CAMP BISCO X: The Rewind
Well, friends, I believe I have reached the apex of the rage capability curve. I have hollered and screamed, and two-stepped and streamed through crowds of enough people to populate a large village. When I woke up the day before the festival, I would never have fathomed the ebb and flow of energy between persons of all shapes, sizes, social groups, and (somewhat unfortunately) ages. I have experienced the holy grail of people watching, and basked in the glory of friendly interaction. This, my glorious companions, may have been the best weekend of my life.
If you don’t know what went down recently, then you seriously missed out, for two weeks ago was the champion of summer festivals. In the obscure country fields up upstate New York, takes place a 3 day bass heavy all-you-can-dance buffet known as Camp Bisco.
The first Bisco took place
on the very same grounds in 2001, in Cherry Tree, PA in 1999, when the live electronic super group The Disco Biscuits decided to throw a little party, drawing but a few hundred people. This year on the festival’s 10th anniversary, the 7 hour entry lines in 90 degree heat yielded in the first sellout of Camp Bisco. For the 25,000 people in attendance, this would be an excruciating experience both in and out of the gates, not to mention the 4 hours of torrential rain and ensuing mudbath that was pretty much everything (really though). However, aside from losing shoes to quicksand-like material and a contamination of the water supply, the hardships were all but microdots compared to the wealth and variety of musical talent which graced the 5 stages throughout the event’s 72 hour period.
Therein lies the pulp of the experience. If I could somehow articulate the catharsis of emotions that was purged from the depths of my being I would, but the atmosphere provided a breeding ground for extraordinarily powerful energy, which the artists fantastically harnessed and released with their music. From moombahton to trance-funk, and dubstep to electro, not a single set was entirely disappointing. I find myself shocked by some of the things i enjoyed, and I genuinely applaud the musicianship of all artists who came out.
That being said, there were definitely some sets that stood out. To make it simple, I’ll take it day-by-day and talk a little about what I was truly impressed with, and what didn’t really powder my donut.
The first set I got to see was Sonic Spank. This live 4 piece group had so much energy, and though the crowds were still small, they definitely went hard and gave way more love than they should have received. Their electro-jam-funk sound had great drive and awesome rhythms, definitely worthy of some serious head-bobbing.
Next up was Run DMT. You may have heard of this dubstep super-trio through their release of “Buraka’s Theme” for the new Mortal Kombat… but if you haven’t, THESE DUDES BRING IT. Their set was huge. They did a great job of rallying the crowd with steep builds and boulder sized drops, obliterating the patrons womping before them. Their great song versatility and transitional flow had what it takes to make for a great set.
After seeing a snippet of Orchard Lounge, we headed to Main Stage area for Beats Antique. This was my second time seeing the tribal bass-funk trio, and I must say that while i enjoy their sets, most people weren’t too ready for what they had to offer, and honestly they perform much better in a more intimate setting. Having said that, I still love what they do with live instruments like the banjo, violin, and single bass drum, combining the components to create eerily attractive beats which seem to penetrate the mind and transport the soul to a more exotic and organic realm. Add the hypnosis of Zoe Jake’s belly dancing and you’ve got yourself the captivating act that is Beats Antique
After their stunning display, the crowd simply turned its collective head toward the opposite stage and prepared for the bass assassination that continuously ruins dubstep. Of course I’m talking about Borgore, the king of vulgarity and grimy, filthy dubstep. His set was, as per usual, astonishing. So hard was his choice of bass lines, I was literally left clenching my jaw, the result of some serious bassface during prime wompage, dropping classic jams like “Nympho,” to chart favorites like Doctor P’s “Watch Out” (which actually got play A WHOLE LOT, as by Skrillex, Nero, and Harvard Bass). Dare I say the general consensus was that he was a crowd favorite, and though I did enjoy him very much, he may not have brought it as hard as he did for say Spring Massive in Baltimore.
Possibly my biggest disappointment, though, was not having the chance to see SBTRKT, whom I have been thoroughly obsessed with for the past month or two after the release of his new album, which we covered a little while back. Instead, I stayed at the Main Stage to watch The New Deal do their thing, and boy do they do it. Their fiercely persistent momentum is funky and tight, flowing from beat to beat and tempo to tempo with lofty and melodic highs to accompany the thump of the lows.
