Disco Biscuits shine into “The Great Abyss”The Disco Biscuits lifted everyone in the Calvin Theatre out of their seats with another energetic set this past Saturday night. The crowd was greeted on King Street in Northampton with flashing lights and dozens of the boys in blue. The line stretched around the block and onto Route 9, filled with fans eager to get in and start dancing. A cloud of smoke filled the front entranceway of the venue. Through the cloud, there was a sea of vibrant colors and attached to them were people desperately trying to get a ticket.
The isles were jam-packed with people dancing. The dance floor was filled with a mixture of people who rightfully had tickets and others who had snuck past security.
Many fans who had traveled to the Bisco show in Providence, R.I. the night before were extremely disappointed. “They just weren’t feeling it in their jams,” said one mid-20 year old standing in line while holding a fifth of whiskey. “Jon (Gutwillig) and (Marc) Brownstein just looked at each other confused during the jams. I hope tonight isn’t like that.”
They started their first set with a bang with their upbeat song “Papercut,” which quickly put all those thoughts to rest. It started with a primarily electronic flavor, beginning with the refrain and the verses, but by the time they started to actually jam, their rock influences shined.
“Papercut” played right into “On Time,” which is much more electronically influenced. After the chilled-out jam they had to start the song, the song built up with the use of a vocoder by Aron Magner, the keyboardist.
Throughout the next song, the Biscuits built up such a high level of energy that a fan who was on crutches began dancing with them in hand.
Balloons snuck in by attendees soon filled the smoke-filled air above the dance floor. “On Time” was built up so much that it couldn’t possibly be built up anymore. But one thing the Disco Biscuits are very good at is their ability to raise the energy to a point that no other band can raise it to.
Their next tune was this song called “Shem-Rah Boo.” It has a very heavy phase effect on the bass and has more of a funky feel to it. Each of the breaks include intensely syncopated rhythms by Allen Aucoin on the drums, with experimental scales played by Gutwillig on guitar and Brownstein on bass. They lead up to a keyboard lead played by Magner with sounds that even the most talented mind couldn’t think of creating.
The middle of this song was another rock jam with keys inspired by the sounds of the famous Leslie speaker and Hammond organ. They played one refrain with a swing feel and then progressed into a jam that incorporated blues elements. Aucoin kept the drive alive with his drumming and Gutwillig went along for the ride with his guitar licks that assisted the drums in the effect. After stripping down all the instruments to a quiet and laid-back bluesy sound, they inserted a progressive-rock fill and went right into their song “Down to the Bottom.”
It had a minor swing feel as well as the last track, but quickly transitioned into a fast driving song. From the intense “Down to the Bottom,” they progressed into “Cyclone.” This 14-minute song had many climaxes and breakdowns, including a point where a fan threw about 20 glow-sticks into the air just as the band reach the highest peak of their trance jam.
Gutwillig came in about halfway through the song with a face-melting lead that was built up by Manger on the keyboards. Aucoin and Brownstein completely dropped the beat at the highest point of the jam while the other two counterparts did their own thing. Magner then incorporated the song “Funky Town” into the jam.
Before set break, they jammed from “Cyclone” back into “Down to the Bottom.” They went into the intermission with a rocking guitar solo and a poppy-sounding rhythm on the keys. The crowd filed out to grab some much needed air and some much needed cold beverages.
The scene in the lobby was crazy. Intoxicated twenty-somethings roaming around donning lots of bright colors and love. Every single person exiting the dance floor area was dripping with sweat and panting with flush red faces.
The second set started with the chilled-out “Resurrection.” It was a great beginning to the next set as people filed back into the theater. This song didn’t have the kind of build and intensity that some of the other songs had, but it was one of the tightest songs they played all night. Halfway through this 17-minute song, Magner took the lead with pleasure. The rest of the song had a trance-like feel to it, until the very end where they slowed it down and gave the audience a treat.
After a slight tease in “Resurrection” and some slight build, Bisco went into the classic “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats. The whole crowd initially erupted, but became somewhat subdued for the rest of the song. The song didn’t have the drive most hoped, but it will still nice to dance to.
The very end of this classic ‘80s tune gravitated into their song “The Great Abyss,” which is an entirely instrumental song. From there, they transitioned into “You and I,” which was harder and more of a modern-progressive rock song. They brought in their typical Disco-Biscuits-trance-flavor and progressed to a Wes Montgomery-style jazz style jam.
“Digital Buddha” stayed relatively calm throughout. They brought it down so low that the drums were inaudible for a while. The only things keeping the beat going were the crowd’s hands. The claps quickly ended, and Brownstein’s bass began to get a little more intense. The drums kicked back in and it was all uphill from there. Whether it was a different effect, a more intense instrument or an added fill by the rhythm section, the song kept progressing to a higher and higher peak. The long-awaited high point of the song came as they finally broke out into another refrain and finished the song.
Immediately following the end of their previous tune, they started their last song of the second set. The first half of “Mr. Don” was somewhat low-key, but suddenly Gutwillig’s guitar sang through the speakers and the vocals began. For some odd reason, this song really gave the “see you later” kind of vibe to the crowd.
They filed off of the stage with the house lights still low. The crowd tried their best to show them enough support to see them play one last song. Looks of hope and exhaustion spread throughout the Calvin as the house lights still remained low. The first sight of movement on the stage sent the crowd into a frenzy, and into speculation of what song they’d close with. No one could have guessed what happened next.
Brownstein started talking about how he stole a bass from his friend and then just started laughing. He just kept laughing and laughing, getting louder and louder. The drums kicked in and Brownstein slapped the hard hitting bass line of “Feel Good Inc.” by the Gorillaz. The vocal levels were very low and weak during the first verse and chorus of the song, but when De La Soul’s part came in, Brownie hit it hard. With Magner covering his bass part so he could focus on rapping, he was spitting fire. They jammed on the riff from the song but added many cool effects to the guitars and keyboards to make a trippy rendition to close out the show.
The explosive show came to a close and the lights went up. The security guards swiftly ushered people out of the floor area, and for good reason – they had a lot of cleaning up to do. Cigarette butts, beer cups, glow sticks, balloons and an assortment of other random things were scattered all over.
As the crowd made its way outside to the cold Northampton air, there was a lot of commotion. Some people couldn’t wait to make it outside and light up their cigarettes in the lobby.
The scene on the streets was unimaginable. People were roaming off everywhere the eye could see.
The Disco Biscuits put on another spectacular show at the Calvin Theatre. Their eclectic variety of sounds and fans made this show one that all in attendance should never forget – that is depending on the intoxicants they chose to take.
John Shaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.