Although the Disco Biscuits' show at the Ogden Theatre may have been only the second in the band's three Colorado stops for their Winter Inferno tour, the Philadephia quartet made it feel distinct, treating the show like its own musical statement. Both segments of the lengthy performance were largely instrumental and jam-based, but each had their own themes and structures. As much as the band reveled in lengthy solos and improvisation, each part of the set had an impressive amount of structure and planning behind it, and the band and the crowd seemed wholly focused on the moment for the entire night.
See also: - Slide show: Bisco Inferno at the 1STBANK Center - Disco Biscuits' Aron Magner on making every Bisco show special - Jon Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits on Red Rocks, the pop-up store and Bisco Inferno
The band played two full sets, but the second half of the show was just as ambitious and complex as the first, and the music found a complement in the band's trademark array of lighting stunts and laser effects. Dazzling patterns of beams would shift and morph with a break in a solo or a shift of key. As ten- and fifteen-minute solos would come to an end without warning, bassist/vocalist Marc Brownstein, guitarist Jon Gutwillig and keyboardist Aron Magner would jump into a round of vocals.
Such spot-on transitions and sudden shifts gave some degree of method to the band's musical madness. But that effect only went so far. The group stayed true to their jam-based approach to live performance, a dynamic that incorporated elements of electronica and dance music. There were enough lengthy solos and long stretches of 4/4 beats to satisfy the mob of loyal fans packed onto the dance floor. Steady, driving beats from drummer Allen Aucoin helped keep even the most experimental moments of the show danceable, as did the synth effects provided by Magner combined with the eye candy coming from the lasers.
But that was only one part of the Disco Biscuits' approach. The music also offered plenty of bluesy guitar solos, rock-based drum explorations and even a number in waltz time. The band took the stage at about 10:20 p.m., and it took several minutes of a slow, plodding drum intro and a mounting set of electronic effects before they found their more rapid, dance-based beats.
When the tempo finally sped up and the laser effects kicked off with full-force, the band made a reference to their rock and roll roots, breaking out into a surreal version of "Run Like Hell" from The Wall by Pink Floyd. That tune was the first vocal delivery of the evening by Brownstein and Gutwillig, and they traded off lines on different sides of the stage. The sound of the vocals was muddy, but no one seemed disappointed about the lack of lyrical clarity.
Before they reached the second verse, however, the band broke into a complex series of solos, riffs and motifs. After nearly twenty instrumental minutes, the band jumped into a lengthy version of "Confrontation." Following the only song break of the first set, the quartet launched into a bluesy, guitar-based riff that set up another round of lengthy, solo-based instrumentals. Before wrapping up the first half of the show, the band returned to the cover of "Run Like Hell," with Gutwillig adding some flair on the main guitar riff.
The second half of the show featured more involved solos and complementary laser effects, but the band also offered more vocals and recognizable versions of their tunes. "Therapy" and "Spacebirdmatingcall" brought rare sing-along moments from the crowd. Those tunes were the bridge to even more involved instrumentals, with Aucoin driving a tempo that steadily increased in speed and intensity. The live rendition of "Sail Away" was another diving board for long, involved instrumental passages.
The intricate solos, tone experiments and light spectacle took the show well past 1 a.m. But the length of the solos and the depth of the experimentation didn't sway the band's loyal cadre of Colorado fans, who packed every corner of the venue. Even the most blitzed dancers on the floor seemed intent on every note.
Future Rock offered a straightforward opening set rooted in trance and club music. The trio of drums, keyboards and bass drew heavily on pre-recorded effects and samples for their sound, but the dynamic pleased the Disco Biscuit fans who'd arrived early and crowded the dance floor at around 9 p.m.
Keep reading for Critic's Notebook and photo highlights of Disco Biscuits' show at 1STBANK Center.
Personal Bias: Before the show, I was more familiar with the Disco Biscuits studio work. The band's live dynamic is completely different.
Random Note: Remember the cool Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd laser shows they used to do at the Museum of Nature and Science? The Disco Biscuits' elaborate light spectacle felt a bit like that.
By the Way: I spoke to several fans who had been to Boulder for the band's first Colorado show and who were heading to Broomfield for the Biscuits' final local stop. The local fan base is devoted -- many folks bought tickets mere minutes after they went on sale. That probably explains how the shows sold out in four hours.
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