The run on the Main Stages kept its pace when Australian electronic act Cut Copy came on shortly thereafter with some glorious electropop. Their charismatic stage presence and chart ready hooks matched perfectly with the hard hitting bang of their soul fused nü-disco bass lines. Luckily i was able to snag a little clip to show you guys just what I mean.
After the lights went out on Cut Copy, the home team, aka The Disco Biscuits, came on to dabble for a bit and close the evening. Given that they played a total of 6 sets during the festival, I’ll get to them in a little bit. it was THEIR festival after all.
As the night grew darker, all the wild things emerged… and boy did they get weird. It didn’t help that the first late night sets of the whole festival were our boy Skrillex and the
Pretty Lights Music phenom Archnemesis, whom you MUST check out if you had not heard of. His remix of Katy Perry’s “E.T.” is just insane. Be that as it may, it was imperative that I witness the utter ridiculousness of Skrillex live. Having seen Sonny already at Webster Hall, I already possessed some inkling of how gnarly he could, but I think it’s safe to say that many did not. And HO-LY TITS. I’m pretty sure you all know what Skrillex sounds like, so I won’t go too much into his sound, but his song selection was high in variety, playing everything from his own originals to Ludacris’ “Move Bitch.” Not only was he versatile, but he did it with incredible seamlessness and an untouchable proficiency in live mixing and chopping, the likes of which is rare for the producer/dj hybrid of today. He definitely knows what crowds want, and he knows how to give it to them. During this particular set, the Grooveshark tent (one of the two dance tents) was absolutely overflowing with people. the sardine-like arrangement of people was easily in the top 5 biggest crowds of the festival; to be dead in the middle of it was an outrageously overwhelming experience. Every bass kick seemed to match the pulse of the waves of flailing hands, flags, and other variously decorated scepters as people jumped as high as they could, only to plummet back into the mud as the bass dropped. The cherries on top were the 3 new tracks Skrillex just so happened to incorporate into his set, each of which more impressively hard hitting than the last. To prove just how mind altering, here’s a little teaser of the wonders that are sure to be released soon.
Having not slept for the 2 nights prior, it was imperative that I rest slightly before then 2 following days and nights of raging, so I actually missed Bluetech and most of Lotus, but I heard Lotus from my tent and they were SICK as usual. They always bring such high intensity sets that never seem to disappoint. As I lay on the cool soil under the stars, they did well to ease my transition into a distant place, a place of recuperation in preparation for the madness ahead.
After getting a late started to our day, my companions and I commenced the sonic consumption with some original rasta dub courtesy of the cover kings, Easy Star All-Stars. It was high time to lay down the picnic blankets and bask in the mellow vibes emanating from each member’s fingertips and vocal chords. Their renditions of Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, and the Beatles have always been a classic alternative fusion of dub and otherwise, and seeing them live was as impressive as it was soothing. I would definitely recommend blasting off and checking these guys out the next possible chance you get.
After letting their last notes ring out, the All-Stars were followed on the Main Stage by Das Racist, a rap trio from Brooklyn. Having loved their studio tracks from the moment I heard them, I was shocked and awed to find out that their live performance was nothing short of distasteful. After about 15 minutes of screeching into the microphones, the MC’s started to realize they weren’t attracting as much attention as they should, so they decided to try and get the audience into the mix with some call and response chants. This too failed to deliver a positive message, as audience members had already received a poor impression and were therefore unwilling to participate in the chant. This in turn resulted in comments like “Ahh fuck it, y’all suck” from the boys on stage, which came off as pretty unprofessional. All this is really just as aside to the fact that the sound technician must have been on shrooms because the noise output was just plain erratic.
To escape the torture I hiked up the hill to the Grooveshark tent, where I made probably the best discovery of the weekend. The man in question is Opiuo, a groovy electro-funk beat master from New Zealand who rocked my socks with substantial gusto. So captivating he was, that since Bisco I have been exploring his music quite thoroughly. This man definitely deserves some serious attention, so in the next week, Dubco will be releasing an in-depth feature on this funkadelic Kiwi. Keep your channel clicker close for that one.
