A (nearly) sober account of the Disco Biscuits’ drug-addled electro music festival.
Most of the year Indian Lookout is dead, but things heat up during the summer. Every third week of June the grounds play host to the Harley Rendezvous, one of the nation’s most popular motorcycle rallies.
On this weekend, July 16 through 18, the land belongs to Camp Bisco—the largest, most drug-crazed electronic music festival on the East Coast.
Bisco is headlined each night by the Disco Biscuits, the Philadelphia band that founded the music fest. Now in its eighth year, ’09’s festival is the biggest yet, with 10,000 people camping out for the three-day brouhaha.
Disco curates Bisco, and each one, along with its impressive electro lineup, is traditionally studded with A-list acts. This year Asher Roth and Kid Cudi played the Thursday lineup. Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley collaborated for an inspiring Friday set. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and famed dance label DFA joined the bill on Saturday.
Put simply, the Biscuits are the biggest modern Philadelphia band not named the Roots.
But where the Roots are critically lauded and publicly praised, the Biscuits are neither.
Talk to other Philadelphia musicians about the Biscuits, and you’re treated to a vast array of colorful adjectives, none of them too nice. The criticism runs deeper than the usual Philadelphia music scene crabs-in-a-bucket state of affairs, and extends to the media.
Local and national media rarely give Disco Biscuits their due, despite the band playing Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and this week’s 125,000-person Fuji Rock Festival alongside Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Weezer and Lily Allen, and Colorado’s famed Red Rocks venue.
“We don’t know what the stigma is about,” says Biscuit guitarist Jon Gutwillig backstage at Bisco. “But it makes us work harder.”
The genre of music the Biscuits play—a meticulous mix of electronic music and jam band noodling Gutwillig calls “Super jamband,” or improvisational electro—is unique. The Biscuits helped create it.
The cult of Bisco is growing, and the steady stream of cars from around the country waiting to enter the grounds—I spotted license plates from every state on the East coast, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado and California—is a sure indication of an increasingly loyal fan base.
You’d have to be a maniacally rabid fan to travel this far, and put up with this unforgiving weather. Or a reporter ...
Faced with sleeping in a wet, muddy tent on Friday, I settle on a foolproof plan: Put beer in head till fall down. To fall asleep, I need to drink, drank, drunk .
So I head across camp to the grounds’ only bar with a roof. At this point, Indian Lookout is a cold, dark muddy mush—a sloppy goulash of wet dirt and gravel. Each step is perilous. Shoes are useless. Flip flops are swallowed whole. The combination of slick mud and inebriated concertgoers means you can’t walk 15 feet without seeing some sad soul bite the dust.
Auchtung Biscuit fans!
On my way to the bar I walk past several craft vendors—glass pipes, posters, tie-dye, glass pipes, jewelry, glass pipes, paintings, glass pipes. In one craft tent a young man admires a bong made out of an old jar of Miracle Whip, and rechristened “Miracle Hits.” The man then shows the vendor his own skull-shaped pipe.
“When the resin builds up the eyes turn red!” he explains excitedly. “It’s so fuckin’ sick!”
The vendor offers him a trade.
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