posted up at the Electric Factory, waiting to see their boys blow the minds of the younger generation. They did just that.
On Friday night, I was anxious as could be cruising down the Jersey turnpike from New York. I kept replaying the jams from their New Years Eve show in my head. After arriving in Philly, I met up with some friends and heard their reviews from the night before. The overall opinion was that Thursday night was pretty lackluster, I was confident that night two was going to blow the previous night into oblivion. I was right. The Biscuits started the night off proper with a monster 'Triumph' opener that most every fan enjoys. The opening riff got dark and dirty real fast as the lasers cut through the smoke lingering above the crowd. It was a great choice to start the night off, it was tight for the most part and Barber absolutely shredded the mid section before passing the melody to Magner who turned the Factory into synthesizer heaven. I could feel that they were locking in, Allen came in from the back end and sped the tempo up as Barber laid down some tight licks as they transitioned out of Triumph and into Rock Candy. I will always enjoy a well-played Rock Candy and this one was no different, Magner danced along his keys with a delicate mix of organ and synth. Brownie bounced the song along with a calm yet strong bass line as Barber softly picked a sweet melody. It was supersonic bliss, Magner took hold of the jam and steered it into a deep groove that had fans dancing involuntary. The four of them built upon each other’s sounds and brought the jam out from the darkness into the light. It then got dark again, it got dark real quick as they segued into 'Shadow'; A song that has recently been dusted off and is starting to get played again. Brownie led the way with a thumping bass line as Allen kept time with his thirst quenching E-drums and signature hi-hats. Trance-fusion filled the air as fans floated through time and space at any speed they chose. The factory turned into an ambient spaceship in slow motion for a few moments. Again, the Biscuits remained patient and delivered some solid jams before speeding up the tempo a bit and dropping into 'Astronaut'. As I looked around, I saw many different facial expressions, it was beginning to get deep and I loved every second of it. Magner had some really funky keyboard playing and effects; Allen rode his ride cymbal nicely and kept the rhythm. Barber strummed away, backing up Magner as he took the lead. It's truly an art form to watch Barber and Magner pass melodies back and forth, it's very unique and nobody can do it like them. The ending of ‘Astronaut’ got intense though; it was one of the darkest sections of the night for sure. At first, I wasn't sure what they were segueing into but I knew something sick was coming. I watched as they communicated to each other through their instruments, it became very planetary as the lasers guided the crowd into an alternate dimension. We were all aboard the band's galactic space shuttle and there was no getting off, there was no choice but to buckle up and enjoy the ride. Out of nowhere the signature lyrics of Rock Candy came from the speakers as they slid into the songs ending to finish the first set. It was epic.
I was very surprised to hear the first song of the second set. They played 'A Fifth of Beethoven' just like New Years Eve, it was cool but nowhere near as special as the first time they played it at Best Buy Theatre. Still, it was funky as hell and made me feel like I was transported back to the early eighties. It was quick and the crowd cheered when it ended and then set two really started. Brownie hit it off with that classic bass line and they dropped into the beginning of 'Shem Rah Boo', one of my favorite songs. I am seriously impressed with the improvisation that can come out of that song; Magner goes off on the organ as the rest of the band lays down the backbone. From there the band segued into their classic 'Confrontation', a fan favorite written by bassist Marc Brownstein during the early 2000s. It was an especially awesome rendition of the song as Dopapod's drummer Scotty Zwang somehow hopped behind the kit and took over for Allen without most of the crowd even realizing. Zwang has been a diehard fan of the Disco Biscuits since the early days so I can only imagine how special that must have been for him. I believe it was his ninety-eighth time seeing them, what better way to celebrate than to play on stage with your favorite band. The jam section was lead by Magner has Barber and Brownie kept the rhythm with a nifty riff and thumping bass line. They jammed directly into ‘Spraypaint’, which can be a super strong jam-oriented song when the band is locked in. It is definitely one of the best songs off their 2011 release 'Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens'. The band showed their dynamics as they slowed it down a bit and let Magner show off his classic piano skills. A repetitive bass line laid the foundation behind beautiful cymbal work and soft guitar. It didn't stay that way for long though as they patiently built a spaced out jam that really brought the untz. The bass drum began to pound through the speakers at the Electric Factory and everyone knew something big was coming. It was rising slowly but surely before sliding into the ending of 'Shem Rah Boo’, which is super, funky. Barber and Brownie sang those classic lyrics "The man of the hour, the man of the year" before busting into that epic solo that fans know and love. It was, without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of the weekend. It's not every show that you get a Shem Rah ending. The crowd cheered loudly as the boys on stage smiled back. Barber counted off 1-2-3-4 and they dropped into '7-11', the lyrics echoed through the venue everywhere you went. It was massive, Allen crushed the entire song and delivered those signature thirst quenchers the fans know and love. Magner displayed ridiculous keyboard work as he carried the crowd into an alternate dimension; Barber was smiling as he played a long to Magner's synthesizers. The trancefusion was throbbing in this particular section of the show as they seamlessly segued into 'Save The Robots'. I watched as they sped the pace up and constructed the beast. It was mind-blowing as it most always is. Barber shredded the entire song into pieces with precision. By this time of the show most everybody's faces were melted. It was short and sweet. They walked off stage and returned to encore with 'I Remember When’, which is one of my all-time favorite songs. Every single head in the building had a smile on their face. For me, Fridays show was definitely the best of the three nights. The band took a ton of risks and nailed most of them on the head.
