There was big news over the weekend! Nearing the end of their massive US tour, the Disco Biscuits rumbled through two sold out shows last Friday and Saturday night, at the Ogden Theater in Denver, and it won’t be long before the Biscuits are back again. The big news was the announcement of a headlining show at the most spectacular venue in the country – Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. For die-hard Disco Biscuit fans, this is pretty close to heaven. Appropriately enough, they’re calling it Bisco Inferno.
There were no opening acts; when you’re doing three sets a night, there’s no time for an opener. And anyway, the Biscuits seemed to have no trouble drawing a crowd all on their own, and even less trouble playing until the wee hours of the morning. That’s kind of their specialty, actually, and part of the motivation for the band when they pioneered Camp Bisco, a three-day electro-jam-fest held outside Mariaville, New York – they just wanted to keep playing without a curfew. The festival also brings a lot of new and interesting acts into the spotlight, and that might have also been part of the motivation.
The street outside the Ogden on Saturday night was something of a circus. People without tickets were madly scrambling for extras, offering large sums of money to anyone who could get them inside. Those with tickets snickered to themselves, full of the sense of self-satisfaction that comes with being part of the IN crowd. Costumes were in abundance, everything from 70’s chic, to 80’s glam, to Teletubbies. I love these sorts of crowds. When people are into something, they tend to go all out, and most people who are into the Disco Biscuits are reeeeaaaaaallly into the Disco Biscuits. Plus, concerts should (in my humble opinion) be a full sensory experience, and having something to look at is as important as having something to listen too. If done correctly, and it was on Saturday, the human circus is the best kind there is!
By the time I got inside, after convincing the security that it was in fact ok for me to bring my camera inside because I was with the band (half true, I was there on behalf of the band), and after wading through the three-ring circus to dead center stage, the Biscuits were in full swing. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Disco Biscuits, allow me to introduce you. The Disco Biscuits are another one of those progressively modern “fusion” bands. In as much as they can be categorized, I would call them as free form instrumental. Occasionally there is some singing, but that too comes across as fairly free form, or at least free verse, but words are certainly not the central pillar upon which the Biscuits built their musical careers.
Instead, the Biscuit scheme relies upon intricacy. Elements of jazz, pop, electronica, psychedelia, and straight up rock and roll are all woven into the tapestry of sound that is the Biscuits’ signature, and what a lush tapestry it is!
Part of the appeal of a band like the Disco Biscuits is that their set list is always new, always original, and never covers the same ground twice. For instance, in their two shows and six total sets at the Ogden Theater, the Disco Biscuits never repeated a song as far as I could tell. And in the hypothetical case where the band does repeat a song on back to back nights, the chances of each rendition being the same (or indeed even remotely similar) are slim to none. That’s what makes it exciting, but it’s also got to be exhausting.
The band was clearly tired and road weary. Marc Brownstein (bass) and Jon Gutwillig (guitar) were both glassy-eyed, slack-jawed, and a little hunched in the shoulders, but there was very little evidence of their state of unrest in the music itself. The crowd too was high energy, and I’m sure that feeding off the crowd’s momentum helped the guys to stay focused. “Our shows here are always amazing,” Marc Brownstein told the crowd after coming back out for the second set, “and that’s because of you guys!” Then he dropped the bomb – Bisco Inferno at Red Rocks – and the crowd nearly died. Then, the band launched back into a mean second set, and the crowd nearly died again.
Each song the band played built upon the energy of the last, rising and falling to dramatic effect, like a boat on the choppy seas of music. In a constant ebb and flow of momentum, the Disco Biscuits jumped from peak to peak through their sonic landscape. There were a few offbeat moments in the low points, chalk it up to exhaustion, but the buildup and climax phases, and there were a great many of these, made up for it. Moments of genius on the part of guitarist Jon Gutwillig helped too. The risk you run in free form music is that sometimes things just don’t come together the way you’d like, but Gutwillig was (and apparently has been for the past few weeks) in the zone. Although the glassy look in his eyes belied the intensity of his guitar work, you could still tell when he was feeling it, and fortunately for everyone, he was feeling it all night.
Late in the third set I meandered my way up to the balcony to survey the scene from above. The full effect of the lights was pretty stellar. The party was kicking as fast upstairs as down, and that’s where I saw the Teletubbies. Two of them. One purple, and one green, drunk and having a good time. That’s Valentine’s Day for you. As if Teletubbies wasn’t enough of a score, the Disco Biscuits came back out a fourth time for an encore and bathed the room in one last Technicolor glow. Bonus.