Those of us who seek out music understand the power of the whole journey. It’s not just the shows, it’s the whole adventure. It’s the cities we visit, the people we meet, the friends we reunite with, the late nights, the laughs we share, and above all, the music that we all traveled miles to see. In this case, the finest jamtronica band there ever was. The Disco Biscuits brought many of us to their hometown of Philadelphia to melt each and every one of our faces. And oh boy, did they deliver.
Fans rolled into Philly on Thursday, preparing to descend to the new and beautiful Fillmore in the trendy neighborhood of Fishtown, located in northeast Philly. The Fillmore was a perfect venue for the 3-night run, despite the aggressive shark-like security and absurd coat check line leaving the show Friday night. The rest of the Fillmore staff were friendly, welcoming and helpful people. Sound and lights in the venue were top of the line, fully equipped with the lasers Biscuits shows have become known for.
Each night of the 3-night run featured an opening act. The first (and my personal favorite) was the upcoming jam-fusion band from Buffalo, Aqueous. Aqueous brought an hour-long set of original songs and unique tasteful jams as well as a great cover of Queen’s “Under Pressure,” to those who made it to the venue early enough.
Taking the stage at 10 pm, the room was filled with anticipation as the lights went down. Though the show was not sold out Thursday night, everyone there was ready to party. Starting the show with a bust out, written on setlists as “Biscuits are Coming Home” or “Coming Home” (last played 178 shows before, on New Years in 2010 and only twice before that). This rare song was incredibly fitting for the Biscuits first shows of 2017, in their hometown nonetheless, with the repeating lyrics of “Philly! It’s always been home, with a happy new year Biscuits are coming home!” This song got the crowd going before launching into a perfect dance jam, which then segued into fan favorite, “I-Man.” This rendition of “I-Man” was definitely a highlight of the first set, reaching a fantastic jam in the middle with a very tasty bass line by Marc Brownstein. After reaching another very satisfying peak, the band quickly dropped into the dark-yet-funky song, “Vassillios.” Nailing the composed sections and verses, Aron Magner (keys/synths) led the band through a subtle jam out of “Vassillios” slowly lining up with Jon Gutwillig’s (aka Barber) complex guitar riffs as the band flowed perfectly into an inverted rendition of the instrumental Abraxas. Keeping the set a nonstop jam, “Abraxas” landed in a great high energy trance jam that was jammed perfectly into a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell.” “Run” brought us yet another prime jam, mostly led by Magner and Barber. This set was a proper Biscuits sandwich as the band brought it back to “Coming Home” to end the set. After playing an entire set without stopping for one second, props must be given to Allen Aucoin for being able to slam the drums nonstop for well over an hour and still keep the groove locked in.
Returning to the stage at midnight, Brownie started off the second set with some banter about a fantasy football league, but fans seemed more ready for another set of mind melting music. The Disco Biscuits began the 2nd set with the opening song from Barber’s Rock Opera, “Hot Air Balloon,” the instrumental piece, “The Overture.” Flying through the composed sections beautifully the band took off into a more ambient jam, which built up before launching into an inverted “Portal To An Empty Head” which had the whole crowd singing along. The band returned to end “The Overture” after a high energy jam came out of “Portal.” Following a short breather, The Biscuits launched into fan favorites, the uplifting, regularly paired songs “Highwire” into “I Rember When.” “Highwire” featured a “Norwegian Wood” tease from Magner, which he and Barber used as a launchpad into another subtle jam, where eventually Magner took up the flute sounds on his synth and the band perfectly segued into “I Rember When.” After another short pause, The Biscuits started up another fan favorite, “Magellan,” which stood out as another great rendition of a classic. Following the composed section, the band took off into a more relaxed jam that slowly worked it’s way up to a funky groove with Magner on the clavinet. Continuing to build the jam, the band returned to the end of “I-Man” to finish another great set.
Encoring with a jammed out unfinished version of “Wet” into the end of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell,” The Biscuits brought a great end to a great night.
Here’s the setlist:
- Last played 12/31/2010 (178 shows)
- inverted version
The Philly-based jam outfit Swift Technique opened the second night with their traditional funk style and horns segment. Night 2 featured much more funk and trance overtones compared to the first night’s high energy dance and fusion jams. Once again taking the stage around 10 pm, The Biscuits opened with another fan favorite, “Bernstein and Chasnoff,” which stretched out over 22 minutes into a classic feel-good Biscuits jam before segueing into an unfinished version of the dark Biscuits original, “Voices Insane.” “Voices” reached a trance jam before flowing perfectly back into the end of “Bernstein and Chasnoff.” After a short breather, The Biscuits started off the slow building sing-along, “The Very Moon,” another song from Barber’s “Hot Air Balloon.” After finishing “The Very Moon,” Brownie dropped into a classic funk bass line and welcomed the Swift Technique to the stage for a take on the early 80’s funk hit, Rick James’, “Give It To Me.” Despite the fact that the horns limited the amount of jamming, they created a unique funk sound combined with The Biscuits’ groove. Eventually, the horns left the stage, but The Biscuits kept the funky groove going for a very satisfying funk jam that made it’s way into the end of “Morph Dusseldorf” to end the set.
