The Biscuits Drop The Hammer

Commercial Amen followed, a great version finding Allen’s drum work much closer to the original DJ’s break beats from the Conspirator album version than past Biscuits versions. Next up, a fun cover of Devo’s Whip It — short and true to the original, nothing much to report except that Magner has taken to keeping one of the classic red Tupperware-style Devo hats on one of his keyboards. I was hoping he’d wear it for Whip It, but no such luck. I dread the day he decides to don the Devo form-fitting bodysuit (and you know he will), but the hat I can get down with. Oh, I can get down with it.

Pilin’ It Higher is a techo’d up version of the old Biscuits rock tune Pilin’ It High. This version was spacier than most, with the jam devolving from a thumping trance beat into these huge rock n’ roll drum fills from Allen, and the band followed his lead into an inverted version of Crystal Ball. After completing the Crystal Ball lyrics,the band dropped into a jam that would eventually return them the end of Pilin’ It Higher. The set closed with crowd favorite Nughuffer, featuring a story with recycled lines about Zex Sea & broken pipes in pieces on the floor. But the story is a minor part of this Nughuffer, which featured two ferocious jams, one dark & evil, one airy & light, and both were absolutely worth hearing.

While the 1st set was entertaining, it was without a doubt merely a prelude to the nuttiness of the 2nd set, which opened with a 38-minute version of Save The Robots. In a 38-minute version of any song there will most likely be some down points, and there were; but that could be due to the absolute domination of everyone in the room that was achieved during the 1st Robots jam. We’ve all been on shaking balconies, and recognized this as the sign of a jam great enough that everyone is locked in, dancing in exact time with each other. But this jam was the 1st time I’ve ever felt the *floor* of a theater shake. It would happen over and over throughout the weekend…

After the marathon Robots, the band started into Shimmy, and I thought we might be in for a two or three stand-alone-songs 2nd set, but they had a little more in them than that. Shimmy went directly into inverted Ladies [ed. note: Quinn missed an easy inverted ladies joke in there somewhere, no?], with quality jams in and out of the song. The Ladies outro jam took a very dark and low turn, similar to the quietly evil mechanical quality often found in Phish’s Stash jams, and when the jam was at its lowest, quietest point, Barber began hinting at the first notes of Cyclone.

Often derided by fans in it’s infancy as too simplistic, Cyclone has indisputably become one of the Biscuits’ best jam vehicles, focusing their jamming without confining it, letting them use the intro and outro jams to weave between other songs, or other sections of songs. At the point the main theme dropped, the floor began bouncing again, this time with enough force that two or three tapers were literally holding their microphone stands to stop the swaying. After such a quiet start, Cyclone built to a full-on room shaking dance party in about three minutes flat, continuing another six minutes before winding up in the triumphant peak of Shimmy, which ended the set.

After a short encore break, the band came out and dedicated the encore to their truck driver Kobi, who had spent the week driving from Colorado to Memphis to Atlanta to NYC. Ouch. As the band started the decidedly unpopular tune Spy, a collective groan came from the audience. Spy catches a lot of undue flack, IMO. I think after the first five minutes, which showcase some admittedly pretty painful Magner vocals, it’s a great song. But instead of playing the full ending, the band jammed into the end section of the Guns N’ Roses tune November Rain, one of those perfect I-can’t-believe-they’re-really-gonna-do-it type of moments that the Disco Biscuits bring to life consistently when they are on top of their game, which they definitely were on this night.

11/24/06 Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY

Set I: The Overture* > Bach’s Invention 13 > The Overture, Commercial Amen, Whip It, Pilin’ It High > Crystal Ball^ > Pilin’ It High, Nughuffer

Set II: Save The Robots, Little Shimmy In A Conga Line > And The Ladies Were The Rest Of The Night** > Cyclone > Little Shimmy In A Conga Line

Encore: Spy^ > November Rain^^

**ending only
^with “Crickets” tease
^^1st time played (Guns N’ Roses); ending only

After the Friday night throwdown, I had high hopes for Saturday. But I never head into a show expecting the caliber of what we got the second night of the Hammerstein run. They did not let up for a second, did not miss a beat, didn’t play a breather song for the entire night. It was the type of show where they just can’t get the music out fast enough before there’s another brilliant theme chomping at the bit for its turn in the spotlight.

Mulberry’s Dream got the crowd moving with great solo sections from both Barber & Magner. As soon as Mulberry’s wrapped up, the band quietly began building up the Basis For A Day intro. For 12 and a half minutes, the Middle-Eastern themed jam conjured soundscapes from haunting ambience to an Arabian death march through the desert until peaking in an explosion of minor dissonance so evil that literally all I could think at the time was “This is the music God must’ve heard as he watched Rome burn…”

It was that intense, and that was just the Basis intro. The triumphant drop into the composed section gave everyone hope that life might be able to continue after the atomic bomb we’d just survived, and following a Brownstein bass solo, the trance section of Basis had everyone dancing like their moments on Earth were numbered. I mean, what do you expect following an aural near-death experience? The Basis jam segued into Spacebird, then quickly back into the end of Basis — and all I can say is the glory of end almost lived up to the apocalyptic begining: 3,000 fists were pumping in the air at song’s end. I saw people with tears flowing down their faces, other people screaming like caged animals, and everything in between, like the classic perma-grins that let you know it’s all real.

