Article By: Natty Morrison ; Photo By: Matthew Speck (Top Right)
It’s been an unsteady year in the live electronic jam scene. First, genre forefathers the New Deal announces its retirement. Now, in the past months, rumors have begun swirling that fellow genre-leaders the Disco Biscuits could be headed towards a break-up. With side projects like Conspirator and Dr. Fameus gaining clout, and a conspicuously absent Jon “Barber” Gutwillig nowhere to be found, fans have begun contemplating a possible end for the powerhouse group. So as I headed up to Chicago for New Year’s Eve at the Auditorium, my mind was filled with questions: How will they play? Will there be palpable tension? Will the crowd be pleased?
I found my answers quickly enough.
The weekend was full of highlights, but got off to a rocky start. At times during the band’s first set, it felt as though Gutwillig and the rest of the band were on two separate pages, even completely losing rhythm with each other during the opening pairing of “7/11>Munchkin Invasion.” However, as the night unfolded, the band started sounding more and more like a group, like the infamous Disco Biscuits of old. The first set closed out with an intense sandwich, revolving around the frantic and frenetic tune, “Mindless Dribble,” with Barber peeling off high-end squeals and jaw-dropping riffing that would make Prince proud.
Truly though, things took a change for the best somewhere in the middle of Friday’s second set. As the foursome charged through an inspired take on “I-Man,” bassist Mark Brownstein’s face lit up as he scanned the venue’s cascading balconies and seats, all full of wide-eyed, cartwheeling fans, screaming their collective approval of this propulsive jam. After that moment, the weekend became one for the Biscuits’ history books.
The one hiccup came right at New Year’s. After reaching orchestral levels in “Morph Dusseldorf,” the band turned to a spacey stand-by in “Astronaut.” As far as versions of “Astronaut,” go, this had to be one of my very favorites. Playful, patient and intense, it seemed fitting that this would be the song to lead us into the New Year. But with only minutes to go before the new year, the Biscuits wrapped up “Astronaut” and began playing “Helicopters,” the group’s default New Year’s Eve countdown song. I was perturbed; why couldn’t they have let that jam ride out? But then, as usual, the countdown ended, the balloons dropped, and everyone celebrated together. I realized that even the most jaded, cynical fan couldn’t argue with this sentiment: It’s nice to see the Disco Biscuits together, and it’s nice to see the band having fun on stage.
The band didn’t play much from its newest album, Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens, instead choosing to stick to old favorites, as well as dusting off a couple classics. The Gutwillig-penned original, “My Lady Survives,” has been played just twice since 1998, both occurrences coming on this New Year’s run. As the crowd watched in nearly stunned-silence, there was an eerie feeling that this might be one of the last times the crowd will see the band together on tour. But as the opening strains of “Rock Candy” filtered through the Auditorium, all seemed to return to right. Bodies began to move again, heads began to bob, and the $9 champagne continued to flow. The future may be uncertain for the Disco Biscuits, but for the present, they’re still the genre’s number one band.
Live Audience recoding from archive.org. Taped by Nick Colovos.
Source: (16bit)AKG480'sck63 (tapersection, next to board) DIN Stereo > Lunatec V2 (gain 30) > SONIC AD2k+ (24bit)(gain 18) [24/96] > Tascam HD-P2
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