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Note: Every music festival gets a little crazy. It’s part of the experience, really. Camp Bisco is full of some of the most exciting visual and sonic experiences, and some of the brightest, interesting individuals, decked out in full costume and always dancing. It’s a tough festival, though. You have to be able to hack it. That can be because people do not always take the responsibility to take care of themselves. This review is honest, and it mentions things that aren’t always spoken about in regards to music festivals. Mostly, the people are nice. Sometimes they just get too excited. Can you blame them? It is not that surprising given the magical nature of Bisco, the youthful crowd, and the festival’s party-centric dance music. The festival itself is well equipped with ready and available EMTs and plenty of security. Please just note, that for the safety of everyone around, for the staff, and so everyone can rage and have the best time possible, it can be important to party with care, especially for yourself.
Camp Bisco grew a little bigger this year, maxing out ticket sales on Thursday night at 11 p.m. with a site full of EDM lovers ready to rage inside the festival grounds. During his Saturday night headlining set Bassnectar told the audience, “You guys are the biggest Bisco crowd I’ve ever fuckin’ seen!”
Fireworks exploded in tents. People’s campsites got puked on and used as a bathroom more often than at most festival events. EMTs were everywhere you’d look, running into crowds, whizzing by in golf carts. This year saw its fair share of rough patches.
Emerging artists found themselves struggling for adequate credentials and access to the festival, Bassnectar’s sound kept dropping out during his set, someone (Ghost, a promising producer from the Detroit scene) actually remixed Linkin Park, and The Disco Biscuits cut Amon Tobin’s ISAM performance minutes before the grand finale so they could start their sixth or seventh set of the weekend on time.
Camp Bisco is an overwhelming experience. You can have one of the best weekends of your life there. The mostly young attendees are in endless party mode, but the vibe is not a hostile one. People, for obvious reasons, are all in wonderfully delightful moods. Packed into a giant tent at 2 a.m., surrounded by the most extraordinary flashing lights and an unbelievably festive, colorful crowd, it’s hard not to be swallowed by the over joyous neon dance party that is Camp Bisco. Even if you aren’t on drugs or particularly interested in EDM, the visual experience, the energy, and the pounding bass will just about melt your face off.
Whether it’s day or night, every stage is showered with professional lighting and multiple large-scale visual screens. After dusk, the grounds light up. Late-night headliners roll deep on stages that come equipped with rotating groups of burlesque dancers. Backstage, a serious party roars.
This year’s lineup leaned heavy toward dubstep, and was laced with repetitive sampling – the Facebook song, the big bad wolf, Florence & the Machines cuts – you name it – it was played over and over. What’s great about Camp Bisco is that its various sonic and experiential gems guarantee that the positive aspects of the festival will forever outweigh any of the negativity that can occur.
Rubblebucket can bubble up any crowd into a sweet, foamy, joyous froth. In the mid afternoon sun, the concert bowl was full. As always, Rubblebucket’s performance was energetic and colorful, exciting audience participation. People were smiling, dancing about, and singing along to popular tunes. Kalmia painted faces in the crowd and the band performed covers of Blondie and Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” all in one set.
Bird of Prey layered hypnotic arrangements over uptempo vibes, sending Bisco fans into the festival’s first late night party with a nice, gentle push. The dark, gothic, pulsations of Bird of Prey under the dim blue light of the Label Tent on Thursday night had people mellow – they were getting down, but taking it easy. Chill, transformative psytrance and complex, layered melodies make Bird of Prey sound like a dream caught in suspense.
Bonobo, multi-instrumentalist and producer, played with Emancipator and then nailed his own late night set in the Label Tent. Playing tracks off of 2011’s Black Sands, Bonobo remixed his funky, dreamlike effervescence with deeper base and pulsating rhythms. Capturing the essence of the moment within his sound, Bonobo delivered a performance that was heavily reminiscent of the wandering, mystical, journey that is Black Sands, but was still relevant to the needs of a Camp Bisco crowd. Bonobo led listeners on a fantastical odyssey into the jungles of the world, where bass was like the ever constant beat of one’s heart, and the interplay of instruments, melodies, and percussive rhythms were the illuminative soundscape to one’s most adventurous dreams.
