Camp Bisco 2017 Recap: The Disco Biscuits Reaffirm Their Jamtronica Prowess

Camp Bisco 2017

Amidst all the chatter that surrounds Camp Bisco, our hosts continue to shine through and bring the highest level of live performance and musicianship to their very own festival for the 15th time. With 6 primetime sets on the main stage, Electric City, and one Wednesday night VIP soundcheck set that about 1,000 lucky VIPs had the opportunity to witness, there was no shortage of fresh Biscuits. And boy, did these Biscuits taste good.

For the lucky and early attendees, the Biscuits brought a private set and a very special BBQ to the lucky ticket-holders who arrived early enough and had VIP passes. Getting warmed up with “King of the World” before building into an “I-Man” jam that dropped into a fan-favorite inverted “Confrontation,” the Biscuits brought it back home to “I-Man” to end the short, private set that was a perfect way to kick off the weekend.

Here’s the setlist.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 – Camp Bisco VIP Soundcheck, Montage Mountain, PA
I: King of the World, I-Man-> Confrontation (inverted)-> I-Man

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Following the first few sets of the festival, the Biscuits brought the real business to the table at 9:30 following some energetic sets from Break Science and Gramatik at Electric City. While many attendees opted out of seeing the Biscuits to see Space Jesus instead, those of us at the main stage were impatiently waiting to receive our dose of Bisco. Taking the stage and kicking off with “Astronaut,” it was clear why we came to this festival. “Astronaut” took off into a spacey trance jam that built up and took shape leading into a stretched out trance-fusion rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell.” “Run Like Hell” has been in the band’s rotation since their earliest shows, and has always served well as a jam vehicle, with Thursday night’s rendition being no exception. After an extended exploratory jam that led back into the ending of “Astronaut,” the Biscuits led us into another jam, where Marc Brownstein flipped on an effect that made each note of his bass rumble the room and every ribcage at Electric City. With this heavy bass effect, the jam moved into the quintessential Biscuits tune “Digital Buddha” that held the energy, bringing the jam back into “Run Like Hell” to end the first sequence of the festival. Keeping the energy high the band stepped into a loud ripping “Reactor,” stretching out to a high energy peak and dropping into an inverted “Portal to an Empty Head” with raging energy that lead up to the peaking segue. Building the energy up out of “Portal” with more ferocious interplay between Aron Magner (keys/synths) and Jon “Barber” Gutwillig (guitar), the peak brought the jam back to the end of “Reactor” to finish the second jam sequence. To end the first set at Camp Bisco the band appropriately played “Home Again” to finish the set. After this smoking first performance Biscuits fans knew we were indeed home again, never had to think twice, and knew we were back in paradise.

Following the Biscuits, GRiZ brought a fun electro-funk set with some unique samples, covers, and remixes to the main stage. Opening with a remix of the theme from the hit TV show set in Scranton, The Office, and bringing funk, bass, and energetic sax lines, GRiZ’s set was a great way to close out the main stage the first night.

Here’s Thursday’s setlist. Sound-Fix highlights are in bold! (-> represent segues)

Thursday, July 13, 2017 – Camp Bisco, Montage Mountain PA
I: Astronaut-> Run Like Hell-> Astronaut-> Digital Buddha-> Run Like Hell, Reactor-> Portal to an Empty Head (inverted)-> Reactor, Home Again

With the bass music sensation, Bassnectar, as one of the headliners on Friday, the energy of the festival was very high despite the rain. Kicking off the day with some high-energy funk delivered by Baltimore’s Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Disco Biscuits very own bassist and co-founder of HeadCount, Marc Brownstein, followed with a meet-and-greet for some lucky fans. It must be noted that Marc is a great guy and managed to meet, chat, and take pictures with basically every fan who attended (I personally made a request for a “Little Lai” opener, because, like Marc, I’m from NYC). Before the Biscuits, the experimental psychedelic performance group, Beats Antique, played a trippy, visually stunning set, warming many Biscuits fans up for the second official set of the weekend.

