The Disco Biscuits | 03.15-03.16 | Philadelphia
Words by: Jonathan Reiss | Images by: James M. McCloskey
The Disco Biscuits :: 03.15.10-03.16.10 :: Theatre of Living Arts :: Philadelphia, PA
Finally, after three years of consistent hype, The Disco Biscuits released their fifth studio album, Planet Anthem (JamBase review and JamBase feature). To celebrate its release, the band played two shows at Philadelphia's Theatre of Living Arts. The album, their first studio release since 2002's Seor Boombox, has been in the making since purchasing a studio from DJ Jazzy Jeff around the time drummer Allen Aucoin replaced Sam Altman in 2005. With the album finally arriving on March 16, the Biscuits delivered noteworthy performances packed with songs that have shaped the band's image and fan base for nearly 15 years.
Clearly excited to get started, the band came out firing on Monday. Opening with the quick instrumentals Step Inside" and Strobelights and Martinis," the first show took flight with a Phishy drop into 7-11." Gaining considerable momentum starting within 7-11's" first jam, guitarist Jon Gutwillig and keyboardist Aron Magner weaved through the tropically influenced melodies with attitude. Hitting the song's second jam, Aucoin led the trance-based charge as the crowd erupted with the sudden drop into an inverted Little Betty Boop." One of the band's classic segments, they stretched the blues oriented Boop" for 20 minutes with bassist Marc Brownstein and Magner trading notes until Aucoin's drum roll signaled the start of Mr. Don" to close the set. Topping out at 54 minutes, Boop" > Don" was a perfect example of the electronic improv the band has been creating for over a decade.
Continuing with the first set trend, set two was full of old school fan favorites. Opening with a standalone Down to the Bottom," high fives filled the balcony, while the band ripped through one of their oldest tunes. Crickets" followed, emerging with its slow Middle Eastern feel. Progressing through multiple themes, the band built to an adventurous abyss with Gutwillig ripping the composed peak to perfection. Quickly moving through the song's funk section, the room turned eerie as the ominous Basis For A Day" crept through the PA system. Struggling to find a rhythm within the confines of the intro jam, the band nailed the composed section, launching the South Philly theatre into orbit to start the song's second jam. Crafting layers of sound driven by Magner but dazzled by Gutwillig, the ending of Little Shimmy In a Conga Line" thrashed its way out of Basis." Hitting the song's ending note, the band, on the crack of Aucoin's snare, jumped right back into the song's beginning section, wowing the audience. Alive with feel good piano and happy lyrics, this inverted Shimmy" shined amongst a set filled with mostly improv. Immediately falling back into Basis" territory out of Shimmy," the band unleashed an onslaught of intensity led by hair-raising guitar solos ultimately concluding Basis For A Day." With applause loud enough to be noted, the band encored with Gary Numan's Cars" as a goof to conclude the first night.
After three years of bracing fans for an album introducing a new sound, the night finally came for The Disco Biscuits to unveil Planet Anthem. Though On Time," You and I," Konkrete" and Uber Glue" have been used in setlists dating back to last summer, most of the album and its new sound have been kept under wraps. Collaborating with a variety of producers ranging from psy-trance czar Simon Posford to hip-hop producer Dirty Harry (Harry Zelnick), the band stretched beyond their musical norms with what appears to be an attempt at crossing over to the mainstream.
Arriving to the stage, the grunge strum of Nughuffer" whaled to the surprise of many. Powering through a mechanical techno jam, Brownstein began to tell the story of the album's creation. Using the Nughuffer" narrative throughout the night, the band played every song on Planet Anthem besides Uber Glue." In an attempt to recreate the studio setting live, the band daringly invited several musicians featured on the album, including an occasional horn and tambourine section, to join them onstage. Tom Hamilton (Brothers Past, American Babies), also a producer on the album, played backup guitar and percussion. These were brave moves, as the band chose to celebrate three-plus years of hard work with the people who helped make it happen.
Within the first set, the band debuted a vast range of material that did not blow the roof off the building. Containing no real signature jams or segues, the vibe inside the TLA diminished as the set wore on. The hard hitting Sweat Box" never got started as guest vocalist Rocco's tone didn't transfer well live. Vacation" and Camouflage Soul" felt awkward, while Fish Out of Water" sounded like the backing track for a movie trailer. Even the already popular On Time" went south when Tuphace, who sings the song on the album, failed to deliver the lyrics at the right speed or pitch. Highlighting the first set was a fancy, late night TV take of You and I" with Zelnick on lead vocals.
Going with what Brownstein dubbed the Simon Posford produced part of the show," Anthem's lead track Loose Change" began set two with its psychedelic beats and simplistic lyrics. Standalone versions of Konkrete" and Widgets" followed, showcasing dark themes but never materializing into anything beyond the song's basic structure. Finally stepping outside the Planet Anthem material, a Mirrors" > Minions" > Big Wrecking Ball" combo delighted all with the first touch of Bisco-like jamming to show up all night. Though a little too late to revive the show, the segment did give the crowd a chance to move for an extended period. Past that, Big Wrecking Ball" might be the surprise hit on the album (besides On Time") with its catchy guitar licks and joyful chorus. The back end of the set brought the Brownstein jingle The City" before McKenzie Eddy sang the ballad Rain Song." Closing the set, Zelnick led the rambunctious Save Your Soul" before snaking into a formal completion of Nughuffer." Ending one of the more unusual Disco Biscuits concerts ever, the band thanked their hometown crowd in the form of a triumphant Home Again."
03.15.10 | Theater Of The Living Arts | Philadelphia, PA
Set I: Step Inside, Strobelights and Martinis, 7-11 > Little Betty Boop1 > Mr. Don
Set II: Down To The Bottom, Crickets > Basis For A Day > Little Shimmy In A Conga Line1 > Basis For A Day
03.16.10 | Theater Of The Living Arts | Philadelphia, PA
Set I: Nughuffer > Sweat Box1 2 3 4, Vacation2, Fish Out of Water2 > Nughuffer2, Camouflage Soul2 5 6, You and I2 7, Quad D2 3 4 5, On Time2 8
Set II: Nughuffer > Loose Change, Konkrete, Widgets2 > Nughuffer2, Mirrors2 > Minions2 > Big Wrecking Ball2 5, The City2 4, Rain Song2 3 5, Save Your Soul2 5 7 > Nughuffer2
E: Home Again2
1 with Rocco
2 with Tom Hamilton (Brothers Past)
3 with McKenzie Eddy on backup vocals
4 with Flicker and Zach on horns
5 1st time played
6 with Chris on backup vocals
7 with Harry and Alex on backup vocals
8 with Tuphace
Setlist courtesy of Phantasytour.com.