April 12, 2008
Written by Shane Chapman
Photographed by Elana Yakubov
Opposite Photo: Marc
"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
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
"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.
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
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.
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.