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Published: 2009/07/21

Letters from Camp Bisco

The Disco Biscuits hosted the largest installment of its annual Camp Bisco festival this past weekend in Mariaville, NY. Throughout the weekend, the quartet offered six sets of music, including a surprise reunion with original drummer Sam Altman. In addition, the festival boasted marquee sets by a range of hip-hop, electronic, indie rock and jamband performers, including Nas and Damian Marley, Dr. Dog, LCD Soundsystems James Murphy & Pat Mahoney and Sound Tribe Sector 9.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of the groups performances a Saturdays afternoon set where the band offered variations of some of its best known songs under two aliases: The Perfume and Tractorbeam. As guitarist Jon Gutwillig mentions in a recent site interview, The Perfume offers the band the opportunity to rearrange its songs stylistically, while Tractorbeam allows the group to strip its songs down to instrumentals. Saturdays set bounded back and forth between Perfume and Tractorbeam arrangements, jumping from a Beastie Boys/hip-hop version of M.E.M.P.H.I.S to instrumental takes on Rock Candy and Run Like Hell to a calypso Once The Fiddler Paid. Altman also took the stage with his former band for a set-closing take on his own Sound One.

The Disco Biscuits’ more straight-ahead shows were also noteworthy, including a meaty Friday night performance that featured a run from Strobelights and Martinis into Hot Air Balloon and the new track You and I, before returning to the Hot Air Balloon theme. The groups second set also seemed to nod to the evenings inclement weather with numbers like Floes and Above The Waves. Saturdays performance dug a bit deeper into the groups canon and offered the quartet the chance to stretch into the ether. Of particular note was the first version of Sister Judy’s Soul Shack since 2006 and a show-closing take on the early number Mr. Don. Bassist Marc Brownstein described the festival as the biggest and best Camp Bisco yet from the stage and mentioned that the group will release its new album this fall. Fans who purchased Consider It Dan VIP package were also treated to a variety of special performances: Orchard Lounge with special guest Allen Aucoin (the Disco Biscuits), a Conspirator DJ set with guests Joe Russo, Tom McKee and Simon Posford, Pretty Lights and Jon Gutwilligs M80 Dubstation.
Over the years Camp Bisco has moved deeper into the worlds of electronic and hip-hop music and this years event featured dance-punk sensations Chromeo, rapper Knaan and DJ Bonobo, who showed off his new eight-piece live band. In addition, representatives from three different electronic record labels each curated a night of music in one of Camp Biscos late night tents: Twisted Records (Prometheus, OTT and Shpongle), STS9s 1320 records (Pretty Lights, Two Fresh and Sound Tribe Sector 9) and DFA (Holy Ghost, Special Disco featuring James Murphy and Pat Mahoney). Musicians also collaborated across the board: Knaan sang with Damian Marley and Nas, noted jungle drummer KJ Sawka sat in with Biodiesel, Brothers Past and the Disco Biscuits and Brownstein, Tom Hamilton and Joe Russo formed the core of the Younger Brother Live backing band. Nas, in particular, seemed to note the merging of styles by introducing the Disco Biscuits as his distant relatives near the end of his set.

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