Right around midnight, the band returned to the stage with The Swift Technique horns to start another Biscuits classic, “King of the World,” the quintessential Barber song. This was a unique rendition of the song with the horns, as they managed to reach a jam that even featured some solos from some of the horn players themselves. After a short breath, The Biscuits debuted a cover of David Bowie’s, “Let’s Dance.” This song was a perfect choice for the horns to sit in on, as they complimented the funky sound of the 1983 classic. Credit must also be given to Barber for nailing Bowie’s vocals in a complimentative traditional manner while still maintaining his individuality as a musician. After completing the verses and composed segments of ‘Let’s Dance,’ the horns left the stage and the band took off into an appropriate dance jam, which worked it’s way up into an upbeat high-energy trance style jam. This was before seamlessly segueing into an inverted take on the jubilant song “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a,” which had the whole crowd grinning and singing along. “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a” stretched out into a nice trance jam, gaining a lot of momentum towards the end with some really fantastic guitar playing from Barber. Dropping off into another classic Biscuits song, “Astronaut,” the band kept the trance vibe going, as Brownie led the band out of the song and into a great trance jam with some very powerful bass lines. As the jam progressed, the band found themselves in another place of funk which led into an inverted take on “Down To The Bottom,” which featured some more legendary spreading from Barber. Another classic Biscuits jam out of “Down To The Bottom” led the band into the ending verse of “Confrontation” to end the set.
The band encored with “On Time,” featuring Magner on the talk box singing the robot-esque verses and of course another very fun/dance-infused jam. Another solid end to a solid night.
- with Swift Technique horns
- ending only
- first time played (David Bowie cover)
- inverted version
Opening for The Disco Biscuits night three was Tom Hamilton’s American Babies. Tom Hamilton has a long history of collaborating with Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner in their side project, Electron, so it was no surprise when Magner took the stage with American Babies to play a couple songs. One being the Grateful Dead classic, “Mississippi Halfstep Uptown Toodeloo,” which also was not much of a surprise as Hamilton is a member of the popular Dead cover band, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.
After the two transdimensional shows the nights before, fans knew the band would throw down hard for their final sold-out show of their 3-day hometown stand, and The Biscuits definitely exceeded expectations. Opening with the beginning of “Morph Dusseldorf” to complete the dyslexic version from the night before where they played the end to finish the first set. “Morph” went into a short funky jam before segueing into the odd Biscuits original, “Spaga.” “Spaga” took off into a long melodic psychedelic jam which worked its way up to a nice peak before returning to the dark funky groove of the end of the song. After a few short breaths, the band launched into another fan favorite, “And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night.” “Ladies” took off into a solid dancy jam, which reached an ambient place as it segued into the middle section of “Magellan,” continuing the version from the first night. After Barber’s epic “Magellan” guitar riffs, the band flipped on the yellow, red and green lights and moved into a reggae groove, welcoming Tom Hamilton on stage and diving into another Disco Biscuits debut, Bob Marley’s, “Exodus.” Brownie held down the reggae bass line for a lot of the jam as Barber, Magner, and Hamilton took us to unique psychedelic places with their varied textures and melodies. After the beefy jam, the band took off with space-like sounds into the end of “Astronaut,” completing the version from the night before (the middle section was never played) to end the set.
For the final set of the run, The Biscuits knew they had to throw down hard. Taking the stage at 12 and saying “F U!” to the curfew, playing until past 2, they delivered one of the most impressive sets of the run. Opening with a lot of ambient and noisy sounds before popping into the heavy quintessential Biscuits tune, “Mindless Dribble.” Stretching it out over half an hour, this “Mindless Dribble” reached some crazy high-energy dance territories. Segueing into another Biscuit classic, “Crickets,” which was also stretched out to nearly half an hour of wildness, before playing the end of “Basis For a Day,” where Brownie took a second to stop the band to yell “Give me all your fucking money!” After this jam, we gladly will. At least that’s what the looks on most fan’s faces told me. This whole jam sequence can only be described as some delicious, creamy Biscuits. Giving the crowd a few minutes to find their melted faces, the band started off “Spectacle” very slowly, building into the great song. The crowd singing along “Isn’t life just a spectacle?” seemed quite appropriate after that spectacle of a jam sequence we had all just witnessed. After “Spectacle,” the band started up the beginning of “Basis For a Day,” completing the inverted sandwich. “Basis” started off with a very heavy bass line from Brownie, which he kept revisiting leading up to the composed segments of the song. After slaying the composed segments, the band leaped into another prime dance jam reaching out to some interesting percussive synth playing by Magner as the band ever-so-creatively jammed into the end of “And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night” to end the face-melter of a set.
Encoring with the somewhat seldom played “Hope,” this was a fantastic ending to a fantastic run.
- beginning only; dyslexic completion of 2/3/17 version
- middle only; continues 2/2/17 version
- first time played (Bob Marley cover)
- with Tom Hamilton (Brothers Past, American Babies, JRAD) on guitar
- ending only; continues/”completes” 2/3/17 version (middle never played)
- inverted version
- dyslexic version
You can watch the whole show below, or you can download it here.
All in all, this was an amazing run of shows with top-tier jamming, creative and unique setlists, great covers, and awesome vibes. Anyone who was there is impatiently waiting for their next Disco Biscuits show. The only thing left to be said is “sorry if you don’t.”