I think the good folks over at Grooveshark did well at this festival. I’m not sure if the performers whose sets were in their tent were brought in partly by Grooveshark themselves, but they sure did a good job of grouping sets together on the schedule. During the Opiuo>Two Fresh>Four Tet run, I most definitely felt like a groovy great white, so the promoters did something quite right. The live-drummer-slash-dj trio known as Two Fresh had a certain animalistic fluidity with groove and inner city soul. They definitely had me doing the Two Fresh two-step.
The staircase of energy seemed to lead slowly downward from set to set at this point, with the etherial jungle soundscapes of Four Tet following the Fresh-lings. I may be wrong about the overall tempo of the set, though, because only a short portion of it was ingested before making my way down to the first ever Shpongle Live set in the US. Shpongle is the brainchild of UK producer and musical genius Simon Posford, and Raja Ram, an Australian native whose multifaceted and multitalented personality make him the most quirky frontman I have ever seen. Together – and with the help of a few others – they create a dazzling spectacle of eastern ethnic-influenced psychedelic beats and colorful visual demonstrations, like that of “slinky girl” and a male contortionist (pictured above). To behold such a set was truly an awesomely powerful experience, one that I can never forget, and you could only dream of. Luckily for you, that’s not too hard to envision, because the entire set has been released for free on behalf of Twisted Music, Posford’s own record label. Better bless your stars for this one boys and girls, because this one’s a true gem.
After Shpongle was over, I was able to catch the last two tracks of 12th Planet. Having seen him before, I wasn’t too surprised to find him absolutely slaying people up in the Grooveshark tent. Apparently he played a ton of classics like Skullcrack VIP, Bass Canon, Skrilly’s In For The Kill remix, and he and Skrilly’s very own Needed Change, to name a few. The crowd exiting the tent looked fully bassed out, so I’m sure he hit the CDJs hard. Hopefully he’ll bring it just as hard when I see him and Skrillex and Nadastrom together in Burlington in October; should be a blast.
On this fine evening, like each other of the weekend, The Disco Biscuits would play two sets. Their day 2 set break would be played by none other than Ratatat, easily my favorite electrorock duo of all time. Their psychadelic-glitch-groovy-funk-filled beats provide both the pace to keep you body moving, and enough samples and vocoder tricks to keep your mind floating. I had previously seen the Brooklyn natives twice in smaller indoor venues, so this experience was a bit different. The crowd was nonetheless completely enthralled, its constituents humming along to the melodies, giving as much back as the guitars and synths were putting out. I envy the NYC division of Dubco for having been able to participate in the potential joy of seeing Ratatat in Central Park; the setting must have emitted remarkable amounts of energy. As for their Bisco performace, Ratatat brought it hard as they always do, playing a wide array of their originals from their earliest productions, to their most recent hits. As always, the pair finished off the set with a superb rendition of Seventeen Years, a timeless classic which never fails to get the crowd amped. To experience the bliss for yourself, check out some of the videos I was able to snag; please pardon my less-than-great image quality and incredibly obnoxious melodic accompaniment. I had to, it was so heat of the moment.
Following the glory of Ratatat came the dance-off of the century. Before this festival, I had never really gotten into the whole Disco Biscuit craze. The two previous sets before this one had been decent, but I wasn’t yet sure that they had one me over…. That, however, changed instantly within minutes of this particular set. They slayed me, won me over, and left me dehydrated, sweating, and grinning from ear to ear. Their builds wouldn’t end; guitarist Jon “Barber” Gutwillig exploded with thunderous precision, speed, and charisma, bassist Marc Brownstein kept the thump going with chunky groove, while the drums kept pace and the keyboardist lay cherries on top with slices of synth and vocoder. The overall set had an interesting structure to it as well. Played with the same song order forwards as backwards, the palindrome really contributed to the journey through the music, providing a guided railway of continuous dance locomotion. It also helped to create a feeling of complete closure and satisfaction upon the final recession of sounds from the speaker towers. I was truly impressed, and can confidently say now that I wholeheartedly appreciate the Biscuits.
Opening it up for the night sets was the colossal Canadian tag team by the name of MSTRKRFT. This was the second time I had seen them and definitely the better. What really sets these guys apart is that for the most part they surprise their audiences with either obscure tracks and samples, or impressive live remixes of classic soul, disco, or metal tracks which ordinarily have no place in house sets, but are integrated seamlessly to create fluid song transitions and a perfectly balance of hype and rest to keep the listeners attentive and their feet moving. I was very excited by their seeming affinity for a nü-disco-influenced sound, a theme which they carried for most of their set. I’m almost disappointed they didn’t flutter around some Duck Sauce, Louis La Roche, Breakbot, or someone of the like. What did have me yelping for joy was their rendition of the Laidback Luke remix of Heartbreaker; it simply blew me away.
