Tale of The T Part 2: Extended Spring Training and The True Origins of Camp Bisco
Alas the story of my Bonnaroo break-in will be postponed once again as by popular demand (okay, about a dozen emails) I return to the 1999 Jambands.com Tour.
Let me start with a brief recap of where I left off last time. Actually, let me back up to the beginning…in the summer of 1998 I contacted Andy Gadiel and asked him for some help starting a new web site that would focus on my Jam Bands book which was set to be published that fall (not to be confused with 2004’s Jambands book, perhaps a story for another day). Andy, who at the time was trying to leverage the success of his Phish page, gave me some advice and eventually agreed to serve as the initial webmaster. So Jambands.com launched in September 1998 (if you look back, you’ll see that two of initial columnists, Mr. David Steinberg and Mr. Jesse Jarnow are still with us, nine years later). By the summer of 1999, Andy had moved on to focus on Jambase (later to become JamBase, which had launched in January 1999 as our Jambands.com Tour Database). Meanwhile, I wanted to assemble an east coast tour of bands to showcase everything that was happening within our scene (at a time when one could quite confidently use the word “scene” without generating anxiety or antipathy).
As I explained last time, I received a general commitment from the four initial groups: The Disco Biscuits, The Slip, Deep Banana Blackout and Percy Hill but I ran into problems as to which band would headline, how long everyone would play and so forth.
Undaunted by the challenges of packaging such a tour (and perhaps this was a classic case of not knowing how much I didn’t know) I continued to push forward. All of the groups’ managers were still up for it, and I had made contact with venues from Maryland to Maine, placing a hold on their rooms for June dates. The managers, who at that time as I recall were in most every instance serving as their bands’ booking agents, accommodated me by leaving those dates open. By then we had acquitted a fifth wheel as well, since Gamelan’s Andrew Stahl had convinced me to add Jiggle The Handle. I liked Jiggle but their involvement only compounded the issues regarding time slots and billing.
So I wrapped my head around all this for a while and eventually concluded that the best way to circumnavigate some of the problems was to alter my initial approach. Rather than have those five bands appear exclusively, I would build a tour around the core groups but not have all of them on the bill every night. This way each of the dates would have a headliner of sorts who would receive a longer set time and a bit more dough than the developing acts on each bill. This also would allow me to draw in additional worthy bands and better embody the mission of the website.
It was in this context that I had locked in special three night island trek in the middle of the tour. Or at least I thought I had locked it in. The Jambands.com Tour was going to include three shows on Nantucket featuring the Disco Biscuits and two different openers each night. The band was up for it, the venue was up for it and Jambands.com columnist Benjy Eisen was really up for it. It was in this context that Benjy went into overdrive trying to fashion all sort of that activities and ancillary events that could be part of the island run, which he decreed would be called…Camp Bisco.
The Camp Bisco stretch of the Jambands.com tour was going to take place from June 7-9. We had the line-ups all worked out and were nearly prepared to make the announcement when I received a call from the talent buyer at the Chicken Box (where my sister-in-law Jill had worked for a couple summers and put in the good word for us). It turned out that the club was a bit anxious about having our fans on the island for three nights in early June 1999. Apparently the community and the club were clashing with a bit more intensity than usual and in this instance folks made the assumption that Bisco Campers were not likely to afford lodging on the island but instead would be crashing on the beach. The Box was out and Camp Bisco was over (as it turned out it was just postponed because you can’t keep a good name down and so Camp Bisco would take place in August, with many of the acts that would come to be part of the Jambands.com tour).
Days after that fell apart we announced the 1999 Jambands.com Tour, which had become two legs after we jettisoned Nantucket. We began in Philadelphia’s TLA on June 2, traveled to Towson, MD’s Recher Theater on June 3 and made our way to Wetlands on June 4 and 5. Then after a brief reprieve we wrapped things up with three New England dates: June 10 at the Stone Coast Brewing Company, June 11 at the Somerville Theater and June 12 at the Middle East in Cambridge (a satisfying conclusion since I was about to bring my Cambridge grad school days to a close…well, okay, just when I thought I was done, the Ph.D. would wait another year).
Last time, I mentioned that the origins of this extended reflection came from a stray comment by the Biscuits’ Marc Brownstein, which led me to seek out my Jambands.com Tour T-Shirt. He noted that the Biscuits performed with STS9 at Wetlands date on the Jambands.com Tour. Indeed, I was very much looking forward to seeing Sector 9 (later Sound Tribe Sector 9 and now, as best I can tell STS9), as they were one of the bands I invited because I had heard their music but not yet seen perform live. Other groups in this category included Living Daylights, Lake Trout and The Recipe.
The Recipe, which only appeared on one date, actually had an indirect impact on the tour. I locked them in for the Phili opener (this was back in the day when Kristin Wolverton was in the group), which I had targeted for the Trocadero. But then someone in the Recipe camp, who was not quite their manager (and come to think of it never would become their manager), browbeat me quite a bit and convinced me that I needed to put on the show at the Theater of the Living Arts. I assented and in the end this decision would hurt my wallet but allow for a heroic Butch Trucks moment (and who doesn’t enjoy a heroic Butch Trucks moment?) That tale, however, I reckon I’ll save for next time.
For now though, how about that T-shirt? Here’s the full line-up from the back of the Jambands.com Tour T-shirt.
Frankly, I’d still be psyched to check out most any of these shows. Next time, I’ll share more thoughts, memories and lessons from the tour itself.
Later days and peace,