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What Went Down During The Disco Biscuits’ Three-Night Stand At The Capitol Theatre [Photos]

first_imgThere’s something liminal in the travel to Port Chester from New York City. The air a bit cooler, sensibilities calmer, perhaps more restrained. Yet here stands the soaring ceilings, impassioned brushstrokes with goldleaf emblazoning it—a monument to gaudier decadence of the jazz age. From the seats upstairs at the legendary Capitol Theatre, one is struck by the regal splendor of it all. It makes one giddy to think that in this soaring auditorium, a dream that a group of Penn technohippies, The Disco Biscuits, had two decades ago would take flight, their long bending notes arcing off of the same ceiling Jerry Garcia once serenaded. Here, a band with an impossibly devoted following would set out to deliver six sets of music that would both thrill their biggest fans and bring new ones into the fold.For the Disco Biscuits’ Thursday night’s performance, the first of their three-night stand at the Cap, the first set’s opening notes were gentle, letting “Story Of The World” slowly unfold as the Disco Biscuits began by showing off their classical inclinations. The jam had a feel of slipping into a mystery, inviting fans to get on board for a journey. Soon, it had progressed into a solemn dirge, thumping with insistence and making it clear that something new was in the making. As always, Marc Brownstein led the charge on the segue, and as the bassline of “Shem Rah Boo” resolved itself, the music took on demonic overtones. Here was the darker, minor-chord and thematic Biscuits sound, evocative of a sweaty basement club.The Disco Biscuits deal in a special kind of alchemy that puts few genres outside their domain; this was made abundantly clear as the “Shem Rah” jam somehow morphed into a sea shanty of sorts that found audience members in the balcony yelping “What would you do with a drunken sailor” at each other. As keyboard player Aron Magner’s bagpipe synth tone dissolved, a scintillating “Gangster” established itself. The song’s jam, often fast-paced and furious in character, seemed restrained as long arcing notes from guitarist Jon Gutwillig summoned an almost pastoral sense of peace from the jam. The segment ended by slapping back into “Story of the World,” and the run was off to an incredible start. The rest of the first set was comprised of a standalone “Strobelights & Martinis,” followed by a standalone “On Time,” both songs not commonly played outside of a bigger jamming segment.Set two got off to a thrashing start with the punk rock-inspired beginning of “7-11.” One of the most fascinating aspects of a Disco Biscuits’ performance is their ability to break down the barriers between genres, a skill they put on display in the jam out of “7-11.” Insistently picking it up into a feverish and frenzied pace, they allowed their sound to be driven by Allen Aucoin’s rhythm before deftly channeling the high-energy levels into a jam on the upbeat, navigating an almost ska-influenced middle ground that eventually turned into a dubby, reggae vibe.Matisyahu, a surprise guest, then took the stage to deliver an uplifting and spiritually resonant improvisational performance in the middle of the jam. As he left the stage, the band began to work its way into the daunting composition of “Floes.” True to form, “Floes’” intense chorus gave way to the most sublime and intimate jam of the night. Shortly thereafter though, they were back to showcasing the darkness their music can create as they fell into “Pilin’ It High,” with a jam that was tantalizingly subtle before accelerating into a terrifying peak with the feel of twisted metal. The show ended with a standalone “House Dog Party Favor,” a song built on an irreconcilable conflict that insists on working itself out before you. A standalone song at a Biscuits show is always interesting, as the band seems to be challenging themselves to contain the peaks and valleys that define their performances within a tighter framework. On this account, “House Dog: delivered. After a simple “Kitchen Mitts” encore, fans wandered back into the crisp spring air, having been assured that the band was in top form and ready to deliver a big run.Setlist: The Disco Biscuits | Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 4/27/2017Set 1: Story Of The World> Shem-Rah Boo> Gangster> Story Of The World, Strobelights and Martinis, On TimeSet 2: 7-11> Jam*> Floes> Pilin’ It High, House Dog Party FavorEncore: Kitchen MittsNotes: * with MatisyahuNight two started off with