In the world of jam, every band that eventually makes it to the highest tier of professional performance does so because they have a specialty, something they excel at more than any other band that sets them apart from the rest. For some bands, that special strength is a particular style, like Greensky Bluegrass and their freeform blend of bluegrass with heavy hitting party rock vibes and Americana, or Pretty Lights for blending traditional jam with electronica and bold live horns. For others it’s a particular all-star that rises above the rest, like Robert Randolph, whose entire band motif is built around the slide guitar.
For the Disco Biscuits, hot off three nights at the Ogden Theatre but who have unfortunately become an all too rare sight on the jam and festival circuit as of late, I would posit that their certain je ne sais quoi lies in their uncanny ability of movement. Movement you say? As in like Jagger, swaggering lithely on the dance floor in syncopated rhythm? No I reply, no and you should feel dumb for even suggesting that hypothetical straw man, for of course I mean movement in a much more musically classical sense of the word. Movement like there’s a piece of an invisible conductor living in each of their hearts, and as the rhythm starts they come together like a heady Captain Planet to create an ethereal entity that rises and falls in perfect unison, seamlessly transitioning from one phase to the next; one moment reserved, the next groovy, the next laid back, the next triumphant, endlessly swirling, blending and transitioning until the mind gets lost in a delightful trance and surrenders to higher aural powers beyond its control.
The band’s culmination of their annual Bisco Inferno at Red Rocks on May 27 began with a pulsating punch as the band launched into the well worn electronic-laden groove of “The Bionic Helix”. After a brief vocal period the grooves began to get both funky and heavy, with a disco back beat slowly infiltrating and setting the crowd into a hard boogey, dancing foot loose as lasers and fog began to blend with the last rays of a setting sun. As the sky darkened the stage in turn struck a balance and acknowledged the crowd’s gyrations. Soon things took a turn for the weird as the band began to sneak in subtle overtones of the Tetris theme, slowly at first and then true to the Bisco Inferno theme of the night cranking up the heat until crescendoing into a full throttle frenzy matching approximately level 28 for anyone old enough to understand that melody’s practical application.
After a brief respite into the chorus of “Svengali”, the band began a steady driving, hard rocking march towards the next harmonic peak of “The Tunnel”, taking breaks at island jam instrumental outlooks and admiring the view through soaring arpeggios along the way. My personal highlight of the set was a southern-soaked rendition of “After Midnight”, served with a healthy helping of soulful organ and enough purple lasers and fog to give everyone in the crowd dreams of sweet Purple Rain Princes dancing through the mind’s eye. As the Bisco boys meandered back to a hazy, almost house anthemic rendition of “Helicopters”, the synths slowly crept in, eventually culminating in a super dance-y prismatic jam that felt akin to the sensory sensations one might feel if being spun around in a life sized version of those trippy tubes you had as a kid that changed color and shape the more it was spun about, and spun it was.
Ultimately, the experience that the Disco Biscuits provided to a gleeful crowd on this early summer night in Morrison, Colorado was akin to life in this rocky mountain state itself. They took everyone on a journey through winding roads, sweeping valleys, and airy peaks with a jamtronica soundtrack. Dark forests were traversed, flowing rivers gazed upon, but in the end we all left high as hell, riding cloud nine with a silly shit-eating grin on our faces.