The Disco Biscuits with Bill Kreutzman & Mickey Hart 4.17.15

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)
Audio By Corey Sandoval (Kind Recordings)

The forecast for Friday night in Morrison was bleak. Cold, wet, and windy were on the menu, and I decided to get into the idea. I bought a PVC rain suit, dressed in layers, and prepared myself to dance in a blizzard if it came to it. In fact, I was looking forward to that exact idea if I was being honest. On arrival at Red Rocks, the weather appeared quite mild. I grabbed a second hoodie from the car and had my rain suit packed in my bag in case things got hairy.

The opener, Break Science (full band), had just wrapped up as I got into the venue. After a half hour or so, the Biscuits appeared and launched into the only true Disco Biscuits set of the night. I'd seen them more than a handful of times and have had varying responses. I was never the biggest electronica fan, and when they leaned heavily that way in the early 2000's, it was innovative, but it wasn't my bag. Having really enjoyed their work on their early album, Uncivilized Area, I felt their new direction was lacking the compositional substance of which they were capable. Red Rocks was alive with a sea of flat brims peppered with tie-dye shirts. The Biscuits took the stage and opened with "M.E.M.P.H.I.S> Basis for a Day." This may have been my favorite part of the show as it culminated in a dance party throw down with shiny sounds and beats that bounced. The rest of first set was ok, but never made me feel like they were going for it.

Disco Biscuits Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on April 17, 2015

As the band returned from the first set break, they were joined by Tom Hamilton and Grateful Dead drummers, Billy Kreutzman and Mickey Hart. They settled in for a set that payed homage to the jamband forefathers. While I prefer the Dead to the Biscuits, something about this set felt cliche, or generic, or both. I appreciated the fact that the Biscuits were doing something so organic and traditional when they have always been on the cutting edge of electronica, but the result was better fare for a small club than Red Rocks. It was really fun to see the "Drums> Space" which had more of a Disco Biscuits flare and really took the old jams into the 21st century. Though most of the set was on par with a thousand other good Dead cover bands, Kreutzman and Hart were there, which made it acceptable. As the second set wound down, the wet flakes of a warm snow fell, catching light and lasers creating what was immediately dubbed "snow lasers." And what a glittery, sparkly, beautiful thing it was!

When third set began, the Dead drummers were no longer along for the ride. Without the drumming duo in tow, I assumed we were heading back into Disco Biscuits original territory. For the most part we were. Through a string of tunes beginning with "Fifth of Beethoven" and finishing a "Magellan" that had been started the night before, the band seemed to muddle through their own songs in anticipation of more Dead tunes which were performed sans the drummers. Once again, the falling slush made for a field of colored sparks. As Barber sang, the thought occurred to me that long ago, it was probably the Grateful Dead that inspired these guys to play improvisational jam music in the first place. For the younger electronica fans that haven't grown up on the Dead, it was likely an unusual show. I had my doubts that it would win the Dead any new fans, but it was fun anyway. For me, hearing the Grateful Dead has always been comforting in some way, and the familiar tunes in such epic surroundings was undoubtedly a treat, even if it was watching a band reach outside their wheelhouse. On the whole it was enjoyable, but I enjoyed the experience more than the music. Oh, and snow lasers...

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