Over the weekend of July 12-14, Meatcamp Productions welcomed thousands of patrons to the annual Camp Bisco, which amounted to yet another sold out crowd in its eleventh installment. Nestled in the Catskills of upstate New York, Camp Bisco 11 boasted over 12,000 attendees at the most recent celebration at the Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, just outside of Albany. With a plethora of acts across the electronic dance music spectrum, Camp Bisco has recently become one of the leading genre specific festivals in the country.
From its humble beginnings over a decade ago, Camp Bisco was initiated by the electronic jam-band The Disco Biscuits, hence the namesake. Since then, the festival has grown and evolved into its own standing event, yet still pays homage to the essence of which the event was first founded, just like the band itself. This omen acts to both celebrate the current and more established trends in music while introducing new acts and talent.
Since the inauguration of their own festival, The Disco Biscuits have curbed their sound, growing with new drummer Allen Aucoin, who joined the band in 2005, into a polished non-stop improvisational dance party departing from their previous, more psychedelic and riskier performances. The Philadelphia-based group has always been extremely inventive with not only the genre of their music, but also in the style that they craft their set-lists, which weave in and out of different sections of their own unique compositions. This usually leads to the fan playing a sort of guessing game where trying to figure out which whiffs of songs they may hear might give clues to allude to the next track, only to be lead into something completely different. All the while, during this ambiguous and lofty playing, The Disco Biscuits maintain a relative and palpable beat that is easy to dance to and can be captivating.
The Disco Biscuits’ Spraypaint
As the band’s popularity has continually increased, so has the festival’s attendance as headed by Meatcamp Productions. Throughout the years, Camp Bisco has morphed into an event that has become even larger than the band itself. With past artists such as Snoop Dog, Nas, and LCD Soundsystem sharing the bill, it is incredible to objectively view Camp Bisco as something that started with a local band. It is almost as if they get the privilege to throw a giant party with their favorite artists, inviting all their friends to join in the festivities. This festival is unique in the fact that the main reason the festival exists is due to the band’s willingness to unselfishly play a backseat role in the main acts featured in light of a bigger and more timeless festival experience. Camp has even been a platform for other artists to grow past their own stature.
This year, headlining the festival for a second straight year were Bassnectar and Skrillex. Amon Tobin also was featured on the forefront of the bill performing his visually dazzling and synchronized ISAM. In years past, Camp Bisco billed Bassnecatar and Amon Tobin not to share the spotlight, but rather in support. These acts that used to be on smaller stages with respective crowds have catapulted in the most recent years into the focal point of relevant music in the electronic lexicon. Bassnectar was just featured in Rolling Stone and celebrated a year of touring where ticket sales were tallied in the hundreds of thousands and Skrillex was the face of this past years Grammys, racking up five of the prestigious awards.
Contrary to last year, Meatcamp Productions adjusted and learned from their past experiences, executing a seamless and nearly flawless festival. The gates to the three-day event opened a day early for those eager concertgoers who were prepared to celebrate and set up early. Additionally, by regulating the number of passenger cars allotted into the festival and creating an offsite ticket station, waiting and camping at Camp Bisco 11 was a breeze. Campsites had plenty of room and rarely was there a line for any amenity, other than to hear quality music, which was abundant. Food vendors and toilets were located throughout the festival who featured many vegetarian and healthier options as well as clean stalls equipped with all the necessities. Water was sold for only two dollars and ice was readily available. These small details are the essential subtleties that make the festival more enjoyable for everyone. The music, fun, and friends are what make it memorable but that is the easy part. From a production standpoint, for the ideal experience it requires comfortable surroundings, punctual execution and minding these very minor details – that are so majorly imporant.
