There's something special and unique about tenth anniversaries. You know‚ the raging tenth high school reunion where everyone is trying to catch up and one up each other at the same time -- prove they've made the most of the last 10 years and that they're in the driver's seat moving forward… Not to start on a real metaphorical trend‚ but Camp Bisco 10 (CBX) kind of had that vibe heading into things. Let's be honest‚ who can really say that they genuinely saw the whole Camp Bisco thing blowing up to the extent that it has back in the early grassroots phases in the Biscuits' PA turf? That a foursome that started out playing mostly older traditional jam covers would simultaneously evolve with a progressive trance-fusion scene over the past decade and that this festival would be a forerunner in showcasing this musical transformation‚ not just for the band‚ but for the whole scene? And what better time and place to really celebrate the history and true coming of age of that scene than a tenth anniversary Bisco throw down? Needless to say‚ stoked would be an underestimate of the vibe heading into CBX.
Always eclectic and powerful to say the very least‚ the CBX lineup once again demonstrated the progressive and diverse array of elite artists (in a scene that really can no longer be described as underground at all) that have come to define this festival perhaps as much as any other single element. Sincere props are due to the festival organizers and promoters for really guiding the ship in what has proven to be a really amazing direction over the past several years‚ inspiring a whole new generation of fans and music. Highlights (always a personal thing) on the bill this year included a Bisco farewell showing from perennial favorites The New Deal‚ Bassnectar and Ratatat (can't tell you how many people I talked to that came almost exclusively for one or both of those acts) -- both with the heralded in-between Biscuits sets‚ Cut Copy‚ Pretty Lights‚ the first ever US show for Shpongle Live‚ and of course 6 sets from the Disco Biscuits themselves (becoming a bit more of a rarity as the original unit). The ever-present hop-hop slant on the bill was anchored by Wiz Khalifa and Das Racist.
Day one of the festival was undoubtedly a very long one for all who made the Thursday journey. Even loving Lotus‚ I faded before their late-night set which I'll explain in more detail -- still kinda bitter about that one… I'll take this quick sidebar to express the one real shared qualm with Camp Bisco which is the entrance scheme. Long story short‚ once you're inside the place is a gem‚ but getting in is an absolute nightmare -- literally can't imagine it being much worse (Coventry excluded). I heard stories of campers' 10-hour waits within the couple miles leading into the grounds who were then told to park their cars on the side of the road. This legitimately has been a huge issue for several years now and needs to improve. The word is also out that the size of the event and associated traffic is starting to really affect and impact the local community which could jeopardize the feasibility of continuing to hold CB at an otherwise pretty ideal venue at Indian Lookout Country Club. Having onsite obligations‚ we were forced to jockey up in the opposing traffic lane which still took 2 hours for 2 miles during which I feared we'd either get riot-flipped by the street-partiers or hit an errant hula-hooper in our Suburban. Nonetheless‚ that obstacle aside‚ once inside the grounds are really accommodating for this festival in particular.
Starting somewhat uniquely (for a 3-day festival) on a Thursday‚ our first day got off to a relatively perfect start at the Orchard Lounge set in the Dance Tent. It was really an amazing starter for the weekend. Known for some sporadic late-night dance parties within the camp grounds in the past couple of years‚ OL always seems to go the extra mile with the audience to have a truly discernible presence at Camp. The New Deal hit the main stage for what felt like the first collectively decisive must-see set and they hit it right on. Some knew what they were witnessing and plenty had no clue‚ but the last Camp Bisco set from this trio goes down in my book as pretty legendary. Cut Copy hit the adjacent second main stage (love the 1-2 punch on the main stage grounds) following tND and continued the party. Gotta say that I really enjoy the music from these guys‚ but frontman Dan Whitford should consider losing the Bono-esque hand gestures and stage movements. The anticipation level was high for the opening set from the Biscuits who came out setting the tone with their patented and amazing blend of composition and right-on trance jamming. The "Plan B" opener provided a great demonstration on the compositional side before blasting into an unreal‚ stratospheric "Helicopters" sandwich ("Helicopters" > "Spacebirdmatingcall" > "The Very Moon" > "Spraypaint" > "Helicopters"). Another point of note is that you never remember just how incredible tDB's lights and lasers are until they are blasting you in the face. It's nearly impossible not to be blown away every time. The first of six sets was lively and well-orchestrated from the hosts. The late-night sets featured Skrillex and Lotus‚ a formidable duo of throw-down acts‚ on the Grooveshark stage. Lotus took the dancing well into the late-night hours‚ after which everyone onsite was spent after a long day‚ but great entre into what would come for the rest of the weekend. Before the official end of the first "day" of Camp the big announcement was made that it had officially sold out. More on that later but there is no more real capper to the onset of a first-day festival party than to know you're a part of (by far) the biggest Camp in history at reports of 25‚000.
