A (nearly) sober account of the Disco Biscuits’ drug-addled electro music festival.
“I’m going to have to start charging you by the hour, kids,” Bill says dryly.
More people hug the pretzel heater. Like Melissa and her friends, who are all on ecstasy.
Suddenly, a baby skunk strolls into the bar and startles Melissa and her friends. Dick’s father barks like a dog. The skunk stops, turns around and walks out.
This scene replays throughout the night. Kids, rolling hard on ecstasy or hallucinating on DMT or LSD, see a skunk, freak out. Dick’s father barks, skunk leaves.
After several more beers, 10 or so more skunks, 30 or so different ball- tripping groups of friends hugging the pretzel light, it is 4 a.m. Time to close. Heaping mountains of orange flavored Jell-O shots sit in a bucket on the bar, and aren’t selling. I’m told to take as many with me as I can fit in my pockets.
I set out, walking gingerly over gravel with bare feet. I walk 10 paces, put on flip-flops. Walk 10 paces in them. Too slippery. I take them off. Ten paces in bare feet. Too painful. Put flip-flops back on. Repeat 100 times back to the tent, pausing five times to suck down orange Jell-O shots.
I. Am. Hammered .
I finally arrive back at my tent, and the water is ankle deep. I attempt to dump as much as possible. Instead, I collapse into a soaked, muddy sleeping bag and inch toward sleep.
Just as the Jell-O shots begin to paralyze me like a cobra’s venom, I realize I have to pee. I unzip the front door, push my cold purple nub out the flap and unload my bladder on my doorstep.
The music game is changing, and the Disco Biscuits are ahead of the curve. Records aren’t selling. The lifespan of a career is shorter than ever. Even bands that have been together a few months are hitting the open road. The Biscuits are more than a band. They’re a brand. A brand their fans seek out.
“Your goal,” industry insider and guru Bob Lefsetz writes in his newsletter, the Lefsetz Letter, in May, about Camp Bisco, “used to be a No. 1 record. You wanted that ceremony, with all the label geeks and your manager, where you were presented gold and platinum plaques, which you paid for, demonstrating your success.”
Lefsetz’s website is read by the likes of Steven Tyler to Quincy Jones, and receives over a million page views each month. Thousands also subscribe. He continues, “But do you really want to be Lady GaGa? Beholden to Perez Hilton? A creature of the media? Or would you rather fly under the radar? Especially since the radar is controlled by the mainstream media, on its death bed and notoriously out of touch.”
Lefsetz’ words describe to the letter what Aron Magner, Biscuits’ keyboardist, and the rest of the group felt while playing the festival circuit and traversing music’s treacherous business landscape over the last 14 years. We have fans. We don’t need anyone else. “We thought ‘we should try and do this on our own,’” he says.
The Biscuit fan base is a rabid family of electro music nuts. Add to that the scrutiny they feel from asshole critics, an epic light show, a high-decibel dance party and a healthy dose of drugs, and you’ve got a Biscuit show: An intense, rambling, improvised rave up that feature “cut-and-splice epics that could’ve been the background music for Mr. Spock’s bachelor pad.” (That quote lifted from the one time PW has written about the Biscuits in the past.)
“Our fans are … hardcore,” says Magner, referring to the drug use. “I have to tread lightly here. But, yeah, there’s a certain hedonistic element.”
Last year, at Bisco VII, a young man from Oregon named Jonathan Taylor was busted with 14,000 hits of LSD and $17,000 cash. He was busted after checking in, and some campers have conspiracy theories.
“There are no police at Bisco, the bikers run security,” says Mike from Long Island, pointing out the obvious. They have a deal with the police department: We’ll give you one big bust a year, you stay away while all these kids are here doing their thing.”
Still, getting too trashed is generally frowned upon.
Last week, as you may recall, I angered the rabid fans of Disco Biscuits by painting an extremely accurate portrait of them in a cover story I wrote. As someone who’s usually hailed as a genius with very succinct insight, the torrent of angry emails from Biscuit fans has been a bit of an adjustment for me.
PW's Music Issue 2014