It’s that time of year again. All of the country’s biggest multi-day music festivals have fully announced their line-ups with fans eager to participate in one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences the live music world has to offer. These large scale festivals provide not only a place to hear many of one’s favorite acts, but also an opportunity to explore a different section of the country, meet new friends, and discover new music to listen to. Such is Camp Bisco Eleven, which as denoted from its title is celebrating over a decade of facilitating these very memories, each year improving on the overall festival experience.
Lead by Meatcamp Productions, Camp Bisco has grown into one of the largest outdoor festivals in the country, selling out to over 25,000 patrons last summer. The festival will take place over three full days from July 12 to the 14 at the Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, NY, just outside of Albany. Since 2007, this site has hosted the festival. Stationed next to a small lake in the rolling hills of upstate New York, the fresh air and open space provides the perfect atmosphere for a multi-day camping festival. The ILCC is unique in that it is exclusively operated by a group of bikers who host the annual Harley Davison Rendezvous Classic. The staff has always been extremely courteous and considerate to attendees, creating a safe and respectful atmosphere for the weekend. ILCC has become synonymous with Camp Bisco over the past several years. Getting to this point was an unpredictable journey that lead this festival to its premiere stature today.
Back in 1999, when the very first Camp Bisco debuted, The Disco Biscuits was comprised of then drummer Sammy Altman, bassist Marc Brownstein, keyboardist Aron Magner and guitarist John “The Barber” Gutwillig. In these days, they were first perfecting and realizing their unique sound, that melded the essence of jam and improvisation with electronic influences thanks to the addition of the JP 8000, an advanced synthesizer used by Magner. Dubbed the moniker “Trancefusion”, The Disco Biscuits oozed with creativity and passion, playing a plethora of shows always working to tweak and modify this uninque soundscape they were discovering, all the while finding their place in the broad music scene.
The Disco Biscuits’ On Time
Camp Bisco has grown in a unique way. The festival gets its name from the lead band that pioneered the event back in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania in 1999. The Disco Biscuits, a Philadelphia based jamband that has evolved into more of an improvisational electronic rock band, began the concept of their own festival without first realizing it for themselves, similar to their unique genre of music. Then, Camp Bisco gave no clues to indicate that the event would grow from a glorified outside concert of less than a thousand people to the massively anticipated event it is today.
Over the next several years, Trancefusion gained in popularity and spurred the creation of many other bands that mimicked the style of The Disco Biscuits, bringing the electronic element to live performances along with traditional instruments. Some call it jamtronica, but then it was simply groundbreaking: a new sound that was fresh and intriguing. Over the following years, as the attendance to their concerts got larger, so did the vision of what was now Camp Bisco.
The Disco Biscuits were then still enveloped in the genre of a jamband, yet they were doing many unique things outside of this lexicon. For example, they hosted drum and bass DJs to play alongside them during live performances, even further bridging the gap between both worlds. It came to the point where The Disco Biscuits created their own festival in order to capitulate their point of view and meld these two worlds instead of keeping them separate. There was not a large festival that captured this agenda until The Disco Biscuits and Meatcamp Productions decided to launch it themselves.
By 2005, The Disco Biscuits had reached the apex of their career up to that point, playing at Camp Bisco IV to nearly 5000 people in Van Ettan New York. But this story is not so simple as any natural growth would indicate. For this event was not just monumental in the success of the band’s hard work, but it also marked the final shows for drummer Sammy Altman, who at the peak of the band’s potential decided to leave the music world and pursue a career in pediatrics.
The Disco Biscuits were moving with momentum yet had no drummer. They wasted no time in scouting the best person to fill in the professor’s shoes and finally decided to go with Allen Aucoin of Gypsy Skydog. Before choosing Allen, The Disco Biscuits hosted the final contenders for the coveted position in a two night drum-off in Atlantic City, just before the New Year after Sammy’s departure in 2005. The final song played that night with Allen was “Save The Robots”. During the second jam, Allen went crazy on the e-drums and convinced the band and fans alike that he was the guy. Allen worked incredibly hard learning the bulk of the entire catalog of the group in a few short weeks before their debut on New Year’s Eve.
Amon Tobin’s Wifibon
Through the instability of the band’s makeup during these pivotal years, Camp Bisco has remained a driving force, steadily gaining more attendees each year as Allen directly improved as well to where the band stands today. The Disco Biscuits exist as a new version of a once shaky sound. Where as they used to rely mostly on creativity and exploration in their sets, they now have their style of play down to a polished science where they create live improvisational dance party anchored by their original songs which at times can be an ode to their jamband roots with composed rock ballads and other classically composed tunes.
Their have been a few hiccups with the band over the past few years including injuries, long periods of time without shows, and a lack of clarity to what the future held for the group. However, Camp Bisco has always acted as a grounding event for the band and fans alike as Meatcamp Productions has continued to grow the brand and festival to a point where it has hosted such world renowned talent as LCD Soundsystem and Snoop Dog with six full sets by the Disco Biscuits.
