My first Camp Bisco outing was this past weekend, and it just happened to be the ten-year anniversary. That meant big names and monumental performances for sunny Mariaville, New York. The festival, aggregated around the popular electronic jam band The Disco Biscuits, took place in upstate New York on the beautiful Indian Lookout Country Club. Getting into the festival was a bit of a hassle, but once inside, you knew you had reached wonderland–A modern Woodstock. You’d have to go to see for yourself just how deep the rabbit hole goes, but I’ll do my best to convey to you just how astonishingly awesome this festival really is.
As I mentioned earlier, the festival is nucleated around the Disco Biscuits, who played six times over the course of the 3-day camping festival. Now, I wasn’t a huge Biscuits fan heading into Bisco, but after watching them perform live, I was blown away; what an exceptionally talented group of musicians and innovators! The EDM community should thank these guys for what they’re doing; I see Camp Bisco serving as a hub for that merger of EDM into mainstream music that I advocate so much, and the Disco Biscuits really help the cause. Other performances ranged from your average set to once-in-a-lifetime acts: RJD2 spinning with Break Science adding beats and synths? Shpongle in the US? A secret 4am set with Zedd and Porter Robinson with Skrillex singing? It’s almost too much to believe. But believe it.
Here were LessThan3’s 10 favorite sets of Camp Bisco:
On Friday, the second day of the festival, a live performance by psytrance legends Shpongle proved to live up to the hype that the performance had been getting. As the midday sun gave way to scattered clouds, and Shpongle came onstage with live band and Raja Ram himself in tow, the sky opened up to pour down a light rain. The ethereal reality of the set against the distant clap of thunder and lightning made this show a spectacle to behold. The live band, supplemented by live performers that looked like something out of Cirque du Soleil, was an act fit for a kingly court. Why Shpongle doesn’t do this more, I don’t know; maybe to preserve the special nature of the gathering of such talented hearts and minds, or maybe it’s simply too much work logistically. All I have to say is, if you ever get the chance to see Shpongle perform with a live band, fan or not, do it.
RJD2 and Break Science
Shpongle’s live performance wasn’t the only revolutionary set at Camp Bisco this year. Of equal note, legendary turntablist RJD2 brought the noise accompanied by Adam and Boo of Break Science. This wasn’t a set to dance to–it was a set to WATCH. People seemed surprised by this, but I don’t know how they could be. Watching this set was like watching a real electronic band. First of all, RJD2 spinning on his own is a fantastic sight. A sick sound system, four turntables, and the man himself got the set started off right. RJ came out in a space suit with a built-in synth pad, and just acted straight up silly; he really projected an aura of fun that pervaded the entire set, and I was quite enthused to watch the man work. When he dropped his helmet and started spinning, you couldn’t help but be impressed as he switched between vinyls–one vinyl for each song, some seemingly unreleased. The set was only enhanced when Break Science added their creative flair to the mix. With Adam kicking rhythmic beats on the drums and Bo sprucing up the tracks with live synths, this set was one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. Break Science was fire, RJD2 was a spark, and together, they were a musical inferno.
The MSTRKRFT set was a sleeper. I expected it to be good, not great. It was phenomenal. MSTRKRFT came to throw down, and the second you stepped into the tent, you could feel the bass pounding, seeping into your every pore. The track selection was very legitimate, and the drops were right on point. This was one of my favorite shows, hands down.
Toothless and I didn’t know what to expect from Bluetech’s set, we just knew to expect good things. Backstage during the Archnemesis set, I bumped into Bluetech, the man himself, where we briefly exchanged words about the recent write-up I did of his new album, Rainforest Reverberations. When he went onstage as the ‘last act of the night’ (at Bisco, nothing is certain), he projected that quintessential Bluetech vibe that makes his sound so inherently cool. Organic in nature, with an electronic flavor, “the sounds almost feel like they’re emanating from your body,” said one Bluetech enthusiast. His set was the perfect act for the time, downtempo and not to hype, but really fun to listen and dance to. Between the guy holding up the giant glowing jellyfish on a stick and Bluetech’s organic sound under the aquatic glow of the lightshow, you felt like you were in some ethereal biosphere.
Everyone at LessThan3 knows how much I hype glitch hop and melodic bass music. It’s no surprise, then, that I was blown away by MartyParty’s Camp Bisco performance. He played crowd favorites, old and new, and his sound wasn’t stiffly resigned to his own music or the music of others, but rather well-rounded and impeccably mixed. Mixing not just between songs, but between individual drops, Marty Folb brought the noise as 8,500+ people shook the ground under the Grooveshark Tent. Look forward to two new EPs from the boss of bass coming later this month; one a collaboration with producer Minnesota and another a solo EP, both soon to be featured on LessThan3. Put some support behind this guy; he’s doing big things.
The Archnemesis set was predictably awesome. I’ve loved these guys since their first EP, Diamonds and Glass, and they’ve only been improving since. Between their fantastic mixing vibe and that Pretty Lights-esque bouncing feel to their music, the crowd was consistently feeling it. They shared a timeslot with Skrillex, so the tent was originally a select group of true Archnemesis fans, but as passersby heard and saw the vibe being put out from the dance tent, they flocked to it, and the set blew up. As they played, live artist Allie Olsen danced up a storm and painted a really cool work of art–I thought this was an interesting touch to the show. For not being on the Pretty Lights label, these guys sure have his sound down; PL may have found himself… an archnemesis (or a fun new duo to synergize with live).
