Review and Photos By Jason Woodside
Good things do come to those who wait. Good things can apparently also come to people who rush back to work from an injury 2 months earlier than advised by medical professionals. Only weeks after breaking his wrist and undergoing surgery, which should have sidelined Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig of The Disco Biscuits until July, the guitarist returned to the line-up for the highly anticipated Bisco Inferno. In the forth year of its inception and second year at Red Rocks, the injury could not have come at a worse time. Cancelling an event of this magnitude would be devastating for the band and the market it had built in Colorado. So against doctor’s orders Barber sported his swollen wrist all weekend, and played some of his best guitar work in years.
The weekend started off with a flash-mob acoustic show at the Pearl St. Mall in Boulder, just a few feet from the doors of the venue they would play that night. The music was almost impossible to hear aside from Allen Aucoin’s snare drum, but the magic of the event was not in the music. The flash-mob symbolized just how excited Barber was to be back playing again, and how much the band cares about their dedicated fans. The intimate gathering quickly dispersed after about 45 minutes, but the tone for the whole weekend was set, although it would take the Boulder show in it’s entirety for the band to regain its form. The highlights of the night were few and far between, and most of them occurred in the second set.
Day two in Denver is why people go to see The Disco Biscuits. Both stellar, high-energy sets brought the slow build-ups and dramatic peaks fans flock for, and a fan written set list for the second set saw the sparsely played Tricycle. The song was meticulously built up, with the band just holding the peak back in a beautiful exercise of patience and restraint. No band on the Jam or Livetronica scene can hold a candle to The Disco Biscuits in this respect. Even on an off night, using the methods of patiently building tension and ultimately finding sweet release, The Biscuits ensure a fun time. Tonight however saw the band firing on all cylinders, with both sets being dubbed “heat rocks” by all in attendance. The Ogden Theater in Denver seems to be one of the band’s favorite venues, and it truly brings out the best in them every time they play there.
Red Rocks is arguably the most beautiful venue in the country, and a place almost every musician surely dreams of playing. With the pressure of headlining Red Rocks for the first time in twelve months, and Jon Gutwillig playing at 100% despite inflammation, expectations were high. The event had a full line-up of supporting electronic acts, but the schedule left a lot to wonder. With appropriate scheduling the music could have flowed almost non-stop as it did last year. Instead there were breaks, and an overall odd flow to the day. The Crystal Method threw down one of the best parties of the day, while The Glitch Mob performed what must have been one of the worst sets of music ever played at Red Rocks right before the Disco Biscuits came on. If there had been a DJ before the headliner instead of a bunch of non-drummers banging on e-drums for an hour, it wouldn’t require much time to break down before the main act. It’s a no-brainer.
The Disco Biscuits came on at about 9:30 to a 2/3 full house, this year’s event brought to that capacity by them and not by strategically booked supporting acts. They got things going immediately with a stellar rendition of the semi-rare Hot Air Balloon. There is absolutely no better way for the band to open a Red Rocks show. The enormous classical composition mixed with free-form jazz rooted improvisation strikes a perfect musical balance if you can forgive the rough vocals. Aside from the Hot Air Balloon the other highlight of the set was Mindless Dribble, another early era Bisco song showing off Barbers compositional skills. The set break would feature an absolutely wonderful set of music by Booka Shade. The duo threw a musically competent dance party that was the polar opposite of Paul Oakenfold’s setbreak show last year, which sucked the energy out of the venue and had people sitting down and falling asleep.
Set two of Bisco Inferno could not compare to the first, but monstrous versions of House Dog Party Favor and Magellan started and closed the set. Also Barber compositions, these fan favorites left most of the crowd all smiles. While they are not as untz-heavy as the newer material, these compositions are what have kept fans around since 1999. The weekend was all about Jon Gutwillig and his return to the band. Bassist Marc Brownstein and Keyboardist Aron Magner stayed out of the spotlight for most of the weekend allowing their friend and band mate the time he deserved time to show off his shiny new wrist.
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