The People Speak: In Defense Of The Disco Biscuits

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In the world of patchouli-smelling and nugget-smoking noodle-dancers (hippies, that is…of both the genuine and pseudo variety) the Disco Biscuits are the derelict bastard-child – the dark and gritty element that offers contrast to a music scene full of unicorns, hula-hoops and fans that would, quite honestly, put a funnel to their ears to catch every drop of ejaculate from Trey Anastasio‘s heroin-riddled penis.

Yesterday, we ran an item about this year’s Jam On The River fest, which included a side jab at Philly jamband institution The Disco Biscuits. When it posted, we really didn’t think much of it. But before we knew it, comments started heating up (nice to know that jam band folks and hipsters keep the same rote slurs for each other as straight folks do), outside message boards got that hot fire, and all of us here in the office were like, “All this for the Disco Biscuits? Seriously?” Fascinated (and willing to be good sports for once), we put a challenge out there to a few Bisco fans who had commented on the original post: Tell us why you like this band. Tell us why people follow them around like the Grateful Dead. Tell us, for the love of God, what this is all about. After the jump, Bisco fans Mike Dee, Zuki Saki and Zach Smith tell us in words, pictures and sound, why they’d go to the ends of the earth for a cool Bisco buzz. What you find may surprise you.

In Defense of the Disco Biscuits, by Zuku Saki

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In the world of patchouli-smelling and nugget-smoking noodle-dancers (hippies, that is…of both the genuine and pseudo variety) the Disco Biscuits are the derelict bastard-child – the dark and gritty element that offers contrast to a music scene full of unicorns, hula-hoops and fans that would, quite honestly, put a funnel to their ears to catch every drop of ejaculate from Trey Anastasio’s heroin-riddled penis. It is certainly a nice change of pace to see improvisational, psychedelic music that is raw and unforgiving and the Disco Biscuits consistently bring that to the table. The Disco Biscuits started the infusion of electronic music into improvisational rock, a fairly new sub-genre of music with solid roots right here in the city of Philadelphia.

It would be difficult to find more critical music fans than that of the Disco Biscuits. The band draws equal amounts of love and hate from their devoted head-boppers and fist-pumpers… often resulting in overly-critical and caustic reviews of their shows and efforts. The fans are rabid and dedicated, from rambling non-stop about the thirty-four minute version of “Crickets” to cursing the band out for not bringing their best effort on a particular night or only playing two and a half hours instead of three. From outside of the “scene,” the cult-like following of the Disco Biscuits can be difficult to comprehend. It is a band that takes a little bit of effort to begin enjoying, but is well worth it in the end. Philadelphia music fans would be wise to give these home-town boys a chance because lumping them in with the plethora of generic Phish-flavored wank-a-thon bands is simply not fair.

As far as Jam on the River is concerned, let’s remember that it has been a “jamband” festival for many years, an annual tradition in Philly that began as a blues festival. Let us at least be thankful that we have an exciting and unique band headlining the festival that not only originated here, but makes the effort to come back every year.

And yes, I-love-hyphenating-words.

“It Was May 26th…” by Zach Smith

It was May 26th, 2007, at the last Jam on the River. The place was packed and Cypress Hill had just gotten off stage and everyone was psyched for the headliner that night, the Disco Biscuits, to come on. There was one issue. As we looked past the stage across the river, there was a huge, black, flashing storm coming directly for Penn’s Landing. Would they play? Would they leave? Would the crowd bolt for shelter? In answer to the first two questions, the Disco Biscuits took the stage and launched into “Sweating Bullets,” a rhythmic instrumental song that got everyone moving. The crowd wasn’t going anywhere. The storm was getting closer.

New Jersey, on the other side of the river, literally disappeared.

“Sweating Bullets” ends and the band has a choice to make: End it or Rage it. They chose to rage it as they always do. They kick into “Save the Robots” a song that is fueled by a quick, spacey, building intro that launches into a purely adrenaline-fueled main section of the song and lyrics that tell you of “robots who will build you igloos in the summertime” and then suddenly Barber (the band’s guitarist) commands the audience to ‘GO!’ repeatedly. BAM! The storm hits the stage and the people. There’s a literal collision between the high winds, blistering rains, low clouds and the people attending Jam on the River that day. Those not hardcore enough run away; maybe an eighth of the audience goes. The other 7/8ths begin gyrating, fist pumping and throwing themselves around, not caring about their cell phones getting wet or even whether or not they get struck by lightning. The thunder was booming everywhere, the pit leading down to stage looked like a pit straight to hell with bodies everywhere shaking their fists to the rhythm of the band.

This is why I see this band. This is where the party is. This is where you can connect to the most visceral elements of music. Fans of this band do not stand still for an entire show with their arms crossed, leaning against the wall posing, waiting for someone to notice how cool they look. We are there to feed off the band’s music and release, the band is there to feed off us and release. No, they don’t only play for an hour and a half. No, their songs aren’t only five minutes long. Yes, there is a high learning curve. I don’t know many, if any, people who ‘got’ this band their first time seeing them. This band plays complex songs that meld into one another, that flip around, that travel from one set to the next and even the next week. The Disco Biscuits are not for the casual fan. They are for the hardcore fan. I can’t wait for this year’s Jam on the River, I hope the storm will hold off for a few more songs this time, but I know it’s coming again.