I woke up on Saturday morning ecstatic for nightfall; the Disco Biscuits were throwing down three sets instead of two. It was billed as "An Intimate Night With the Disco Biscuits", that it was. Many fans were hoping and wishing that the guys were going to play Barber's Hot Air Balloon rock opera. The boys took this into consideration and messed with the fans heads as they always do. They started the night off with a massive Caterpillar>Humu>Caterpillar sandwich. After that crazy dance party, the Biscuits broke it down and did two awesome stand-alone versions of 'The Overture' and 'Once The Fiddler Played'. Both songs are serious classics that have been getting played for years. It was a solid first set but I was ready for the craziness to ensue during the following two. The second set on Saturday was probably my second favorite set of the weekend; it's hard to choose between set 2 and 3 on Saturday. They opened with one of my favorite sandwiches that they play, Shelby Rose>The City>Shelby Rose. It never gets old to me and it will always be one of my favorite Disco Biscuits segments even though they have played it a good amount of times, it doesn't get old to me. The Disco Biscuits are a one of a kind band and every time that I see them play a great show it becomes more and more evident to me. After the Shelby Rose sandwich, they played a huge four-song segment. From the beginning of 'Above The Waves' they jammed right into a gigantic ‘Spacebirdmatingcall’, which segued into an inverted 'Bernstein & Chasnoff' then back into the ending of Spacebird. That entire segment has some really, really good stuff in it. The crowd could tell how much more locked in the band was compared to the first night. Their playing was black and white. The third set on Saturday had some absolute heat in it. Although it wasn't as risky as Friday nights' sets, it had a ton of sick improvisation in it. They started playing and didn't stop until the set was over, it was an enormous five-song segment filled with choice jams and electronic grooves. The third and final set of the run was most definitely a heater and a fantastic finale to the three-night run. It started off with the beginning of 'Save The Robots’, which completed the encore from the night before. From there, the Biscuits segued into a crazy inverted 'Story of the World' which was a definite highlight especially when they jammed into 'Munchkin Invasion' from it. The Munchkin got intense as they turned the Electric Factory into a trance-fueled jungle with wide-eyed animals as far as the eye could see. At one point I looked around and just started laughing, everyone was getting down in the best way possible. It was one big party. The boys transitioned into another classic 'And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night' which was seamless and had everyone busting out their best dance moves. The entire third set was extremely improvised and has some magic in it. They ended the set with a monster jam into the ending of 'Basis For A Day’, which completed Thursday’s version. The entire venue cheered as the four musicians we know and love smiled and nodded at each other. The Disco Biscuits came back on stage and encored with the Grateful Dead classic 'One More Saturday Night', it was the first time that the Biscuits ever played the song and I have a feeling it won't be the last. All in all it was an extremely solid run and it got everyone pumped for the rest of the year. Although the band didn't announce the return of Camp Bisco, fans are remaining optimistic about the return of their favorite festival.
After re-listening to all of the sets I have decided that my favorite set of the weekend is the first set on Friday. It has some awesome jams in it and the set-list is creative and risky. I cannot wait to see what the Disco Biscuits play during their upcoming run in Colorado. If you have the means to be there, you should definitely buy tickets. They're playing four shows, three shows at the Ogden Theatre and one massive throw down at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmen of the Grateful Dead. I stand by my feeling that 2015 will go down as one of the best years since 2009. The band seems to be pumped up and so do the fans, if you have a chance to catch the Disco Biscuits this year. Do it.