Son of the Untz: A Night of Filth and Intimacy With Tractorbear
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.