playful banter from Jon Gutwillig about the absurd shitshow that was Ja Rule’s Fyre Festival. The Disco Biscuits, of course, are pioneers in the field of festival promotion, having started their annual summer festival, Camp Bisco, more than a decade ago, featuring electronic, hip-hop, and jam bands, at a time when most festivals were reticent to mix genres in the manner they did. Ja Rule could have perhaps taken some notes from Gutwillig in how to be hands-on in the growth of an event’s brand.Things got started with a patient and exploratory free-form jam from the Disco Biscuits that slowly turned itself into “Air Song.” As the expressive notes of “Air Song’s” soaring jam melted away, the band’s new jam vehicle, “The Champions,” came roaring to the fore. The song establishes a call and response between Brownstein and Magner, as synthy classical and funk riffs are tossed back and forth with ease; with each exchange, a bit more character is added to the jam. “The Champions” really feels celebratory when the band performs it, as if its blissful major chords were the very exemplification of this glorious new phase of their career. As Gutwillig screamed “sing it” into the microphone behind the echoing chorus, it was heart-warming to see just how much fun the boys were really having up on that stage.The groove only picked up from there, until every hip in the house was swinging on the way into an absolutely slapping “Spacebirdmatingcall.” The segues were absolutely sewn-up tight, and fans got the sense that after a first night of getting in sync with each other, the band was now ready to flex their muscles. Coming out of “Spacebird,” the band finished “Shem Rah Boo,” whose drawling orchestral conclusion was impeccable, before slipping their way into the playful and frenetic “Down To The Bottom.” Coming out of DTTB’s end, the song opened up into an airy space where Brownstein’s hopping bass lines became particularly emphasized. This led the band back into “Spacebird,” and concluded a set that ran the gamut from mournful to jubilant and showed off the band’s versatility.After the set break, and a quick bit of banter on the subject of ladies’ night, the Disco Biscuits came out with a roaring “Save The Robots.” The song’s crunching techno chorus gave way to a more tender jam whose reggae feel eventually led it into the end of “Jigsaw Earth.” “Jigsaw Earth” is a song that’s been in the band’s arsenal since their very inception, and yet they never seem to tire of finding new ways to make it a completely different beast entirely. On this occasion, by inverting it and putting a heavily hip-hop influenced and thumping “Pimp Blue Rikkis” in the middle of it, “Jigsaw” became the meat of a palindrome sandwich whose texture was at times swaggering and deeply psychedelic. The swirling and furious notes that made up the song’s middle (played first) were then echoed in a more subdued and subtle jam that followed “Pimp Blue Rikkis,” as the band completed the song by playing its opening composition.To complete the palindrome, the band fired off an absolutely smoking conclusion to “Save The Robots,” and fans could be heard roaring at the top of their lungs. With a segment like that it can be tough to even wrap one’s mind around how far the band has just taken their own songs, and it’s a worthwhile exercise to stop for a moment and think about how the unadulterated funk that followed the beginning of “Robots” then gave way to the chopped-up “Jigsaw” was just the song’s beginning, that the band had left its middle and ending there for themselves to come back to and complete with authority.Pausing for a beat, the band probably felt compelled to strategize how to use the fifteen or so minutes they had left in their set. They then delivered a breezy “Highwire,” which resolved itself into the conclusion of “Down To The Bottom.” The encore was a rollicking “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.,” which demonstrated a level of composure from the band to be able to squeeze so much into a single standalone encore.Setlist: The Disco Biscuits | Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 4/28/2017Set 1: Jam> Air Song> The Champions> Spacebirdmatingcall> Shem-Rah Boo> Down To The Bottom> SpacebirdmatingcallSet 2: Save The Robots> Jigsaw Earth> Pimp Blue Rikkis> Jigsaw Earth> Save The Robots, Highwire> Down To The BottomEncore: M.E.M.P.H.I.S.Night three of the run, as is often the case with The Disco Biscuits, featured the band firing on all cylinders, and delivering arguably their best performance of the year, with an absolutely staggering