Day two started early with the pleasant sounds from Indobox on the main stage resonating throughout the festival grounds. We made our way over and I always like these guys for an earlier day set to get people up and on their feet again. Papadosio hit the adjacent second main stage next and I was surprised about how many people were hyping their show as one of their must-sees. Based on the performance I then understood why -- they hit the dance grooves extremely well in the live performance. We took a quick break before returning for Das Racist which was also heavily hyped in support of the hip-hop side of Camp. While I like the slant for sure and the unique blend of these acts with livetronica‚ Das didn't do it for me -- too much hype for some off-kilter rhymes -- again the preferences are always a personal thing. Immediately resurrecting my day though was Break Science with RJD2 on the main stage. Having seen RJD2 a few times‚ I really loved what he was doing and the energy the trio showed for a day set. Adam Deitch on the sticks was my MVP of the weekend -- more on him in a bit. Our next move was over to the Dance Tent to catch up with David Murphy (of STS9) performing with Up Until Now. Murphy‚ diagnosed with cancer in early 2011‚ has undoubtedly had one hell of a ride this year following his surgery and subsequent recovery. It was definitely inspiring to see him back hitting the trance grooves with the precision we know him for‚ and it was even more special to watch his family jam out backstage. Great guy to have back at it. Later in the day most all focus shifted toward the main stage. Conspirator‚ probably the most well-known and currently prominent-touring Biscuits' side project with Brownie and Magner (bass and keys respectively) from tDB went at it alongside RAQ guitar hero Chris Michetti and New Deal drummer Darren Shearer for a raging Biscuits-esqe day set. Shpongle Live‚ perhaps the most highly anticipated act by many of the "inside" fans‚ took the stage following Conspirator and did not disappoint with what can best be described as a mind-blowing performance -- "performance" being the real operative word there with a stage presence and theatricals that showcase the true worldly-eclectic roots and direction that these guys embody. Fittingly psychedelic‚ the rains rolled in during their set which featured wild antics from gymnasts and a hula-hooper amongst other almost incomprehensible stage compositions. Wow. The rains continued into the second festival set by the Biscuits which was anchored by a raging "Basis For A Day" > "Catalyst" > "Basis For A Day." The between-Biscuits Friday throw down went to Ratatat. Not a whole lot to say about these guys other than I've come to learn you almost know what you're going to get from their guitar and bass/synth set‚ and they always deliver on the volume and the energy. Excellent choice for between sets. The third festival set and main stage closeout of the night from tDB is already being talked about by some as perhaps the best of the festival with an all-out‚ non-stop "Astronaut" > "I-Man" > "And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night" > "Bombs" > "And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night" > "I-Man" > "Astronaut." The flow of the set overall was pretty extraordinary for sure with seamless transitions and intense improvisational peaks and valleys. The Friday late-night scene was highlighted by Holy Ghost and Special Disco Version featuring James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem. Reflecting back on an epic set from SDV at Camp Bisco 8‚ they threw down just as hard for CBX going well into the early morning hours and gracing the stage for one of the first times since LCD's epic‚ sold-out farewell show at MSG in April.
The third and final day of CBX proved to be a beautiful day which gave everyone all the more reason to throw down and spend the entire day taking in as much music as humanly possible. Dirty Paris and The Hood Internet kicked things off over in the main stage area and set the day up well with some beat-driven trance but in a non-over-the-top fashion. Dirty Paris has always sort of reminded me of a young‚ raw New Deal with an actual guitar. The drummer somehow syncs up well and conjures images of Darren Shearer. Altering the Biscuits' set scheme each day‚ Saturday saw tDB hit the stage at 2pm for their first day set of the festival. It is always interesting to see them minus the lazers‚ but the set raged nonetheless and featured a great "Neck Romancer" > "The Great Abyss" > "Confrontation." The set also concluded with a very welcomed "World Is Spinning" which had fallen off the grid a bit in the past couple of years. A really solid set to thwart any ideas that it is all lights propelling these guys. Lettuce took the adjacent second main stage following for what was (to me) the surprise set of the festival. I hadn't seen them live before and I instantly lit up when Eric Krasno (of Soulive) started churning out insanely soulful licks over Adam Deitch beats. Prodigal Berklee grad and keyboardist Neal Evans is no slouch either. Even Brownie fresh off the Biscuits' set couldn't keep from jamming out proper right up on stage for this set. Outstanding set to say the least. Yeasayer and Neon Indian then kept the feet moving in the main stage area before the hip-hop influence of highly-billed and touted Pittsburgh-based Wiz Khalifa‚ whose quick rise to the top riddled with critical acclaim is best highlighted with the success of his #1 single "Black and Yellow." During the Wiz and Death From Above 1979 sets‚ we actually ventured over to check out remix powerhouse Treasure Fingers in the Dance Tent which did not disappoint. The evening then game way to darkness and subsequently the final two Biscuits' sets over at the main stage. Their first set featured a fiery "M.E.M.P.H.I.S" >" Cyclone" > "Above the Waves" run‚ while the second and final set started strong with "On Time" followed by the string of "Strobelights and Martinis" > "Little Shimmy In A Conga Line (inverted)" > "Digital Buddha (inverted)" > "Gangster" > "Tricycle" > "Save The Robots." A very strong final set to send everyone off in style. Pretty Lights owned the final late-night set‚ apparently turning down a between-Biscuits' main stage set in lieu of closing down the late-night scene as only Derek Vincent Smith can.
Some major points relative to a synopsis of the event include the following:
- By far the biggest Camp Bisco yet drawing a sell-out crowd of 25‚000+‚ up from 14‚500 last year and more than doubling from the 10‚000 attendees in 2009 for CB8. (
- 6 incredible sets from the hosts the Disco Biscuits. Not one lackluster set that had fans groaning… pretty much a rager every time.
- A real celebratory‚ coming home‚ and going away party all at the same time for artists like Pretty Lights and Adam Deitch‚ the Disco Biscuits‚ and The New Deal respectively -- pretty much all of whom have experienced growth in their musical careers that have paralleled the growth and success of Camp Bisco along with the whole trancefusion and livetronica musical genre in general.
- Lasers.
To say that CBX was a fitting and special tenth anniversary would not quite do the whole thing justice based on just how far this whole sector of music has come in the past several years and how unpredictably successful the whole Camp Bisco event has become. Look no farther than the sell-out crowd of 25‚000 (which is very likely an underestimate) representing highly significant growth to make the statement that what the producers‚ organizers‚ and promoters are doing here may represent a huge part of the musical wave of the future for the younger generations.