By: Natty Morrison
I awoke early Saturday morning after a reasonable three hours of sleep. The weather had cooled off and the breeze was drifting across the now-quiet festival grounds. I made my way down to the media tent to get a few things done and I was struck by the serenity at 9 a.m. It was only a few short hours ago that I was making my way through mobs of people still up, still going as hard as they could. That’s one of the more impressive themes found in Camp Bisco: The fans take this festival very seriously. This is no time for slacking, no time for taking it easy. There’s always music somewhere, you just have to find it.
However, I suppose that even the most seasoned veterans need some time to recharge the batteries, so as some dozed in their tents, I spent the better part of the morning chatting with some media folks, trading favorite sets from the previous night and enjoying the mild morning weather. While I was hanging around, I realized that I was sharing space with VIP attendees. We talked a bit about their VIP experience and I was quite jealous by some of the perks they were getting, including a 2 a.m. acoustic set by Jon Gutwillig and a surprise set by Biscuits side project Conspirator. They also got choice viewing space for the shows and some kickass food, as well. It’s always nice to see when a festival can deliver the experience they promise.
I started the day a little late, and my first set of the day was The Disco Biscuits at 2. I was actually able to watch it from the VIP section, Barber side, so I had a great view of the whole band. As they dropped into the opening strains of “On Time” (its dyslexic completion from night one) it was instantly obvious that they were in top form this afternoon. The dynamics of each line, both during the song and its resulting jam, were pitch perfect. After revisiting the “On Time “ hook, the band made its way into “Aceetobee.” This turned out to be one of my favorite moments from Camp. After working through the verses and choruses and pushing into the modulation section of the song, Jon switched guitars and picked up his hollow body Gibson, much to my delight. From that moment until the song ended, I was treated to one of the more impressive pieces of on-stage improvisation in my recent memory. They played patient, reserved, in the pocket, and eventually built to a harmonious peak that left me absolutely floored. They then segued into a compact and efficient “Mr. Don,” eventually dropping into the jazzy “Pat and Dex.” They finished up with “Wet,” during which Barber unleashed a thrashing solo to bring the song home. Jon was undoubtedly the star of the first set.
I stuck around the stage area, expecting to catch Break Science with Talib Kewlei at 4, but due to complications, their set had to be pushed back, so some of my plans to catch different acts got a bit out of order. I simply shrugged and went back to enjoying my time. I did, though, manage to catch a short portion of Tipper’s set in the dance tent. Led there by a series of rave reviews from friends in-the-know, I was not let down. Tipper definitely utilizes heavy dude wobble bass, but never quite breaches the grounds of dubstep, instead preferring to operate just outside the boundaries with a bit more emphasis on hip-hop feel drum patterns. Definitely a guy to check out.
Though this is, after all, TheUntz.com, I would be remised if I didn’t at least mention that Ween played an incredible and explosive set on Saturday. Ween doesn’t quite fit the bill of the typical Camp Bisco act; they’re neither an electronic artist nor a jam band, yet somehow the band was able to capture the attention span of nearly the entire festival population. It was a spectacular get for Camp Bisco, truly another water mark in the story of Camp Bisco.
But soon a different sort of water mark would make its mark on Camp. About 20 minutes into the Brothers Past set, the music ground to a halt, and festival officials began spreading the word that everyone was to return to their campsites. A storm was on its way. As I looked up into the sky I realized that it was split in half, between lightness and dark, so I immediately made my way back to the media tent to pack up a few things. I didn’t get a chance to, as torrents of wind and rain burst through the Indian Lookout Club. The festival was suspended indefinitely as we all waited out the squall. Luckily I was surrounded by some very friendly people, and the tents actually stayed remarkably dry. One of the coolest things I witnessed this weekend actually happened during the rain delay, when Brothers Past guitarist Tom Hamilton grabbed his acoustic and a buddy and came over to the media tent to play an impromptu set of Beatles and Grateful Dead covers. It was surreal experience; the festival was temporarily out of service, all the sequencers and sample pads were switched off, and suddenly the gathering was returning to its roots. A simple strumming of basic guitar chords and a crowd of back-up singers, it was like watching human existence roll the clock back to prehistoric conditions, just a for a few hours to see what it’d be like.
Eventually word began to circulate that the rain would be stopping soon, and that the Disco Biscuits, who had already missed the slot for their second set of the day, would be combining set II and III into one, long marathon performance. I was tired, but happy to see the music was not going go down without a fight. Welcoming Chris Michetti, guitar player for Raq and recent Barber stand-in earlier this year when Gutwillig broke his wrist mid-tour, the Biscuits began with a dueling guitar version of the spacey “Portal to an Empty Head.” They wrapped the song, stopped, thanked Michetti for making his way to the stage, and casually waited for the applause to die down. They wouldn’t stop again. Notifying the fans that “Allen starts this one,” Aucoin dropped into the full-speed gallop beat of “Mindless Dribble.” Played at a breakneck speed, the song threw the crowd into disarray, as spastic dancers tried their best to keep up. As they settled into the jam section out of “Dribble” the festival was suddenly aglow with a slack jaw-worthy light show that painted every inch of visibility vibrant shades of green and red and deep purple and blue. Patterned lasers split the layers of color, and it was all perfectly illuminated by the mist and light drizzle in the air.
The remainder of the set was a testament to the dedication by the Biscuits to give Camp Bisco attendees what they want. It was obvious they were pulling out all the stops (and probably a few Yield signs just for the hell of it) and trying to play the best possible set they could. The set featured a bookending “Basis For a Day” and a stupendous Munchkin Invasion>Lunar Pursuit>Munchkin Invasion, as well as a rendition of the theme to Knight Rider by Aron Magner. When they finally closed out, Brownstein held up his bass in triumphant, yet incredibly grateful fashion. He looked as though he didn’t want to leave the stage. None of us did. But it was time to go.
Besides a quick stop over to the Rusko set in the dance tent, I was simply too exhausted to continue, and decided to take it easy. That’s right, I broke rule #1 of Camp Bisco. You don’t take it easy. I’d made an shameful mistake.
But maybe that’s only for the true warriors out there. Maybe I’m just not tough enough. But I didn’t care. I was warm, dry and thrilled to have witnessed what I’d deem to be a top-notch festival. It’s truly one of the best in the country, and I was happy to have been there. I closed my eyes and drifted off to a deep, much needed sleep, only to be awoken, just once every so often, to the drifting sounds of a festival I could only wish wouldn’t end.
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