“The People Speak: In Defense of The Disco Biscuits” by Mike Dee

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Asking someone to explain the Disco Biscuits, and the travelling shit show that follows the band is like trying to explain Quantum Physics to a 5th grader. Are you smarter than a 5th grader? I was volunteered for this task after coming to the band’s defense for the umpteenth time late Wednesday afternoon.

To understand The Disco Biscuits, one need not be rooted in the jamband scene, the electro scene, or any scene for that matter. A love of music, and all things experimental and maybe not so mainstream is all that is required. In short, a good imagination, and around 3 hours on a Friday night. What we have here is a hybrid of the 1990s Phish and Grateful Dead infuences, blended with the Detroit house and UK trance of the time blended together to form the one master race.

The Biscuits are the bastard child of the music scene. They aren’t a jam band, but can be classified as one by those not in the know. They aren’t electro, but can be classified as one by those not in the know.

Let’s get the vocals out of the way right now. They can’t sing. I know that, they know that, and soon enough you will too. But stay with me here, if you get past that, and can let your mind delve into the music that is supporting those crappy vocals, you will find 4 musicians who bridge the divide between rock and rap, trance and jazz, electro and orchestral. To be perfectly honest too, the vocals are the Biscuits. They just aren’t the same without the screechy scratchy our of key vocals (see “The Wind at Four to Fly”).

While I’m one of the biggest music critics you’ll ever meet, I’m not one who can put music into words. Instead, let me try to summarize the experience. The Disco Biscuits are band that are “big” enough to play the cool venues in your town, yet “small” enough that you still know practically everyone in the venue when you show up. People outside the circle always ask, what is it that drives you to travel and fans of the band all over the Country (and Jamaica, and Europe)? I think the only way I can explain this is to say “every time I go to hang out with my friends, this band shows up.”

The Disco Biscuits community is a very small, close knit community. You’ve heard of six-degrees of Kevin Bacon, right? Well they say it is two degrees in the Biscuits community. Everyone knows everybody else, or at least a friend of a friend. To say that some of my best friends in the world have been met through this band is an understatement. I have had the absolute pleasure of spending some of my most memorable moments of my life with this band (Jamaica), and I have had the pure bliss of taking someone to their first Biscuits show. Sharing this band with someone for their first time is a gift in and of by itself.

Jam on the River brings a smile to my face now, ever since the monsoon. Last year, as the majority of JOTR’ers were running for their lives (or cars), we the Biscuits crew, were getting down to one of the sickest fucking Robots ever played by the band. Those who appreciate music, and the band-fan inter connection long for what happened this afternoon on Penn’s Landing. The band and fans were one, the clouds were black, the rain drops were the size of golf balls, and we didnt fucking care. We were going to Save those fucking Robots from themselves if it was the last thing we ever did.

Jam On The River.

Night 2….The Disco Biscuits! Dont Miss It!!

I’m not a writer, but I’d love to take you to your first Biscuits show. It’s almost like an alcoholic who has to make amends, as a Biscuits fan, you have to turn others onto that which is “Bisco.”

Cheers,
Mike Dee

Previously: We’re Jammin’ / I Wanna Jam It Wid You / We’re Jammin’ / Jammin’ / Hope You Like Jammin’ Too

  • zukusaki

    Hey, thanks for posting these.

    My caustic comments on the original article were all in good fun — glad to see philebrity took it all in stride and allowed us to say a few words on behalf of our favorite band. Indie rock kids and jamband fans have one thing in common – they’re both easy to poke fun at. :)

    By the way…if you want to listen to some good Disco Biscuits, check out this show on archive.org:

    http://www.archive.org/details/db2002-10-05.shnf

    It’s considered one of the “legendary” Biscuit shows. The recording is also superb.

  • phillybart

    phillybart supports this post.

  • jimmys

    well done philebrity.
    well done bisco.
    you made me feel all gooey inside.

  • indie_cred

    What these 3 have failed to mention in their good-natured defenses is that the Disco Biscuits “scene” has devolved over the years into a drug-fueled fashion show, populated by an influx of young fans who are more concerned with who can “rage” the hardest than with what’s happening on stage.

  • Chocolate

    No one likes making fun of Biscuit fans more so than the fans themselves. It’s ok though. It’s not for everyone. “More dancing room for me.” You just fail to notice all the normal looking people because you’re preoccupied with the tree thuggers.

  • indie_cred

    the last time i saw the biscuits, may of 2006, not even a gram of molly could make that shit tolerable.

  • spring garden ish

    Wait, so these people are like E popping versions of phish/dave matthews/whatever fans? That’s pretty awesome.

    On the other hand: holy shit, do they all look like this?

    Somebody fill me in here! These kinds of people are, like, fascinating.

  • spring garden ish

    Oops, guess Philebrity doesn’t support image embedding. Probably for the better, that.

    Here is the photo I was referencing, via their Myspace page:

    http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh263/Shinjuku_2008/ravers.jpg

  • Phidget

    I’m sorry, and indie_cred, “a drug-fueled fashion show, populated by an influx of young fans who are more concerned with who can “rage” the hardest than with what’s happening on stage.” – that bad how? why?

  • PaulSmack

    indie_cred, thanks for your well thought-out comment. I never thought that people did drugs or drank at shows, but now that I have read your comment, my mind is officially blown.