Disco Biscuits, Lotus, DJ sets among Camp Bisco music festival highlights
While country music seems to define this year’s lineup for The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton, a couple annual festivals are sprinkled throughout the summer concert season. For the third consecutive year, thousands of people flocked to the venue for the three-day celebration of EDM, dance, trip hop and jam rock known as Camp Bisco.
Among numerous DJ sets on all three stages, festival hosts The Disco Biscuits brought about one of the best sets of the day on Thursday as the foursome took the stage around 9:30 p.m. for a fiery 90 minute set that kicked off with the trippy “Astronaut,” which saw some nice jazz keyboard playing from Aron Magner.
A performance tactic that has become a normal routine for the Biscuits — splitting songs into multiple parts — occurred with “Astronaut” leading into a funky version of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell,” before returning to “Astronaut” which meshed into a spacey “Digital Buddah” before reprising “Run Like Hell.” It was a segue that had everyone dancing, and proved to be one of the festival highlights.
Over the next two days, the Biscuits would perform five more sets including a frenzied evening set on Friday which saw the outfit debut a brilliant take on the overlooked Prince masterpiece, “Controversy.” As part of their three sets on Saturday, the hosts brought out fellow Philadelphia musician Tom Hamilton for an energetic “Above the Waves” (which also served as the name of the water park stage), and a speedy run through of “Morph Dusseldorf.”
The band’s final set of the weekend saw another debut as the band unexpectedly broke out Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” which came out of a ripping “Helicopters.” As their only encore of the weekend, the Biscuits left their fans with a fun “Spraypaint” to cap off the night on the main stage.
Aside from the Disco Biscuits, another highly anticipated Camp Bisco performance was that of Lorin Ashton, a DJ from San Francisco better known as Bassnectar. Having been part of numerous Camp Biscos, Bassnectar has not only garnered a huge following in the Bisco community, but is widely regarded as one of the most popular DJ’s in the country.
As if the hype for his performance wasn’t big enough, a torrential downpour took place 20 minutes before his scheduled set time, and saw everyone from the other two stages flock to the pavilion for shelter, which in turn made for the biggest crowd of the weekend.
Understanding the situation and as a nod to his devoted fans, Bassnectar took the stage to the familiar opening of The Doors “Riders on the Storm.” As the opening to Guns N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” blared from one of his Macbooks, the DJ simply asked, “Y’all ready to do this, Bisco?” before launching into his pounding bass-heavy tracks. As a sign to how enthusiastic his fans are, everyone in attendance stood on their chairs and did the head banging slam jamming that has come to define Bassnectar shows.
Also on Friday, another Philadelphia outfit, Lotus, took the main stage to a lively reception from the crowd who was familiar with the quintet not only from Bisco appearances, but also local appearances at the former Murray’s Inn in Wilkes-Barre and the River Street Jazz Café in Plains Township.
Guitarist/keyboardist Luke Miller took to his keyboard while his brother Jesse Miller laid the bass line down for a thumping “Bellwether.” Although they are known as a rock/electronic outfit, a spirited run through the older-era “Shimmer and Out” proved how good they can sound as just a rock band, with some tight blues-jazz guitar playing from Mike Rempel. Following “Cold Facts,” and a pounding “Tip of the Tongue,” the rock format came back with the title cut to their nearly decade old album “Hammerstrike.” A percussive “Jump Off” meshed into their final song, the always enjoyable “Gilded Age” which left the crowd in an upbeat mood.
Late night Friday included a powerhouse set from psychedelic act Shpongle, an outfit lead by famed British DJ Simon Posford. The outfit’s complex use of imagery set to driving techno beats provided a unique experience for the crowd. About 15 minutes into the set, Posford brought out Magner and Marc Brownstein from the Disco Biscuits for an energetic jam. Shpongle made numerous references to the chemical DMT during the performance — the outfit has been open about the role hallucinogens have played in their creative process. The textured and mind-expanding set was well received by the capacity crowd who showed great admiration for the act.
Saturday saw the return of Pretty Lights, an immensely popular DJ from Los Angeles. Pretty Lights (Derek Vincent Smith) first came to Scranton as part of Camp Bisco 2015, where he put in a memorable late night set. For this years’ installment, it was billed as Pretty Lights Live, a project involving Smith, drummer Alvin Ford Jr., keyboardist Brian Coogan, and turntable spinner Chris Karns.
While the ensemble may have been new for Bisco fans, the reception they received was predominantly positive, as some attendees spoke about Smith’s last few releases being a bit lackluster. The outfit had the crowd on its feet until midnight, before turning the stage back over to the Biscuits.
Now in its third year in Scranton, Camp Bisco has become known as much for its rave like atmosphere as it has for the numerous genres it brings in for its yearly celebration. While the music certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it does bring people to Scranton that might never visit otherwise. The music, scene and community Camp Bisco brings to the area is something that must be experienced to be fully appreciated, and if the size of this years’ crowd was any indication, a capacity crowd will always be attending their beloved festival.