Camp Bisco X: Day Three
Words By Stevie Tee
Photos By Joe Le (Joe Le Foto)
Bright, sunny weather and cloudless skies helped dry up the mudslide action that made the previous day very difficult to get around. When people suggested rain boots for this festival, they weren’t kidding, but today things were under control with beautiful weather all day.
We started our day of music off by grabbing some lunch at one of the food vendors and enjoying The Disco Biscuits afternoon set. Since it was a short one-setter at 2:00 in the afternoon, this seemed to be one of the more underrated sets of the weekend. They started by tossing out copies of their newly released album, Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens, to the front rows. This album is more representative of their live show than most of their previous studio work and I would consider it their best album in ten years. “Rockafella” started off the set with the lyrics “I’ve got a good feeling, this afternoon,” fitting the daytime set perfectly. Newer electro-stomper “Neck Romancer” has had some facelifts since I last heard it in September shortly after its debut and had a beefy jam into a triumphant “Great Abyss”. From the soaring themes of “Great Abyss” came a fist-pumping, inverted “Confrontation.” For those who don’t know, inverting a song is simply jamming into the peak at the end of a song, playing to the end and dropping immediately into the beginning of the song and jamming out into another song. “Confrontation” gradually slowed down and morphed into the spacey “Air Song”. After that, they played a standard version of “World is Spinning” to close out the afternoon set.
Directly following The Disco Biscuits on the other main stage was Lettuce, another project from drummer Adam Deitch featuring Eric Krasno and Neil Evans from Soulive. I’d been looking forward to hearing these guys who did not disappoint. Their progressive style of funk music was great afternoon music and a welcome break from the constant pulse of electronica. These guys have some serious chops and soulful grooves for days. This group actually seemed to have some stronger dynamics than some of the member’s other projects. Deitch’s drumming is always impressive to me, even while playing music that’s more lackluster to me (Break Science the day before), but Lettuce also had driving guitar leads, flourishes of horns and booty-shaking bass. What more could you ask for on a sunny afternoon?
After Lettuce wrapped up the funk, indie rock band Yeasayer took over the opposing main stage and played an inspired, sun-soaked set. This was also a much anticipated set for me and they really delivered. While some of their newer music has more of danceable synth-pop sound, they distinguish themselves from other groups with a mystical aura of Middle Eastern flavor. The older tunes they played like “Sunrise” have this in spades and demonstrated a psychedelic rock sound. Newer tunes like “Mondegreen” and “Rome” were tastefully reworked for the live setting and kept me on my toes and dancing. For a group that I would classify as more of an album rock band, they had great live show that was loose and not too heavily constrained to album versions. After their fantastic set, I was ready to take a break from the afternoon sun at this point.
Once I took a break back at our campsite we made our way down to the dance tent where Tokimonsta was holding it down in a serious way. The only member of Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label to appear at the festival this year, she laid out one of the best sets of the weekend from a single producer/DJ. Mesmerizing soundscapes draped over booming basses and polyrhythmic sample step beats were paramount, without getting to an overbearing, overly-aggressive area that makes some beat music come across so cheesy. Tokimonsta can effortlessly rock a party without sacrificing musical substance. While her style lended itself to the J-Dilla influenced sound of most of her Brainfeeder label mates, the way she incorporated different genres through sampling and remixing was incredibly personal and unique. Give me more Tokimonsta, please… perhaps a Brainfeeder tent next year?
When Tokimonsta’s set wrapped up we headed back to the main stage where Death From Above 1979 was in the middle of their high profile set on their reunion tour. The group has been broken up for a number of years and one of the members created MSTRKRFT, which performed their high intensity electro club music the night before preceding Ghostland Observatory. Since I’d brushed up on the band a little before the festival, I wasn’t shocked at how different the project was from MSTRKRFT (who I was actually more familiar with), but it was probably a shock for most festival goers. This is not your typical jam band or electronic music festival group, playing what I would consider a truly unlikely blend of dance thrash punk. Using only bass, synthesizers and vocals they create an interesting noise rock that may be out of place here but was still danceable and catchy. I couldn’t believe how heavy and edgy their sound was without an electric guitar. The energy was huge and it was the first time I’d been to a show at a festival where the singer was screaming since I went to Warped Tour back in middle school. This was by no means my favorite set of the weekend but easily one of the most unique.
After such a strange and heavy set in the afternoon, The Disco Biscuits kicked off their first set of the night with a carefully drawn out “Spectacle” to contrast the heaviness with something light and happy. From there, they launched into what would be the meat of the set with “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” which really got a huge crowd reaction. The first jam of the song was downtempo and gradually built up, and the second took it up a notch as it led into the “Cyclone” they’d been teasing for the past few days. After that, it was time for Guitarist Jon “Barber” Gutwillig to shine with two huge guitar peaks in the inverted “Above the Waves” and the ending-only rendition of “Reactor.” For the last two songs of the set, they played very standard versions of “Chemical Warfare Brigade” and “Highwire”, two songs that usually are played at the beginning of a set with little jamming. It was almost as if they were giving you a chance to head out early before the crowd rushed in for the Bassnectar set break.