exposition of the range and prowess that the band’s members possess. The night began with a pulsating bass line from Brownstein that slowly developed into “Papercut.” The song’s droning insistence then slowly took on a different character, developing into the spunky and classical “Aceetobee,” whose jam found Jon being exceptionally patient, playing his role to a tee without including too many notes or getting out ahead of his skis. From there, the band brought things to a head with a thrilling peak in tempest, before grooving their way back out and into the end of the irresistibly smooth “Aceetobee.” The jam was deeply exploratory, nearly slipping into Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” at one point, and staying suspended between songs without rushing to a climax. The set ended with the inimitable “Confrontation” getting a royal treatment. As the song’s ripping melody heated up, the crowd came to realize there was something else else brewing. The jam evolved into a roaring “Rock Candy,” before dropping back into the end of “Confro.”The Disco Biscuits’ final set saw them exploring classic numbers in completely unprecedented ways and turning up every knob well past eleven. They opened with a drawn out introduction to “I-Man,” and with their poise, the band made it clear that they would be continuing the high-energy, nonstop ride that had characterized each night since Thursday. I-Man’s minor chord themes established the jam vehicle’s depth, and as an almost arena rock feeling overtook the music began to heat up. Led by Gutwillig, the peaceful space that defines I-Man’s early jam took on a more frenzied character; notes began flying scattershot around the room, until the song had morphed into “Cyclone,” a whirling dervish of a number that had audience members practically jumping out of their shoes.From there, the band pushed its way into an inverted “Little Betty Boop,” with a breathtakingly beautiful jam that saw the band melding their more chaotic and blissful aspects and leaving countless jaws agape. From there, the band’s tranquil jamming took them into a place that they’d never been. What unfolded was a re-worked, slower and almost New Wave-influenced version of “Loose Change,” a song they shelved seven years ago, not particularly long after its release on their album Planet Anthem. The song’s new iteration was slower, jazzier, with room to breathe in a way that it didn’t have in its older, poppier format. As it resolved itself, the dramatic tension builds within the song into a triumphant crescendo on the back of a warbling and eclectic synth line with trappings of Arabian Nights. As the set concluded with the end of “I-Man,” the crowd bellowed with infatuation. Here was the high-wire act that fans had come to see: a band taking remarkable risks, putting themselves in a position to create completely unique music without a parallel in the world.In their “Digital Buddha” encore, the band put out another standalone gem, in line with the “House Dog” and “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” from the previous nights, that seemed to capture some of the band’s indomitably exploratory spirit within the confines of an individual song. With any luck, one of them might find its way into rotation on Jam_On or a Spotify playlist somewhere, and the Disco Biscuits might find some new fans from them. As it stands though, the three night performance they delivered added up to a masterclass in what makes the band so utterly without parallel or precedent. For the fans in attendance, it is impossible to imagine asking for anything greater.Setlist: The Disco Biscuits | Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 4/29/2017Set 1: Jam -> Papercut -> Aceetobee -> Tempest -> Aceetobee, Confrontation -> Rock Candy (unf) -> ConfrontationSet 2: Iman -> Cyclone ->< Little Betty Boop (inv)-> Loose Change  -> ImanEncore: Digital BuddhaFor those uninitiated who want to see exactly why Fyre Festival should take a leaf out of Camp Bisco’s book (and for veterans who want to return to the epic festival known for its ability to predict the upward trajectory of artists across the board), tickets for the festival, which runs from July 13th to 15th at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania, are currently on sale and can be purchased here. For festival details and updates, check out the festival website, and join the Facebook Event page. You can check out photos from the Disco Biscuits’ Friday night performance at the Capitol Theatre below, courtesy of Stephen Olker. Load remaining imageslast_img read more