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Taking the stage just past 5:30, the Biscuits first proper daytime set of the festival began. Opening up with the upbeat “Little Lai” (as per my request!) we were all grinning ear-to-ear as the Biscuits played a nice relaxed jam in front of some stunning visuals. Next up stepping into “Rockafella,” we all knew “we’ve got it good,” as the jam took off with some screaming synth lines from Magner before slowing down into a beat-driven jam that gained more and more tension and drove us into the light-hearted “Munchkin Invasion.” The Munchkin jam took us for a smooth and spacey walk, gaining a lot of intensity before dropping into a particular electronic rendition of the thematic “Orch Theme.” “Orch Theme” was originally played by the Biscuits side project, Conspirator, but it’s found a home in Biscuits rotation. Slowing way down the band brought us into the heavier “Voices Insane,” which stretched out into a very blissful jam building up its peak into an inverted rendition of “And the Ladies Were the Rest of the Night,” which received another smoking hot jam, with perfect percussion textures from the beast, Allen Aucoin, before returning to the end of “Munchkin Invasion” to finish off the set.

Friday, July 14, 2017 – Camp Bisco, Montage Mountain, PA
I: Little Lai, Rockafella-> Munchkin Invasion-> Orch Theme-> Voices Insane-> And the Ladies Were the Rest of the Night (Inverted)-> Munchkin Invasion

Between the Biscuits sets, Lotus played a set on the main stage, bringing some smooth funk grooves to cool down Biscuits fans after that smoking set. Check out the interview we did with Jesse Miller of Lotus a couple weeks before Bisco right here.

Taking the stage with an electronic downtempo groove with a cover of Hallucinogen’s “Solstice,” the heat was already turned on. For those wondering, “Hallucinogen” is Simon Posford, of Shpongle, so this cover was in a way a foreshadowing of the mind-bending sit in that occurred much later that night with Brownie and Magner at Shpongle’s nighttime set. Last time the Biscuits played “Solstice” was 05/20/2007, at The Town Ballroom in Buffalo, NY, so this was one hell of a bust out. Although the cover wasn’t fresh in their rotation the band was very comfortable playing it and really made it their own. In particular, Aron Magner drove the unique powerful sounds with his masterful playing. As the band jammed out the fresh cover, the song eventually moved into the classic trance-fusion song, “Spacebirdmatingcall.” Keeping the jam going “Spacebird” flew through another classic pulsing trance style jam before moving into a transcendent “Gangster” with a tight and smooth jam. Returning to finish “Spacebird” to end one of the best jamming sequences yet, the Biscuits continued to heat up. After a breath, the band stepped into a dark and dirty “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” that jammed in perfect, raunchy fashion before going into the first time ever played cover of Prince’s “Controversy.” “Controversy” was completely instrumental, with Magner playing the lyrics as melodies on his synths. After the new cover the Biscuits brought us into an energetic “Bombs” before jamming into the blissful ending of “Svenghali” to end the set. As the band came into “Svenghali,” the rain came down and began flooding the amphitheater, but worse than the rainwater was the flood of bassheads that made it nearly impossible to escape the shelter of Electric City as we sought refuge at the Above the Waves stage to catch a comfortable set performed by Vermont’s Twiddle.

Biscuits fans who avoided the bass sensation and flocked to the Above The Waves stage were treated to a Magner sit in with Twiddle on their song “Mamues The Faun.” Even later into the night Magner and Brownie both sat in with Simon Posford’s Shpongle live set, bringing their live musicianship to the psychedelic trance producer’s stage.

II: Solstice (Hallucinogen cover)-> Spacebirdmatingcall-> Gangster-> Spacebirdmatingcall, M.E.M.P.H.I.S.-> Controversy (Prince, 1st time played, Instrumental)-> Bombs-> Svenghali (ending only)

For the final day it was obvious the Biscuits were prepared to deliver the best music of the weekend. With 3 scheduled sets and the last one to close out the whole festival there was a lot expected of the band, but as history goes these guys do great under pressure, and Saturday at Camp Bisco 2017 was no exception. The band started off their 4:30 pm afternoon set with the electro-hip-hop tune “Caves of The East” that dropped several samples including a clip from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. “Caves” led into the second “Loose Change” since 2011, with the first being earlier this year at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. Once again, “Loose Change” got a nice funky jam, and up next the Biscuits brought out the jubilant “Bernstein & Chasnoff,” which jammed out nicely in classic Biscuits’ fashion. The “B&C” jam led the band into the first ever inverted rendition of “Highwire,” and although there was a little difficulty in the middle of the inversion, it went over really well and was quite a treat for longtime Biscuits fans. “Highwire” segued into the dark dance instrumental piece “Tempest” that kept a dance groove all the way through before returning to “B&C” to end the sequence. Finishing the set with a standalone yet absolutely rockn’ jammed-out “Mulberry’s Dream,” it was clear that today the Disco Biscuits were onto something special.