Great, so at this point we’re three songs deep, and people are already in need of serious mental help. I brace myself for whatever traumatic experience they have in store next, and then just when I think I’m ready, I nearly pass out when I hear the opening notes of Pink Floyd’s Echoes. Having played it once before on 11/12/06 in Cleveland, I figured it would be shelved until the NYE run, where I expect it will turn up in Camden Quadraphonic sound (which means you will hear gunshots mixed with synthesizers). But I was wrong.

It was a faithfully and brilliantly executed cover choice, with the band working extra hard to hit the vocal parts that are clealry not its forte and doing admirably well. Barber took advantage on the tune, dropping blistering bluesy guitar solos that are less prominent at Biscuits shows these days, subverted beneath the raging instrumental dance party jams. The jam continued on through the ‘noise’ section of Echoes with the lights in the ballroom getting dimmer & dimmer, the music getting lower & lower.

Then abruptly the lights came up and the band left the stage, with the album version of that section of Echoes looping over the PA. It took everyone a minute to figure out exactly what happened, but when they did, a thunderous applause went up for the musical disappearing act. As sober kids talked about the insanity that had been the first set, spun kids tried to hide from the low-level but persistent ‘pinging’ that emanated from the PA. Thankfully, I was a member of the first group, and I talked excitedly with some fellow fans about what the 2nd set would bring.

It was a pretty easy call that the band would reappear to finish Echoes as the 2nd set opener, which they did, repeating the sequence leading to setbreak in opposite order. The beautifully spacey Echoes gave way immediately to the raucos opening of MEMPHIS, and more floor shaking/microphone stand steadying ensued. The end of MEMPHIS slammed into the begining of Hot Air Ballon in with Barber playing the HAB intro lick over the the rest of the band finishing the MEMPHIS jam. It was quite the musical collision, one that could easily end in a trainwreck, but on this night this band could make anything work.

HAB was all over the place, running through an upbeat calypso-themed jam before the ‘Flight’ section. This was as close to a breather as we’d get, and the double bass drum intro to Mindless Dribble shook the chest of everyone in the room. The begining of Dribble was the only point of the night where the band started to falter, playing the song so fast it seemed to be coming apart at the seams. They salvaged Dribble, dropped into the dubby jam section and tore through it, eventually winding up in Digital Buddha.

Out of the world’s shortest Buddah you could hear the fuzzy distortion on Barber’s guitar that could only mean Mr. Don. A crowd favorite, and a semi-rarity, Don’s smoothed-out groove intro took everyone by a little suprise due to the super-short Buddah, but it was a welcome surprise. The composition was performed well, and the jam was worthy of capping off everything that came before it. Soaring and glorious, all four band members were locked into each other, listening and reacting at exactly the right times, not a false step or missed note in sight.

As the band left the stage, I was half-convinced they would return to the stage with Trey Anastasio, DJ Shadow, and Pink Floyd’s giant inflatable pig in tow, to perform Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in its entirety. But we got a Spraypaint instead, and though Allen botched the begining, it was salvaged well. They could’ve encored with Magner singing “I’m A Little Teapot” while Barber accompanied on the ukelele and I would’ve been cool with it. Actually…

The two sets they put together on 11/25 genuinely have even the band’s most jaded fans excited and wondering what the future has in store. If you can catch this band anytime before or including NYE, do it — they are as on-point as they’ve been in at least four years. Look out below!

11/25/06 Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
Set I: Mulberry’s Dream, Basis For A Day > Spacebirdmatingcall* > Basis For A Day, Echoes**

Set II: Echoes^, M.E.M.P.H.I.S. > Hot Air Balloon, Mindless Dribble^^ > Digital Buddha > Mr. Don

Encore: Spraypaint

**unfinished; the band left the stage while the middle section was looping over the PA and continued throughout the set break
^ending only
^^with “Crickets” tease

The Incredible Mr. Quinn not only reviewed the show, he also taped the show check out the audio here:

11/24 Set 1:
11/24 Set 2:
11/25 Set 1:
Set 2 of 11/25 was lost due to technical difficulties

Source: Peluso CEMC64 (DIN) > M-Audio Fast Track Pro > CoolEditPro @ 16/44.1
320K MP3’S tagged & ready for iTunes/iPods

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0 Responses

  1. Excellent review sir! I wholehartedly agree with you.
    “Arabian death march through the desert” HA, I love it!

  2. Kudos on the review, and especially on posting the sets. Set 1 from the 25th sounds great (too bad you couldn’t do set 2).

    I missed the show on the 24th, but out of the 22 times I’ve seen the Biscuits, I have to say that the 25th definitely ranked high on my top 3 favorite shows.

    Not only was the setlist perfect (none of these new crappy songs… ahem, Abraxas), but the band themselves were on FIRE! I haven’t heard the boys like this in years (definitely MUCH better then either of the sets from Camp).

    Anyway, to whoever reads this, do yourself a couple of favors. Download these shows, and then thank Matt Quinn for the great reviews and posting the shows so quick.

    I know I certainly couldn’t be happier.

    Thank you Matt, you’re a good man. 🙂

  3. Great review, but as a fellow writer (not to mention editor), I’d recommend spell checking your article before you publish it. Or your editor should??!?

    the new firefox browser does it for you…

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