The Disco Biscuits, Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC- 12/30
Replacing a band member might seem easy to some, considering how many groups do it. But for the most part, the vast majority of bands don’t rely on each and every member to the same degree. So while it surely might be easy for, say, Korn to go on without one of the guitar players, the four members of The Disco Biscuits had spent years working on group chemistry and a musical vocabulary, both of which were integral to their ability to “jam,” which in conjunction with esoteric lyrics, intricate musicianship, and a rare melting of musical styles put them on a path to taking over and dominating the splintering jamband scene. But when Sam Altman confirmed months of speculation that he was leaving the band to pursue other interests, one had to wonder how easy it would be for the band to replace him. For starters, the remaining three members of the band are not known as the easiest people to work with, or for, so if the situation seemed daunting to those of us outside the band’s inner circle, one has to imagine how difficult things were inside.
At the same time, the three remaining members of the band hardly lack drive, no matter what one may think based on recent times. There is little to no doubt that if they committed themselves to this band (again), they would be able to rise from the proverbial ashes of what the band had once been. How far they will rise (again) remains a question for the future.
On December 30 at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, the question of the present seemed to revolve around new drummer Allen Aucoin, and whether or not he would be able to fit in with this group, both musically and emotionally. One has to assume that his ability would not be in question, as the band had auditioned a variety of drummers, and Allen had come out on top. So with Aucoin officially in the Biscuits, the question really was no longer about Allen, but now about “the band” and what they, as a whole, are able to do.
As the band launched into “Caterpillar” to open the show, it was difficult NOT to hone in on Allen and his drumming. Unfortunately, at least at first, the opening number, with its steady backbeat, was hardly the song to pass judgment. However, following a lackluster and forced jam in “Floodlights” and a standard run through of “World is Spinning,” the Biscuits launched into the first “real” test of the night via “Above the Waves.” With more sections that I care to detail, “ATW” is about as far from easy as New York is from California. But with near perfect precision, the band made it through with few noticeable flaws.
I kept reminding myself, successfully I might add, that these debut shows shouldn’t be taken as the end-all-be-all. Rain or shine, this band is going to get on track, and they are going to progress and evolve. But I had no choice but to be impressed by the second set opener of “Run Like Hell.” Allen’s drumming, steady throughout the evening, provided a linear backdrop for the band to dance on top of, and “Run Like Hell” might have been the peak moment of the night as a result, displaying not what might be, but rather what will be. While there was no moment of the show that approached the skill and ferocity of the band’s heyday, the show still solidified the quartet’s “return’ and provided an interesting tease for what lays ahead.
The remaining songs were impressive, but not in the same way. But really, that’s irrelevant. The Disco Biscuits are back. After a lengthy period of time of wandering in the desert, the band that was poised to take over the world has emerged. Are they stronger? Are they better off? We don’t knowyet. But with new songs written, new jams to be unveiled, and a new sense of urgency, commitment and focus, the band has it all right in front of them.
Hopefully, they won’t let it slip away.