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New York Cool - Music

 

The Disco Biscuits
Nokia Theatre
April 12, 2008

Written by Shane Chapman
Photographed by Elana Yakubov

Opposite Photo: Marc Brownstein

 

"You may as well give me your drugs now 'cause they're just gonna take 'em," says the hippie gentleman walking alongside the line to see The Disco Biscuits in Times Square. He's right. Security does a tremendous job of confiscating drugs at the door, but for every joint or hit of ecstasy they take, ten more get by. This is all good news both for the band and their fans, given the psychedelic nature of the Biscuits' performance.


Drummer Allen Aucoin

The Nokia Theater in New York is sold out; alive with the energy and the smell of hundreds of hippies of all ages, college kids, hallucinogen enthusiasts, and me. I've never heard the Penn State jam band, and I'm not sure what to expect. Normally, I'm not into jam bands.

In the crowd, I meet some die-hard fans asking around to see if anyone caught the show the night before.

"Barber has a new guitar every night!" someone exclaims. If we're lucky, I'm told, he'll smash it at some point! My new friends explain that The Disco Biscuits have invented a new genre of jam rock, which I'm sure to love.

"Sweet!" I say. "Let's do this!"

They take to the stage as bassist Marc Brownstein exhales his last hit and extinguishes his joint on his music stand. So far...AWESOME! Coming out with a joint is always endearing. It's the musician's way of letting you know that he's your buddy. Like, "Maybe we can hang out after the show and watch The Office, or you can introduce me to that kick-ass Chinese place by your apartment where the Cashew Chicken is so good!"

They open to an ecstatic crowd with "Memphis", which entails a tasty, crunch-heavy bass line accented by two vocal parts singing in unison. I can't help but get a little swept up in the excitement of this first number, and the crowd loves it.


Aron Magner

Brownstein goes on to direct them seamlessly through their hits, whose beginnings and endings become indistinguishable, and all of which eventually dissolve into the cacophony we know in the business as "noodling".

Soon after the first song trails off into its obligatory twelve-minute freestyle jam, it occurs to me I should definitely be high for this. Or at least drunk (OK, more drunk).

I'm supposed to meet up with a photographer near the sound booth after three songs, but not being intimately familiar with the music, there's just no way to tell when one song ends and another begins.

The crowd is still in awe and, admittedly, the songs are fun. The truth is, if you like jam bands you really can't go wrong with these guys. They come together a number of times in the first few songs in a way that gets you hooked on a catchy groove, then delivers you through a climactic guitar solo as your eyes glaze over a bit and you find yourself involuntarily nodding your head to the beat. They know each other well, and it's in the music.


Drummer Allen Aucoin

Drummer Allen Aucoin's rhythms are meticulously tight for someone whom I imagine smokes a ton of pot and his array of cool synth pads make him that much more interesting than most jam band drummers.

Jon Gutwillig
Jon Gutwillig

Ultimately, however, they lose me in the way that jam bands always do. I can only hear that pentatonic scale run so many times before my eyes start to glaze over in a different way (the way that eyes glaze over when you're bored).

The band often leads into passionate crescendos that are well-constructed, but taken past their prime. Usually, into a lengthy vamp that leaves them hanging in space, waiting until you eventually forget what made them worthwhile in the first place. In the end, their fault lies not with their lack of talent or stage presence, and certainly not in their lighting effects (which spare no expense), but in the fact that they're a hippie jam band. Hippie jam bands can be fun live (especially after several drinks), but aren't the kind of thing you'd want to listen to any other time unless, say, you're having a party...with people who love hippie jam bands...which I don't, obviously.





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