The Joy of Being A Newbie
I had planned on writing this article about my experiences in Las Vegas on Halloween. I had pictures, backstage stories, glow stick complaints and expert analysis. However, on the night before our deadline, I changed my mind. Something much more meaningful has occurred in my life.
Last night, I had an epiphany. A buddy and I were having a few beers, pondering the meaning of life and playing some chess. In situations like this, we almost always listen to live tape of my long-time favorite band. For some reason, I decided to give something else a try. I popped in the Disco Biscuits’ latest album. A lot of my friends have been raving about these guys lately and although I’d seen them a handful of times, I was yet to have that spiritual connection. Half way through the second tune, I finally understood. Chris and I became entranced by the music. We had both been concentrating extremely hard on the chess game, but were suddenly distracted by the music. I did not even know the name of the song. This is rare for me. During the amazing guitar solo, I kept referring to “the guitar player.” I was so excited that I didn’t know his name. I know virtually nothing about the band’s history or personal life. For once, I wasn’t a journalist, a DJ or a road manager; I was just a music fan. I’m a Disco Biscuits newbie and it feels great.
When I first saw the Disco Biscuits a couple of years ago, I was not blown away, to say the least. They seemed like just another jam band. At the time, I was hosting an improvisational radio show and made a point to check out as many different bands as I could. I was lucky enough to work at WERS in Boston, which has a very large listening-audience and an even larger national reputation. Booking interviews and in-studio performances with artists was very easy. After a while, most bands would even call us when they were in town. The Disco Biscuits however, didn’t make it to Boston very often and I never established a relationship with them.
A few weeks ago, I went to the Wetlands in New York City for Dean Budnick’s Jam Bands book release party. Dean hand-picked the bands on the bill and it was one of the best line-ups I have ever seen. Mike Kineally, former Frank Zappa guitarist, opened the show and was simply mind-blowing. Next, Oteil Burbridge and the Peacemakers dazzled the growing crowd with their blend of jazz and funk. Then it was time for the Slip, who played in the downstairs lounge. I cannot get enough of the Slip. Every note these guys play is straight from the heart. If you still haven’t heard The Slip, you should really check them out.
The Disco Biscuits headlined the show and when I made it back up stairs for the start of their set, the entire place was packed. It felt like the jam bands’ equivalent to Oscar’s night. There were a lot of familiar faces and well-know personalities from the scene in attendance.
(Cheesy announcer voice: “Hey there’s Richard Gehr over there, and hey, there in the hat, it’s Benji Eisen….look ladies and gentleman, it’s Larry and Andy from the Pharmer’s Almanac….and there’s Andy Gadiel..and Dean Budnick!”) As I made my way through the celebrities, I noticed a certain vibe in the air. People were very psyched for this show. There was an urgency that I don’t usually notice at club shows. The crowd was restless with festive anticipation. I was standing next to Gadiel, who had flown in all the way from Chicago for the night.
He’s a very big Biscuit’s fan and as we made all of the preparations for the show, I could see the excitement in his eyes. I even over heard people in the audience talking about breaking from tradition this year and going to see the The Biscuits on New Years Eve, instead of you-know-who.
As the band walked out on stage, it was obvious that they recognized many of the people in the audience. This always makes for a more intimate show. I couldn’t get over how much the band has improved in just two years. They have a completely original sound now. Their jams are fresh and spontaneous. Somehow, they’ve fused techno with improvisational rock and the results are very powerful. First of all, techno is, by definition, produced by computers. I’ve never seen a band actually play techno with instruments. Seeing the Biscuits’ own version of “rock-disco-tech” put a grin on my face that would not go away. Their music kept me energized, which was a good thing, considering they played past 4 AM. It was such a great feeling to just enjoy the music. Ironically, I had not planned on writing about the show, so I was not worried about taking notes and observing every nuance of the performance. I was just a regular member of the audience swept away by the music. It felt very liberating. It was new to me.
I could go into much greater detail in describing their music. I could have called Rob Turner, Gadiel or “Manny” and gotten all sorts of facts on the band for this article. I could have simply read the liner notes of the Biscuits’ album and referred to the musicians and songs by name. I neglected to do this not out of laziness, but because I don’t want the Disco Biscuits’ music to become academic to me. They are one of the few jam bands out there that I can enjoy purely for the music. I have never read their bio, spoken with anyone in their management company or even done an interview. I have had no professional contact with them at all. It felt good to actually pay for their CD, instead of getting a promotional copy. The Disco Biscuits are strictly pleasure to me. There is that other band that I, and probably most of you, have obsessed over for years. I can tell you everything about them. I almost know too much. Although I love the band more than ever, I have to admit, the concerts are not as magical anymore.
They are, of course, still amazing, but I don’t always get that child-like sense of excitement that I used to. I’ve seen so many shows that I’ve built up tolerance. Listening to the Biscuits, gives me that “anything is possible” feeling again. I can’t predict their setlists. When I get wrapped up in one of their jams, I don’t know the chord progression by heart yet. The journey they take me on is mysterious.
I would like to thank a few people for turning me on to the Disco Biscuits. Rob, Dave, Dean, and Andy, you guys truly are dedicated music fans and have done so much for this band. I feel honored to have caught this band in such a small venue. I have a new outlook on music today: there are other bands out there that can make me feel like I’m floating. The Disco Biscuits are creating high-energy innovative music and their fan base is growing rapidly. Experience them. Be one of the people to see them “back when they used to play bars”. They will blow your mind.
Jeff Waful graduated from Emerson College in Boston with a degree in broadcast journalism. While at Emerson, he hosted an improvisational radio show called “Space Jam” on WERS FM. He is currently working in television and managing a band called Uncle Sammy.