Camp Bisco X: Day One
Words By Stevie Tee
Photos By Joe Le (Joe Le Foto)
As the sun rose over the mountains in upstate New York, it was clear that we were in for beautiful weather, perfect for the first day of Camp Bisco. It had been five years since my last Camp Bisco at Hunter Mountain, and in that time, the festival has seen an astronomical amount of growth. Held at Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, the festival sold out by the end of the first day, hosting an estimated 25,000 people. As the gates opened, cars were lined up for miles clogging traffic in the surrounding area. We spent around four or five hours in line and were lucky compared to some who waited nearly twelve hours. Despite the long wait, we received our wristbands, had our car searched and were lead to our campsite in a very organized fashion.
We set up our campsite near indoor bathrooms, ATMs, showers, and a general store to the sounds of The Disco Biscuits sound checking in the distance. After chilling at our campsite, we wandered around to meet up with friends and explore the layout of the grounds. Camping sprawled over the grounds with fields of campers separating the two main stages from two tent stages and the showcase stage that turned into the silent disco at night. Clothing, art and craft vendors lined the path to the main stage entrance.
The first set that we stumbled upon was Sonic Spank at the dance tent. This trio consisted of a keyboardist who also provided vocoder vocals, a guitarist and a drummer. They made use of two laptops for elements that were tastefully presented in electro-rock fashion. Improvisational sections led their songs to some nice peaks, and from what I caught of their set, it was mostly upbeat hip-hop and robotic house-rock. I’d been hearing about these guys for a while and was glad to finally catch a performance. They played well and were more unique than a lot of the newer livetronica acts these days.
Next, we made our way over to the main stages that were side by side for rapid-fire sets. First, Beats Antique was onstage taking the crowd to exotic lands with their tribal drums and Middle Eastern sound. The two drummers worked also with instruments such as guitar, viola, and keyboards while utilizing laptops to bring sampled hip-hop style and heavy bass to their music. These guys clearly had a strong grasp on African and Arab drumming, infusing their beats within downtempo, hip-hop and even dubstep styles.
Borgore, who was a last minute replacement when Rusko cancelled, chased me away from the main stage area with trashy, midrange brostep. Fortunately, it led me right to the dance tent where Sbtrkt was doing some of the best DJing I heard all weekend. His mixing was elegant with deep, hard-hitting music that wasn’t aggressive as he used only Ableton Live and a large controller device. Often associated with dubstep, the portion of his set that I heard was more like fast tech-house or two-step garage that went down smoothly. Some of the tracks he dropped included tunes from his new self-titled album. While I was really digging this set, we decided to go catch The New Deal.
Normally I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan of The New Deal. However, I was a fan back in the day and considering that this is more or less their farewell tour, it seemed like something worth checking out. Though I would have liked to hear more of Sbtrkt, I did not regret my decision. What caught my ear first was how paced their playing was this evening. It was a treat to hear the band laying down some slower, jazzy grooves that wound up to their usual fist-pumping, break beat house jams later in the set. Bassist Dan Kurtz conducted the group with careful, patient playing as drummer Darren Shearer chugged right along next to Jamie Shields’ ear-popping lead synth licks. Towards the end of their set, Disco Biscuits keyboardist Aron Magner sat in to commemorate the band’s stunning final performance at Camp Bisco.
On the opposite main stage was Australian synth-pop group Cut Copy. Cut Copy was one of the most anticipated non-biscuits performances of the weekend for me, and they did not disappoint. I couldn’t get over how polished and clean their live sound was compared to their studio work. While the short songs and hook laden pop vocals probably weren’t every jam head’s cup of tea, they had the entire field jumping up and down to songs like “Lights and Music” and “Hearts on Fire.” Newer songs such as “Take Me Over” and “Pharaohs and Pyramids” brought a fun tropical feel as the sun began to set for the night. Excellent execution and perfect vibes to lead into the first Disco Biscuits set of the weekend.
As a huge Disco Biscuits fan, it was finally time for my main event of the evening. “Plan B” kicked off the night with some straight-ahead rock, far from the four-on-the-floor sound that most associate with the Biscuits. The beginning of “Helicopters” kicked things into high gear and led to a flawless drop into “Spacebirdmatingcall”. Out of the ashes rose the gorgeous intro of “The Very Moon”, with all the delicate parts being hit just right. From the second jam of “The Very Moon”, which is always known for being funky, came one of the most unexpected segues of the night as the beginning riffs of “Spraypaint Victory” were played over the funk breakdown.
Total sing-a-long material throughout these two songs was met by favorite jam of the night as the band worked from the middle section of “Spraypaint Victory” into the ending of “Helicopters”. Magner’s synth layering made this jam huge. Helicopters were flashing on the three new LED cubes tipping people off that the peak of “Helicopters” was about to return. A jazzy “Mulberry’s Dream” was played after breaking from the “Helicopters” ending, and a “Home Again” set closer showed the band was in a reflective mood on the first night of the tenth Camp Bisco. The jam of this song was more interesting than usual with Allen trying different things in a double-time feel while images of the band cycled through on the visual cubes. This was a great set that featured the band showing a wide range of styles while simultaneously signaling that the boys came to play.
Plan B, Helicopters > Spacebirdmatingcall, The Very Moon > Spraypaint > Helicopters, Mulberry's Dream, Home Again
We took a much needed break at the camp site to avoid the crowds at Skrillex and returned refreshed to catch some Lotus and Bluetech. Bluetech’s gorgeous downtempo IDM and pulled-apart glitch style really does it for me on his studio releases, but I didn’t last long at his set. It’s hard to say if the set just wasn’t engaging or I just wanted to get back over to Lotus who was tearing it up for most of their set.
Back at Lotus, they were nailing a sexy segue out of “Lead Pipe” into “Greet the Mind”, the latter containing its usual manic peak jam. The jam then turned on a dime back into the groovy beginning section that dripped with expression. I loved the drum and bass hustle of “Plant Your Root”, but it definitely made the absence of their percussionist very apparent to me. The drum and bass tempo fit perfectly for a half-time drop into a relatively newer big-beat hip-hop song, “Dowrn.” One of the finals highlights of the set was the “Bellweather > Umbilical Moonset > Bellweather” sandwich.
Guitar licks sounded like falling rain during “Umbilical Moonset” as it built to a fantastic climax that was resolved by the bouncy ending of “Bellweather”. The meat of the set was really enjoyable but I still find myself longing for the original Lotus line up to return. After a quick but satisfying visit to the silent disco near my campsite, I was off to bed for the night.
Harps, Hammerstrike, Lead Pipe > Greet The Mind, Plant Your Root > Dowrn, Bellwether > Umbilical Moonset > Bellwether, Behind Midwest Storefronts, Blacklight Sunflare
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Camp Bisco Day Two Coverage
Camp Bisco Day Three Coverage