The Disco Biscuits Have Found a Balance; Inspired, Passionate and Looking Toward the Future [Bisco Inferno 2015 Review]
The Disco Biscuits proved my preview to be truthful; they threw down a monstrous four-night run in the great state of Colorado. The run left fans yearning for more. This years Bisco Inferno was seriously something special, many fans felt that it was the best Colorado run in years. It seems that the boys have found their balance once again and it’s a sensational thing to watch unfold. When this band is locked in and playing up to their potential, there are very few bands that can top them, let alone match them. After twenty years of playing together with a ton of highs and a few lows, the Disco Biscuits are playing like they’re all twenty-five again. The energy that they displayed on night-one at the Ogden Theatre was just as electric as night-four. That’s when you know it’s good. The band had smiles plastered across their faces from the moment they walked on stage. I felt the ecstatic energy stretched out across the entire venue. Diehard fans knew their favorite band had been practicing as soon as the first notes exited the speakers. The vibe remained unmistakable and pure for the entire run. Every show had specific high points that stood out, from mind-melting technicality to silky jazz that smoothly penetrated the heart and soul. The Disco Biscuits touched every section of the musical palate. It’s exciting to see the band and the fans so pumped up after a few lackluster years. The band is pushing boundaries, staying creative and jamming with patient precision. The boys out of Philadelphia are back and they’re ready to reclaim the recognition they deserve.
The first night at the Ogden Theatre in Denver was my second favorite show of the run. They came out swinging and didn’t waste any time. A ton of fans had just arrived in Denver that day and were anxious for the music and shenanigans to begin. Jon ‘The Barber’ Gutwillig delivered razor sharp riffs from his Gibson hollow body as Aron Magner laid down a landscape of layered synthesizers. The opening segment ended up standing out as one of the best of the weekend. Not much can go wrong when they execute a ‘7-11’ opener properly. The real treat was that it was the Perfume version and they transitioned seamlessly into ‘Rainbow Song’, which doesn’t get played too often anymore. They didn’t rush or noodle, it was a tight-knit segment with every member doing exactly what they were supposed to. I was able to sense their connectivity with-in the first twenty minutes of their first set. ‘Neckromancer’ was a treat that brought everyone back to 2009 but I’d have to say that ‘The Overture’ was my second favorite highlight from the first set. They sped the tempo up and delivered an extremely solid rendition of the classical composition. As I stood and watched my favorite band have the time of their lives on stage, I felt a warm blanket of euphoria drape over me. Once set-break hit and bassist Marc Brownstein recited his spiel about being back in fifteen minutes, I processed the first set and immediately knew that the second set was going to blow it out of the water. It happened, the second set of night-one most definitely delivered, more than I ever thought it would. The Disco Biscuits came to play, the four-piece aggressively transitioned in and out of songs with a delicate touch. Without a doubt, the best segment from the second set was the ‘Shadow’ into inverted ‘Confrontation’. My other choice would obviously have to be the dyslexic ‘Above The Waves’/’After Midnight’ sandwich. The band took risks and capitalized on the energy that was in the room. They got super dark during ‘Shadow’ and people started to lose their minds in the best way possible. I loved every single second of it; no band can get as dark and dirty as the Disco Biscuits, they are the originators of that signature trance-fusion sound. The ‘Rockafella’ encore was my favorite encore out of the four nights; I’ll always love that song. They played it differently than the normal version and it sounded sick. To be honest, I didn’t expect the show to be as good as it was. It was one of the best opening nights that I’ve seen from the Disco Biscuits in the last five years.
On the second night of the run, the set-list really shined on paper. It was a beautiful blend of old and new songs. They opened up with a super jammed out version of one of their most classic tunes ‘Once The Fiddler Paid’. I enjoyed it as the band eased the anxious crowd into night-two. I also need to mention that the transition out of ‘Story of the World’ into ‘Tricycle’ was seriously well played. The first set was really good but the second set was what Bisco dreams are made of. I can’t pick out one song or segment, the entire set flowed very well and turned the Ogden Theatre into a packed zoo of wild animals. The Disco Biscuits got the party popping with a ‘Mr. Don’ that was full of grooves and improvisation. They kept me on my toes during the entire second set, literally. From ‘Mr. Don’ they slowed it down and slid into the first half of Barbers masterpiece ‘Magellan’. The jam out of ‘Magellan’ into ‘Cyclone’ was one of the best I’ve heard from them in the past four years. It was sick to see them transition in and out of two songs that are completely opposite. They controlled speed and time like wizards, as their rhythm remained entirely parallel. I stood in the back of the venue and gazed upon a crowd of party animals as they became entrapped in the catered trance-fusion of the Disco Biscuits. When ‘Cyclone’ dropped and Brownstein hit those bass lines, I thought the crowd was going to stomp the floor in. My favorite part of the jam has to be when they cut the tempo in half and slow it down to a half-step, it gives Barber and Magner room to really go off melodically. The entire segment was organic intensity; it’s what they do best. Out of nowhere, they somehow ended up in the beginning of ‘Munchkin Invasion’, which is always a great song when it’s placed in the right spot. It showcased their ability to stop and start on a dime. Nobody saw it coming. It was a perfect example of the blissful chaos that these four musicians can create together, especially when they’re all on the same page. From beginning to end, the entire show was an all-around success.