After that extreme sauce spilling, it felt like prime time to pay tribute to the original disc jockeys who pioneered the act of beatmatching on vinyl records. Luckily the DFA Disco Tent had set up shop and were open for business. Spinning in front of old school RBGY light pallets was Special Disco Version, a dynamic disco duo consisting of James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem. Having recently emerged under Murphy’s label DFA, the pair were welcomed with open ears in Mariaville, NY as the late night crowd settled in for a time machine ride back to the 70′s. Everyone seemed to have their soul shoes on as records were changed and interchanged from deck to deck for nearly 3 hours of timeless sounds. And as I stumbled back to my tent high on lactic acid and drunk with exhaustion, I longed for a different birthday, yet gleamed in light of the peace and closure to a wonderful day 2 on behalf of DFA Records.
That Saturday, all the one day pass holders arrived, fresh and ready for a full day of raging. Us 3 day troopers were thoroughly tapped out and to get on their level was an arduous and painstaking task, sprinkled with coffee, Red Bull, oranges, granola bars, and other more discretely handled substances. Once our body and soul were replenished, it was time to face the catharsis which would be the final day of performances.
We started it off with some Biscuits, their only day set of the festival. Shortly thereafter came Lettuce, a groovy jazz-funk band under the Royal Family Records banner created by Lettuce’s Adam Deitch and jazz group Soulive. It was a pleasant breath of fresh air from the persistent knock of the EDM bass canon. Technically and melodically, each member displayed a profound level of musicianship which, for a fellow musician was heartwarming to behold. The jazziness of their jam and funkiness of their hooks was original and upbeat, a vehicle of soul containing smiles and good vibrations. If you’re interested in that sort of thing I would definitely checking them out on tour with Soulive in the upcoming months.
Shortly before Lettuce lay down their instruments to dive into some vinaigrette, Dillon Francis had started his set. My companions and I had rushed over to the Dance Tent to catch Munchi, arriving just before his set was scheduled to start,. Much to our confusion, Dillon Francis strutted on stage during Jillionaire‘s finale and hopped on the table without missing a beat. Three minutes in, Jillionaire returned to the stage, mic in hand, only to announce that “unfortunately, Munchi couldn’t be with us today; apparently they didn’t let him in the country, so… yeah.” My heart broke and then erupted in joyous flames all in an instant. The loss of Munchi was a bummer, but I – and the rest of Dubco – am absolutely obsessed with Dillon Francis right now, and admire everything that he is doing. His set was perfectly tuned to his style: a blast of serious moombahton swag and dubstep filth echoed across the grass as he absolutely demolished the taps to our sauce tanks, causing a spill bigger than BP could possibly be responsible for.
Jillionaire, Munchi, Dillon Francis, and Nadastrom all were to play back to back as part of the Mad Decent Tropical tent, and moombah-island-dub themed fiesta courtesy of Mad Decent themselves. Given that the Dubco home makes itself in the DC area, moombahton is deeply engraved in the walls of our hearts. As such, the prospect of 4 hours of straight moombah was likely similar to the feeling the Wright brothers’ ghosts must have every time a plane takes off. I couldn’t bloody wait. Much like Dillon Francis had done, Dave Nada and his other half crept in during the final moments of Francis’ set. As they wrangled their first beats out into the air, I burst into DMV mode and went buckwild. Luckily I was joined by a few honorary Dubco members from back in the day so we had no trouble moombahcoring our way to nirvana.
Moombahed out and feeling invincible, we made our way to the Grooveshark tent to catch Treasure Fingers. I wasn’t really sure what to expect because his remixes and originals are pretty different from each other, from killer electro to mellowed out psychedelic nü-disco tracks which brush the boundaries of soundscapes. In an attempt to keep the crowd’s attention he went for the house set. In spite of dropping some decent tracks and doing some great mixing, I actually was not blown away, and in fact was rather disappointed. He did not really stand out…. but that’s just me. On the other hand, it served as a perfect lull before the madness that was to ensue.