The entire concert bowl was completely dark. The stage was humming. Photographers were lined in front of the stage which was stacked with Amon Tobin’s ISAM setup, which looks like Tetris blocks a quarter of the way into a game. Before anything lit up the bass dropped and you could feel the vibrations move from the ground and through the souls of your feet, up into your body. Clouds started to burst across Tobin’s set. To experience ISAM is to fully immerse yourself into a different realm where explosive, carefully combined visual and sonic elements catapult one’s senses into near overload. It’s like watching the embers of a fire burn, except not nearly as monotonous. You can’t look away, and it’s so brilliant that you can’t fully understand why or how it exists and why you can’t touch it or look at it forever. The crowd from the sound booth to the ferris wheel repeatedly chanted “sit down” during the first ten minutes of Tobin’s set. It was low key, with gears clicking, machinery humming, and bass forever vibrating away. If you walked through the crowd you’d get yelled at or poked. But as soon as Tobin upped the tempo and dropped the beat, everyone in the concert bowl stood and began to cheer, set ablaze with the brilliance of ISAM.
Call it what you want. Hipster pop rock. Indie glam. New York City apathy and playfulness climb aboard Yacht, as the band makes certain that you will have a good time watching them perform.
Vocalist and keyboardist Katy Davidson stopped part way into their set and told the audience they were taking questions.
“What’s your number?” a man yelled from the audience.
“That’s not what this is about here,” Davidson replied.
Somebody else shouted, “What’s your new favorite book?”
“That’s a fucking awesome question,” said Davidson. “My favorite book is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” People in the crowd cheered.
“Will you play forever?” another audience member cried out.
“Will we play forever?” Davidson questioned out loud. “Well.. metaphorically yes.” She turned around, “We’re just gonna keep rambling on after the show is over. For example, right now.”
Davidson leaned over and the band hit their instruments, launching straight back into their set. Yacht has a lot of energy on stage, and a lot of personality. Jaunting back and forth between playing and singing, they sound something of a mix between LCD Sound System and the Talking Heads (you can thank my friend Blaire for that comparison), with a stone wall of a bass player, a good groove, and a lot of fun synthetic effects. It may be a bit trendy, but it is terribly, terribly fun.
Disorderly rapture characterizes Holy Fuck’s heavily electro-pop sounds. Layered tangles of spellbinding rhythms combine with dueling synths and lots of noise to cultivate a sound that is both feral and entrancing, immediate and thoughtful. The crowd at Bisco was thinned out for Holy Fuck, but the band’s energy, compelled by the dynamism of their sound, pulled you dead center, making it hard to walk away.
Dopapod, a band of Berklee grads who relocated to Brooklyn a year or so ago, have made big strides in the festival scene. At Camp Bisco this year they headlined Saturday night’s showcase stage. With Holy Fuck opposite them at the main stage, Dopapod had packed the hill in front of the stage full of dancing bodies. The band’s danceable, progressive, electro rock is the perfect fit for any number of festivals. Plus, they always pull out a cover or two right before the end of their set that puts the crowd into a frenzy. This time, it was the Gorillaz. People were throwing themselves up against the chain link fence barring the crowd from the stage and girls in little outfits were (successfully) bribing the security guard to get backstage. It was a little insane, but Dopapod always throws one hell of a party.
I’ve seen Gramatik perform before. His music-should-be-free philosophy is close to my heart. The Slovenian producer and beat maker from Pretty Lights Music has come a long way since last summer. Bringing the festival to a close opposite A-Track in the B.I.G. tent, Gramatik had the Label Tent packed (even with the size difference between tents), dancing to a set full of funk and break beats. “Like I said,” Gramatik said into the mic, “We’re getting our funk shit down tonight!”
A plethora of other bands had great sets at the festival and are worth checking out, including Nit Grit, Mux Mool, Nobody Beats the Drum, Mansions on the Moon, Break Science, The Knocks, Kung Fu, and Zoogma.