Story and photos by: Bethany Rees
On July 11-13th, Camp Bisco music festival returned to Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, NY for its 12th year. This marked my seventh consecutive year in attendance at Camp, and I found it quite refreshing to see the festival going back to its roots with acts like Sound Tribe Sector 9, Lotus, Umphrey’s McGee and BoomBox returning to the lineup. Once again, Camp Bisco producers filled the weekend with numerous great music acts and this year, for I think the first time ever, the weather was absolutely spectacular.
Thursday was the day for electro jam bands. Up-and-coming band Twiddle opened the festival with a high energy set for an eager crowd, followed by the Manhattan Project and Cherub, who both set the bar high for subsequent acts. Later in the day Umphrey’s McGee, STS9, and festival host The Disco Biscuits, gave campers a little taste of their Mayan Holidaze Festival (minus the all-inclusive resort, beach, and Mexico). Despite the lack of daiquiris and the ocean, the trifecta were a great 1-2-3 combo, nicely complimenting one another and proving that they’ve really become a show not to be missed.
The night concluded with UK based Squarepusher, aka Tom Jenkinson, and an audio-video performance composed heavily of atonal and arhythmic electroacoustic noise elements, which for most made the act virtually un-danceable, except for the weirdos. The intense audio was paired with a predominately black and white visual element creating quite a spectacle. At the end of the performance Jenkinson teased the crowd when he brought out a beautiful bass, played some dance phrases and added some color elements to his visual components. However, the act ended much as it had begun, which personally I was quite happy with.
In addition to the music, today's elite festivals have become a total experience, and art installations make up a huge portion of the non-music component. Bringing new innovative art each year has become the common expectation of festival goers, and in this category, Camp Bisco did leave some room for improvement, only due to a lack of quantity. This year the ABV Agency curated an incredible multi-level, live art installation with 12 extremely talented visual artists. It was absolutely amazing to see the structure's transformation over the weekend, and a favorite of mine was the Danny Brown mural done by MADSTEEZ (Mark Paul Deren) who came all the way from Southern California. There were also fabric installations on site done by Function Forms, as well as a balloon chain that effortlessly floated into the sky, but in addition to these classics I still want to see way more art added in the future. Hopefully the festival producers will continue to pursue bringing even more new art installations to Camp Bisco, in order to really push it to the next level.
On Friday, I saw my favorite artist of the weekend that I had not yet been acquainted with, which was Govinda. If Shpongle and Emancipator had a love child, it would probably be this Austin-based producer. He was the first set in the label tent that day, and quickly drew in a large crowd with his gypsy beats. I was thrilled to see him whip out his violin; it’s always nice to see a classical element added to electronic music.
Following Govinda was another Camp Bisco rookie, producer Toro Y Moi, accompanied by a full band, who filled the air with a pleasant groovy day set. Dancers basked in the beautiful upstate New York summer sun, their only complaint being one with the soundman who was being slightly stingy with the volume control. Late in the day, due to a last minute Animal Collective cancellation, Thievery Corporation and their full live band flew in from all over the globe to fill the slot on the main stage. You couldn’t have asked for a better replacement, and festival goers at large were thrilled, they killed it!
Friday label tent artists, Gigamesh and Aeroplane, dominated the late night. These two DJs absolutely threw down a mix of house and nu-disco funk for people to bust a move to for hours straight. In the BIG Tent, Lotus also did an amazing job jamming out, complete with an unexpected drum solo from Mike Greenfield (due to Baauer’s lighting director unplugging the power to downstage in the middle of their set). I’m not really sure how an accident like that happens, but the least Baauer’s posse could do is publicly apologize for the incident.
This year Camp Bisco threw all past festival ground layouts out the window, and went back to the drawing board to create a large, open music area allowing campers to easily move between all four stages, vendors, attractions, and art exhibits. There was an increased security search to get into this area, which at points led to long entrance waits, but overall the new layout proved to be a success. One of the biggest changes was the location of the two main stages. The Albany area received a lot of rain in the weeks prior to the festival that caused the structural integrity of the water-softened ground to be put to the test. This caused the biggest hiccup of the weekend, when on Saturday, due to a reported sinking of one of the main stages, The Indobox, Free Energy and Zoogma were unfortunately forced to cancel their daytime sets. Many festival attendees were disappointed with th attempts at announcing the resulting schedule changes. Despite this mishap, a highlight in production this year was the exceptionally clean porta-potties. Clenched butt cheeks have long been a festival theme, with no one wanting to make frequent trips to the dreaded wall of porta-potties. You never know what is in store for you inside those four plastic walls, but this year I was pleasantly surprised to find them clean and always full of toilet paper. Well done on the bathroom front Camp Bisco.
When music finally returned to the main stages on Saturday, The Disco Biscuits filled a large portion of the remaining time slots as they played three booty-shaking sets to the pleasure of their adoring fans. Sprinkled in between their sets, Passion Pit took to the stage playing an electrifying pop rock set that brought most to their feet. Meanwhile in the BIG tent, the crowd headbanged away to a very high energy, heavily metal influenced electronic set from Dirtyphonics, who came all the way from Paris. Those Frenchmen really know how to take drum & bass to the next level. The festival concluded with a slamming set from Boombox, who kicked up the bpm from their normal tempo for one final dance party, but the night did not end there. To the delight of many, Zoogma then took to the stage for a surprise rescheduled set and closed out the weekend with a bang. Stay weird until next year Bisconians!