The festival is more that just a music experience but also, due to its humble beginnings and intimate attendees, exists almost as a summer camp. At Camp Bisco, you see people you have not seen over the year and even partake in fun events like tug of war and color war! Along with the camplike feel, the festival will also host the traditional festival fare in eclectic food offerings, a small marketplace for everyday items, and a staff that is accommodating to any concerns from festival goers. Camp Bisco is even opening its gates a day early to accommodate the inevitable heavy traffic that will lead to the festival, providing yet another adjustment to consider the fan.
Camp Bisco will feature three primary stages. The main stage, is actually set up as two adjacent stages that will allow for a seamless transition between acts. When one finishes, the stage aside it will immediately begin, eliminating that awkward lull between acts that is normally hosted by blasé house music. In addition, there will be two dance tents that will keep the shade on the concertgoers as the heat is delivered from the artists. Also included in this year’s camp will be an “Up & Coming” stage that assumingly will feature acts that are on the rise.
There are many attributes that set Camp Bisco apart from the other festivals across the country as it focuses on electronically influenced acts far before the dubstep craze had been instilled throughout the youth in today’s music scene. Where at one time, jambands would fill the stages at said festivals, today one sees a number of DJs and producers filling the bills, warranting not just an exclusive side stage for electronic music, but more commonly entire festivals popping up devoted to the surging genre. The Disco Biscuits, who at one time may have been considered a niche band with their trancefusion sound are now noted as pioneers of the electronic assimilation into live music. In turn, many of the acts that headline their very own festival have used The Disco Biscuits and their events as a catalyst for their own careers.
This year’s festival features headliners Bassnectar, Skrillex and Amon Tobin. Bassnectar used to play at the smaller stages of Camp Bisco, open for the band, or be featured as a set break artist in New Year’s shows. Today, Bassnectar sits atop the coveted acts for a festival and draws fans in the thousands. He has developed his sound from hip-hop and remixed classics to a primarily bass and dubstep fueled performance, known for his deep rattling bass and high energy . At last year’s camp, swarms of fans bustled to hear the long-haired DJ and this year should be no different.
Mansions On The Moon’s Darkness
Skrillex has a similar style in music and has quickly become one of the hottest names in electronic music worldwide. Improving on his fundamental DJ skills by reverting to using CDJs, Skrillex has a deep passion for electronic music and the art of DJing, rarely taking breaks and putting his full heart into each performance. Winning Grammies and being featured in national ads for movies has not deterred the young performers drive as he always want to play, even after his shows. Skrillex is not only one of the most intriguing acts as camp, but his performance truly is something to behold.
Amon Tobin, who years ago did not even grace the main stage at Camp Bisco, will be performing the highly anticipated ISAM. In this unique performance, the Brazilian electronic technician plays a set synchronized to stunning visuals that illuminate his tunes. The production and syncopation of his highly specific compositions amounts to an epic performance that can easily be transposed into live art along with cutting edge music.
Rounding out the list of some of the heavy hitters at this year’s Camp Bisco is Big Boi, A-Trak, and Simian Mobile Disco. Big Boi has been featured with the Disco Biscuits before and plays a rousing set including everyone’s favorite Outkast and solo tracks. A-Trak, part of the Fool’s Gold record label, is a master DJ whose apparent skills on stage are not overlooked as he still classically utilizes a setup without a launchpad or laptop for the essence in his set. Simian Mobile Disco just released a new album titled Unpatterns that subjectively is stellar. The group of producers and DJs will play these new tracks as well as whatever they feel fits the moment at the time to an eager crowd .
Two acts not to be missed are Nit Grit and El Ten Eleven. Danny Beall, who goes by the stage name Nit Grit, has catapulted onto the grime and dubstep scene over the past year. His performances are almost exclusively all original productions that stand out in a genre that is at times difficult to break out into given the standard layout of tracks. His compositions are intricate, meticulous, and gut-wrenchingly dirty. El Ten Eleven, on the other hand, is a duo from the west coast that plays only live instruments in creating their unique soundscapes and melodic tunes. In a festival that is littered with loads of dubstep, glitch, and grime, it will be a nice contrast to hear an indie band that is doing something totally unique and captivating amid the sea of heavy electronic artists that fill this year’s bill.
However, given the long list of three days worth of talent, the Disco Biscuits sit atop of the most intriguing acts. This is not just due to the fact that Camp Bisco is their festival, but moreso that the band has not played together since January. Camp Bisco acts as not only the biggest event this band has worked towards, but also one of the only things keeping them grounded during these uncertain years in the band’s career. With no promise or history of touring in the past year or two, Camp Bisco acts as a saving grace for fans as well as an introduction to what they are capable of to the attendees who simply do not know The Disco Biscuits intimately. The Disco Biscuits have announced a couple of shows leading towards their festivals in Washington D.C., Atlantic City, and the familiar Starland Ballroom in Sayerville New Jersey all the weekend before.
Camp Bisco Eleven is shaping up to have the chance of being the best Camp Bisco yet. If you have never been to Camp Bisco, this may be the year to partake, as tickets are still available including Saturday only passes for those who have to work that week. Stay tuned to OurVinyl for our post festival coverage of this special event. We hope to see you there!
Written by Danny Goodman
OurVinyl | Senior Writer