In the interest of trying to be objective with my review, I actually decided to give Bassnectar’s set break a chance despite having a real distaste for his music over the past few years. There was another artist playing at the Grooveshark tent, but I really only would have been going to be snobby and snub this set. What ensued was the epitome of everything I can’t stand about popular electronic music today. The set was filled with overproduced yet under composed mindless party music with all-the-rage overbearing midrange bass womps, ultra-aggressive heaviness, cheesy new-school, soon-to-be-dated Ableton trickery and drop after drop that just sounded the same. Often lumped in with dubstep, little of his music really touched on the musical elements of dubstep. It was really more of a heavy hip-hop that sometimes went double time into an artificially-quantized, uninspiring drum and bass. It’s not like he train wrecked (though I would hope a headlining DJ who uses only uses a computer wouldn’t), and he even commanded one of the biggest audiences of the weekend, but I found nothing redeeming or inspiring about the music. It was a really discouraging point of the weekend when he had a bigger crowd than The Disco Biscuits did all weekend and then watching tons of people walk away when they were about to go back onstage for the final set of their festival.
This is when I came to the conclusion that many told me they reached when attending the festival the year before. The Disco Biscuits have made a festival that is now bigger than themselves and not entirely representative of their fan base. I don’t think a lot of The Disco Biscuits fans that made the first five or six Camp Bisco Festivals successful are happy that big budget acts like Bassnectar, Pretty Lights and Rusko are being repeated year after year. Instead they are pulling in new fans that don’t seem to know or even care for the band that this festival is based around. Take some of these artists off of the line up and I don’t think you have an overcrowded, sold out festival, but I guess running a festival is a business after all and I’m aware that the band doesn’t run the festival themselves. They have a production company (Meat Camp Productions) that builds a festival around them as headliners and chooses other acts to sell tickets. As a fan, I’m all for the band playing with different acts to reach new audiences and grow their fan base, but for the band’s homecoming summer festival, it was weird being camped around neighbors who don’t know or even dislike The Disco Biscuits. It didn’t ruin my weekend, but if the festival continues to cater to this newer scene of popular American electronic music acts, I may not have any interest in returning no matter how many sets The Disco Biscuits play.
After the crowds of glow stick covered kids wandered back to their campsites to gear up for the Pretty Lights late night set, The Disco Biscuits took stage for their last set of the weekend. Things kicked off with the catchy vocoder anthem “On Time”. Upon completion they kicked into the last segment of songs of the weekend with “Strobelights and Martinis” that meant anything could happen from this launch pad of a song that stems from a composed jam back in 2001. This led to an inverted “Little Shimmy in a Conga Line” with its dark, creeping themes that patiently built to the highlight of the set with a high-velocity, inverted “Digital Buddha” that moved into a powerful “Gangster”. They kept the momentum alive for “Tricycle”, though they may have been better off to skip this song and go straight to “Save the Robots”, which seemed a bit rushed to meet the 1:00 AM noise ordinance. Some people complained about the lack of an encore all weekend, but I was not disappointed as the band didn’t waste any precious set time to walk off stage and take the ritualistic encore break.
With the last set of the weekend and the dwindling crowd in the concert field, it was a real bummer to see the band leave this time around. It was hard to keep the momentum going to go check out the late nights but I made my way over to see Wolfgang Gartner at the Grooveshark tent. The DJ played extremely high-energy electro-house that packed the tent for the night. I’d assume that Wolfgang’s sudden popularity probably has to do with his collaboration with Deadmau5, but he did put on a decent set. Some of the tracks were pretty bangin’ although I didn’t get a sense that he was doing a whole lot of actual track mixing but rather dropping one track after the other. I couldn’t get anywhere near the tent but I was pretty worn out from the weekend by that point anyway.
This made seeing Emancipator at the dance tent a perfect of a way to end the festival. His mellow, moody beats juxtaposed with gorgeous strings and other organic instrumentation was perfect music to unwind for the night. Enchanting melodies met deep, syncopated bass lines that were rich with harmonic ambience and emotion. His set seemed quiet in that it was almost turned down but it only drew me in closer. Though the music is more downtempo, there are certainly more hip-hop meets techno aspects that make the music danceable if you are trying to sway casually to the beat. However, this is not the dance party music many are looking for in a late night act at Camp Bisco. I’d really love to catch him again with his violinist or when he begins touring with a live ensemble next year.
It was a strangely enormous year at Camp Bisco. Besides The Disco Biscuits, Shpongle, multiple appearances from Adam Deitch, it was almost unrecognizable from my last visit five years ago. For better and for worse, the festival is growing by leaps and bounds every year. Here’s hoping that the festival keeps branching out to new interesting and exciting music and doesn’t stagnate on the same big-name ticket sellers year after year. Here’s hoping that they work out some logistical issues that come with bigger music festivals. Here’s hoping that The Disco Biscuits keep making the forward-thinking, groundbreaking music that they’ve pioneered.
Joe’s Photo Gallery
Camp Bisco Day One Coverage
Camp Bisco Day Two Coverage