This was the first set I saw after I arrived at the festival, and let’s just say I was a big fan of Beats Antique coming into Bisco, but I left a die-hard advocate. Beats’ unique old school gypsy/electronic sound under the sun on the main stage was just like.. WOAH. When they played I Got.., You could see that Beats Antique had just made a fan of every single person in the crowd. If you haven’t seen Beats Antique, see Beats Antique, and if you haven’t heard this sound, go out of your way, right this second, to hear it. Their latest album, Blind Threshold, is a true masterpiece of EDM.
This is what I love about music festivals–sometimes, you just find new music unwittingly. On my way to the Four Tet set, I passed by the main stage. There was this excellent electro-jam vibe pervading the air. It wasn’t the Biscuits but their sound was definitely in there. Makes sense in retrospect–Conspirator is a Biscuits side project (the Biscuits sure have a lot of side projects!) Truthfully, I enjoyed this set more than any of the Biscuits’ sets. I haven’t heard any studio releases, but live, these guys are the bee’s knees.
Lorin Ashton was the only DJ at Camp Bisco to have a nighttime set at one of the main stages, and with good reason. The widely acclaimed god of underground bass tore the campgrounds asunder with his eclectic blend of filth and dancey beats. The man is a grade-A entertainer from the moment he steps on stage until his communal “family photo” at the very end. With drops into classics like Skee-Lo’s I Wish, as well as a gnarly remix of Dev’s Bass Down Low, Bassnectar’s set was enormous. Some artists put on a house set, others play a dubstep set. Bassnectar plays nothing but a Bassnectar set.
Nero proved to be a true master of the decks at Camp Bisco with the best mixing at the festival. While the crowd didn’t get to hear any new tunes off their upcoming album, not a single person in that tent showed any sign of complaints as London’s current face of dubstep melted the foundations of the Grooveshark Tent. Nero delivered exactly what everyone at Bisco was hoping for: dreamy vocals accompanied by rip-roaring basslines played with the energy and finesse of a true musician.
Finally, we have an honorable mention:
The Mad Decent Tent (Dillon Francis, Jillionaire, Dave Nada)
One of the coolest aspects of the festival, perhaps, were the macrosets within the dance tent. At one point, Diplo’s label Mad Decent took over the Dance Tent for around four hours on the last day of Bisco, showcasing their latest and brightest subgenre, moombahton. This was my first moombahton show, and probably the best exposure I could’ve had to the up-and-coming genre. The tempo fell somewhere between dubstep and house, giving the entire crowd the perfect beat to groove to. The crowd at this tent continued to grow for the duration of the takeover, and while I’m not so sure about how many people knew of moombahton beforehand, I’m positive that nobody there will forget it anytime soon.
As far as festival logistics go, they’re typically a nightmare. In the case of Bisco, I really couldn’t complain. The “anything goes” atmosphere allowed by the tight-but-not-too-tight security kept festivalgoers safe regardless of how they choose to have fun. Everyone on staff was helpful when help was needed; any given person would be quick to point you to where you needed to be, and when I sprained my ankle in the mud Friday night, a nice man named Scott took me on his ATV to the infirmary where they cleaned and bandaged me up and then got me back to my camp, no fuss, no muss. Volunteers were always picking up and recycling garbage, keeping the festival site clean and safe. Glass was prohibited, so you knew that your bare feet would be safe and dancefloor-ready at a whim. On Friday, it rained and the more than 20,000 feet stomping around the Indian Lookout Country Club emulsified the ground beneath into a sludge of mud and sweat. Still, not a day later, the festival coordinators had laid down a thick layer of straw across the entire campsite, effectively fixing the mud problem. Festivalgoers, do not take your hosts for granted–at least at Bisco; they’ve got your back.
The way I see it, most of what Bisco could improve upon in the future is facility or logistically related. As far as music festivals go, the line up is typically phenomenal and the ticket price is relatively low; you get great bang for your buck! On the other hand, I’d like to see Bisco streamline the check-in process a little bit, maybe by opening the campgrounds the day before the festival actually starts. It would surely raise ticket prices, but it may save a lot of people from fat headaches. Port-a-potties were widely available, but often under-maintained. Constant upkeep and replenishment of toiletries wouldn’t be a bad idea. Lastly, if Bisco incorporated something like mall directories interspersed throughout the campsite, maybe with schedules on the banner it would be a welcome addition, especially on the first day of the festival when people are still trying to glean the lay of the land and find their way back to their campsite–we used a Real Sociedad flag to find ours.
All in all, Camp Bisco X was a resounding success. The experience was something like taking a 3-day vacation to a fairy tale utopia. Camping alongside likeminded peers on such a beautiful plot of land and listening to a continual stream of top-tier live music couldn’t be anything less than incredible. Best of luck preparing for next year; LessThan3 hopes to see you all there!