The big night finally arrived, it was time for a three-set evening with the Disco Biscuits at the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The event was billed as two original Biscuits sets and one Grateful Dead tribute set with original drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. Many fans had already made the trek to see the Disco Biscuits perform a set with Billy and Mickey; a few months earlier they performed at the Gathering of the Vibes in Connecticut. I heard a ton of negative reviews. I felt that the band knew they needed to do another set professionally to leave a good impression on both fans of the Disco Biscuits and the Grateful Dead. They did exactly that. With their longtime friend and guitarist Tom Hamilton, the guys laid down one of the most memorable sets of music that I will see for the rest of my life. It was tremendously special to see Brownie, Magner, Barber and T-Ham all on stage next to each other, smiling and laughing. It was priceless. They went from playing Phish covers in frat-house basements to sharing the stage together at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. With two members of the most legendary American rock band of all time no less. The Disco Biscuits started the night off with a four-song set, which was actually really on point musically. They threw down an awesome ‘Memphis’ and a super tribal ‘Caves of the East’ but set two is where the real magic took place.
I could honestly sit here and type up five pages on this set alone but I’m going to try and keep it minimal. The Disco Biscuits with Tom Hamilton, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart was one of the best musical experiences of my life. They all stepped out onto that stage with buzzing energy that lasted from start to finish. Jon Gutwillig played to impress, he truly looked like he was in heaven. It was natural and real, there was no forced fakeness what so ever. From diehard fans of the Disco Biscuits to old heads who followed the Grateful Dead in their prime; everyone was basking in the blissful glory of the timeless tunes that were written oh so long ago. I’d have to say that there were high-points throughout the entire set but there are a few that really stood out. First off, they made a great decision by opening with ‘Jack Straw’. It settled everybody into the set and solidified the fact that we were all in for a treat. Gutwillig and Hamilton successfully performed legit vocal harmonies and nailed both the composed and improvised sections. My favorite song came in the center of the set; they did an absolutely stunning version of ‘Terrapin Station’. It was triumphant and awe-inspiring. Everything was perfect, the lighting was especially complex yet intricately subtle. An ambient vibe washed over the crowd like a tidal wave as we floated into a momentary abyss. I’ll listen to the recording of that song for years to come. I guarantee that I’ll get the same exact tingle down my spine as I did when I saw it live. It was supersonic and magical. The other section that I thought was spectacular was the 'Space' into 'Wharf Rat'. Red Rocks expanded into a cosmic plain of extraterrestrial sound and sight. It got utterly psychedelic to say the least. The whole performance made the Gathering of the Vibes set look like band practice. I have to give credit where credit is due; Tom Hamilton was definitely the glue and played a fantastic rhythm guitar. He deserves all the praise that he’s given. After all, you need two guitarists to properly execute the Grateful Dead. Hats off to the Disco Biscuits for performing up to their ability, they gave fans both old and new a night they’ll never forget.
The fourth and final night of the run was a sold out Saturday night show at the Ogden Theatre. A travelling circus of fans from far and wide made their return to Denver. It was a packed house with a crowd that was begging for a taste of that unmatched trance-fusion. When the lights came down everybody knew what time it was. The Disco Biscuits brought Tom Hamilton on stage and opened with ‘One More Saturday Night’, they also played it on Saturday during their Electric Factory run. Next, they did an awesome standalone version of ‘Plan B’, which is always exploratory when the boys are on point. The first set was cool but the second set is what stood out to me from Saturday. It was one of most heated openers I’ve seen in a while; they tore into ‘Caterpillar’ with aggressive precision. It had the place rocking, a killer example of their primal ability to transform venues into madhouses. Jon Gutwillig shredded the peak with the furious and adventurous improvisation that he’s become known for. Keyboard player Aron Magner laid down a wall of synonymous sound, intrinsic notes that danced along with each other flawlessly. After a few re-listens, it has become apparent that it’s my favorite ‘Caterpillar’ as of late. Allen Aucion stayed in the pocket with a relaxed yet technical presence; his drum and bass style suits the Disco Biscuits perfectly. Marc Brownstein holds the song together with quiet but strong control. His bass lines have set an undertone for the bands progression and digression in the peaks and valleys of their jams. The band finished the last set of the run with a classic that everyone knew was going to come eventually, ‘Nughuffer’. It was a fun closer. Everyone sparked up and celebrated a successful run. The entire band was glowing as the crowd cheered and thanked them for such a great experience. When they returned to the stage for their encore, they brought Tom Hamilton out one last time. A lot of people had a pretty good idea what was going to come next. The five of them threw down a modern version of the timeless classic ‘Shakedown Street’. It was a fitting ending to one of the best Disco Biscuits runs in recent years. The vibes were on point and everyone shared the same excitement for the future. The Disco Biscuits have everyone on their toes as they push forward into the summer of their twentieth year together. Something tells me that 2015 will end up going down as one of the best years since Allen Aucion replaced original drummer Sam Altman.
I can only hope to continually witness the untouchable music that these guys create when they’re inspired. Together, the four of them make music that is unique and unmatched. For the past twenty years the Disco Biscuits have been original innovators and pillars in the genres of trance-fusion and jam-tronica. They have a bright future ahead of them with a number of shows on the horizon, the most important being the return of Camp Bisco. After taking a year off last summer, the festival has moved to Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The venue is already the home of Peach Music Festival and seems to have a pretty professional reputation. It’s going to be a magnificent summer of inspired jams and unlimited opportunities. Don’t miss out on one of the hottest festivals of the summer. Buy your ticket and take the ride; we’re going home again.