When I first saw UK dubstep gods Nero on the Bisco lineup, I nearly wet myself. I hold their production in the highest esteem and had been relishing the opportunity to see them perform. As the lights dimmed and the pair walked out from back stage, I realized it wasn’t a pair at all. Only one half of the duo had shown. Amidst the momentary confusion and disappointment soon came indifference, because the fact of the matter was that I was there, and (half of) Nero was live in front of my eyes. I pretty much ate my words the second the music started too because I instantly felt that this was going to be big… and it sure was. Cycling through mega hits from Skrillex, Doctor P, Justice, Plan B, and Calvin Harris as well as their own, Nero put on easily one of the top 3 performances of the weekend. The tent was easily the most full of the festival, with people spilling out from every open side; and each person was absolutely wild, thrashing their bodies with every bass kick, jumping up and down at every drop. This was the mothership of dupstep sets, unlike any I had seen before. To top it all of, he dropped the crème brulée of surprises with a GNARLY version of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey“, a track that had absolutely everyone losing it, yelling all the lyrics as if trained by the conductor himself. It was incredible, truly incredible.
Having lost a significant amount of sauce at Nero, a brief repose was necessary before the Nectar enforced his reign upon the masses. So during the first night set of Biscuits we took it easy on the outskirts of the crowds, with more room to chill and dance than the freakfest near the railing. When the time came to make moves we positioned ourselves as front and center to Main Stage B as was feasible. As the Biscuits wound down, people got antsy and started bustling and shoving through. The pressure was on; if Bassnectar didn’t come on soon, i think the prison shanks were gonna in force and bodies would drop to get a better view. When he finally did come on, absolute shenanigans ensued. Never have i ever seen more scepters and staffs with blowup animals and school flags in my life – though only two flags were in attendance, Vermont and Maryland. I felt honored each time they reunited under the same tent. But pride aside, Bassnectar brought his A game as he always does. He always demonstrates the most unfathomable live mixing, mashing, and editing of the fly that It becomes hard to tell where tracks start and end, and what part of the overall sound belongs to which song. He truly is the master chef, with an array of classic tracks, sick remixes, and killer fresh beats to season any musical stir fry you could dream up. As the sun set behind the stage in his closings songs, it marked a sparkling end to a fantastic day. If only I had know how fantastic the night would be as well…
I cannot explain the thrill I experienced at the thought of seeing Wolfgang Gartner when I first heard of his participation. He has easily been for a long time one of my favorite producers and djs in the industry and to get the chance to see him in such a great atmosphere was a real treat. Rallied around our UVM flag, we made our way to the center of the tent, where we would remain for two whole sets. Wolfgang came on, and by the end of his first build, everyone was raging. His melodic layering was complex and his bass lines were as groovy as UV could hope to be. WIth big drops like “Illmerica“, “Space Junk“, and his “5th Symphony” among others, Gartner kept the party alive and the dancers going h.a.m. and cheese up in that mud pit.
The closure of his set meant that it was time for some sunglasses and Pretty Lights. I was somewhat disappointed that Adam Deitch of Break Science and Lettuce didn’t make it on stage as he usually does, but I assume his in depth participation over the last 3 days had beat it out of him. Furthermore, there had been rumors about a new and improved light show on the Pretty Lights tour, but alas, no such lights were present. Instead the light show consisted of the standard Grooveshark setup, which was pretty beast to begin with so I wasn’t really complaining. He played a pretty classic set, marked with some “Hot Like Sauce“, “More Important than Michael Jordan“, “Finally Moving“, and his “Time” remix from his most recent EP. Most notably, though, was what I am beginning to think was a live mashup of “NY State of Mind” and “C.R.E.A.M“, two timeless hip hop classics with a touch of Pretty Lights stardust. It was a perfect way to end a perfect weekend.
In closing, I have to thank all the kind folks I went with and met during the festival. Good vibes floated in the air and enriched the experience ten-fold for all those whose souls were open to it. I also cannot go without thanking the beautiful people in charge of the festival, as well as Hell’s Angels who provided security and kept people in line when needed. And last but certainly not least to the performers: it goes without saying that you are loved. It is, however, of the utmost importance to understand the level of gratitude we as listeners must offer. Without your vision and ability to do what you love and make people happy, the world of music would be a lesser place. I tip my cap to you.
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