The Floozies played the main stage before the next Biscuits set, keeping everybody dancing and honorably maintaining the high energy built from the previous set.

Saturday, July 15, 2017 – Camp Bisco, Montage Mountain, PA
I: Caves of the East-> Loose Change, Bernstein & Chasnoff-> Highwire (inverted)-> Tempest-> Bernstein & Chasnoff, Mulberry’s Dream

Whenever a set starts with “Morph Dusseldorf,” you know you’ve entered jam city, and this set was no exception. Wasting no time, “Morph” immediately dropped into one of those jams that just reminds us all what makes this band one of the best ever. With Magner’s masterful organ playing, the funk started off and took off into a fiery jam as Magner switched onto the synths and took us on a trip. Moving the “Morph” into an “Above the Waves” fakeout before actually going into the middle section of “Above the Waves,” the Biscuits displayed their set list creativity and how comfortably and fluidly they perform their own catalogue. Keeping the jamming hot, the band kept it going right out of “Waves” and brought out more blissful jamming that lead us into “The Champions,” where Tom Hamilton stepped out for the vocals and stayed for the rest of the set. Tom’s rhythm guitar playing and his Jerry Garcia-esque tone accentuated the smoking jam, before the band dove into Bob Marley’s “Exodus,” which was last played in Philly also with THam on guitar. Another long, high-energy jam out of “Exodus” led the band into the beginning of “Above the Waves” to complete the inverted, broken up rendition of the song. Not resting for even a second, the jamming continued into another tight and energetic jam peaking back into the end of “Morph Dusseldorf” while confetti exploded everywhere. While Biscuits fans often do not like sit-ins, Tom Hamilton is really the one person in the world who can jam with the best.

Between the final 2 Biscuits sets, Pretty Lights Live band took over the main stage for some great, soulful, live electronic music. Bringing a remix of John Denver’s “Country Roads” into his set, as well as some freestyle rapping, hip-hop grooves, and live improv, PL’s set was very enjoyable between the two final and best Biscuits sets.

II: Morph Dusseldorf-> Above the Waves (inverted)-> The Champions (w/ Tom Hamilton)-> Exodus (w/ Tom Hamilton)-> Above the Waves (w/ Tom Hamilton)-> Morph Dusseldorf (w/ Tom Hamilton)

As the band returned for the final set there simply could not have been more smiling faces at one venue. Barber walked out dancing, wearing his galaxy pants, ready to shred through another set. Opening up their final set of Camp Bisco 15 with a sped up, dub rendition of “Mindless Dribble,” the band was ready to jam. Stretching out to 20 minutes long, this “Dribble” went on a journey. With some of the tightest interplay between Magner and Barber of the weekend, as well as some very progressive new sounds from the both of them, eventually the jam moved into the fan-favorite “Helicopters,” sending Helicopter light projections all over the tent. As the jam arrived at a trancey groove, the band debuted another 1st-time played instrumental cover, Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” And in a way that only the Biscuits can do, the band turned the 1977 pop hit into an extended trance-fusion jam before dropping into a short “Tricycle” that led into a stretched out yet relaxed “Air Song.” “Air Song” brought the set back to “Helicopters” to end the final performance. Before walking off stage, a rare hug was had between Brownie and Barber. For long time fans of the band who know about the inner turmoil the band has faced, this is truly a great moment for the band and just shows how happy Camp Bisco makes The Disco Biscuits.

After a short encore break, the band returned with a jammed out “Spraypaint” to properly close the entire festival.

III: Dub Dribble-> Helicopters-> I Feel Love (Donna Summer, 1st time played, Instrumental)-> Tricycle-> Air Song-> Helicopters
E: Spraypaint

Camp Bisco 2017 was truly a testament to how amazing the Biscuits are playing right now. Jams, set list creativity, new covers, a first-time inversion, great sit ins, and rare songs all just go to show that 2017 truly is the year of The Disco Biscuits.

About author

Ty Levine

Born into the Dead, and indoctrinated into the scene on Phish lots across the northeast, Ty lives for the jams. Catch him outside Biscuits, Phish and UM shows these days, along with just about every jam show in NYC.