The art department at Camp Bisco 11 was elevated as well. A number of different attractions and installations were scattered throughout the festival grounds from artists and teams throughout the country. Some of these works were heavily featured like the BangOn NYC Boombox, which was a dilated stage that looked like a over-sized stereo that brought heavy dance music. Others were subtler, yet fit the motif of the festival and illuminated overlooked parts of the experience like walking from stage to stage. This was most noted in New Orleans’ Dirty Paws’ Tunnel of Lights and Canopy of Life. On the way from traveling from the main stages to the late night tents, campers were encompassed in circles of colored lights and gazed over intricate designs that resembled neon flowers.
El Ten Eleven’s My Only Swerving
At times it seemed that there were almost two concentric festivals occurring simultaneously. There were the devout Disco Biscuits fans who were there for their annual retreat of Biscuits and friends. Then there were the newly claimed EDM fans there to party and hear dubstep and other similar genres. Though the styles represented at the festival varied, fans were able to explore new acts, as there were at least some common sounds available. Meatcamp Productions ingeniously balanced the two crowds by scheduling the conflicting genres and acts so that there were not too many difficult decisions to make, the crux of any potent music festival bill.
All this attention alludes to the changing landscape of the electronic dance music (EDM) scene in the United States. In what seems like a flash, EDM has taken over mainstream music outlets and has filtered into the record collections of the youth and club scene in an unprecedented way. From movie advertisements to national commercials, it is difficult to escape the presence of EDM and more specifically the American interpretation of dubstep, one that took nuances of the underground UK movement and transformed it into a punk-like scene and party. This year’s Camp Bisco lineup featured many acts in this grouping like Skrillex, Bassnectar, Zeds Dead, and Minnesota with herds of attendees packing the stages to the brim. Other artists at the festival play under the moniker brostep or electro-driven beats or with an aggressive electro type sound include Porter Robinson, Dada Life, and Mord Fustang also drew huge crowds at the festival.
One of the standout acts of the weekend includes El Ten Eleven. The duo might have been the only act at the entire festival that did not use the assistance of any computer or electronic synthesizer and they vocalized that on stage, kindly of course. Their daytime set on Saturday was an easy was to start the day as the looped and wailed their sensual tracks.
OLIVER had one of the more eclectic sets of the weekend beginning his slot with NuDisco tunes and ending with hard techno and progressive house. Although conflicting with the Disco Biscuits, Abakus also provided a hard-hitting techno set that many praised as the hidden gem of the weekend.
Without a doubt the most triumphant and refreshing act of the weekend was The Disco Biscuits, who have been enduring a sort of pseudo-hiatus over the past year. Playing only a handful of shows since last year’s Camp Bisco, The Disco Biscuits were the biggest question mark music-wise going into this year’s festival. Their showmanship matched their production as their stage featured not only lasers and countless lights, but also a giant LED screen that showcased live action from the band itself as well as intriguing visuals.
The Disco Biscuits played each of their six sets with a purpose, even if not to the largest crowd of the weekend and gained countless amounts of new fans in the process. During this surge of electronic music and dubstep, The Disco Biscuits were dormant in touring. Many attendees who have not heard the band live were swooned by their sound and thrilled to hear a new voice in an, at times, monotonous scene. Ending with one of their most famed tracks of the most recent release Law Abiding Citizens, The Disco Biscuits played “Spraypaint”.
Camp Bisco 11, for many, is the most sought after weekend of the year as it promises the most relevant and trending music in the young music scene today and displays just how great this band can perform. It is not just in the audience listening to tunes that fans grow an infatuation with the event, but sitting around the campsite laughing and smiling with friends. The staff at ILCC aided in this objective and further illuminated the overall experience for the festivalgoer. The perfect weather throughout the weekend did not hurt either.
From here, it is up to The Disco Biscuits to take this platform and base of success and run with it and keep these new fans before they slip through the cracks and fall deeper into the bass driven EDM that has encompassed the music scene as of late. The Disco Biscuits have always been known to traverse genres while still making memorable quality music. Hopefully they can take this momentum and move towards a positive direction musically, making their shows more fruitful and the scene effervescent.
Written Danny Goodman
OurVinyl | Senior Writer
Photos from Dan Melnik (thank you Dan!)