Road to Camp Bisco – Ranchsauce of LostinSound
Camp Bisco VII was the first music festival on a campground that I ever attended. Up to that point, I frequented live music shows at venues and had even done three days of Austin City Limits Festival in 2005, but Mariaville was my first taste of a real deal festy. It was a place where some people didn’t bathe, some didn’t wear clothes, music played for at least 48 hours straight, and you could do and say nearly anything you wanted. It was like I had stepped onto Pleasure Island from that animated Pinocchio movie. Although, instead of mining for salt, many attendees mined for other goodies: music, friends, really anything you can think of, it was there. Some attendees were innocent noobs like myself and some were lot veterans, many of which were up to a variety of sketchy shenanigans, but the overall vibe of the festival was amazing. I learned a few things about Camp Bisco very quickly: there is no escape from the elements other than an E-Z UP, a tent or the inside of someone’s car, sleep can happen anytime and anywhere, lots of sunburns are sustained from mid-afternoon dozes under the sun, and instead of a police presence, there is some forty years later-faction of the notorious Hells Angels.
Unlike some of the even more commercial festivals, Camp Bisco has always seemed like a place where many of the attendees are putting on a show, whether they’re sliding around barefoot on a late night dance tent dancefloor made of mud, initiating a massive call and response traffic jam on one of the busy pathways, hustling grilled cheese “1 for $5, 2 for $7,” or trying to set up the headiest renegade stage for Orchard Lounge to play a sunrise set. Every year the totems and signs become more plentiful. A part of you knows that someone behind you in the crowd is wielding a Nikon or taking a video and that there is a good chance that whatever you are holding up will get a cameo or a starring role in their video or photos. Camp Bisco is one of the only festivals I know of where your view of the stage is often obscured by the wall of decorated parasols, inflatable animals, flags and signs. There is always an entire zoo of Rage Animals (including walruses, crabs, octopus, and pigs) floating around the festival grounds.
My first year at Camp Bisco, the Pharaoh arrived on the scene and my friends Zola and Dizzy and I all rocked our bandana headbands, Cat in the Hat jump offs, mardi gras beads and matching fanny packs. Nothing like trekking around dirt roads in the woods with the only light you have: a glow toy glowing on the inside of your green fanny pack. You think you get lots of compliments with your raver gloves? Try having an illuminated crotch. Finding things to have lit up at night became somewhat of an obsession of mine at Camp Bisco for the next few years after that. Most notably, my blacklight-rage fan combo and a massive white balloon I filched from the roof of the Late Night tent, tied to my backpack and let float twenty feet in the air above me to act as a target for multiple laser pens. Camp Bisco always falls on the week of my birthday, right in the middle of the Cancer part of the summer, and I am always in pristine rage form.
I had only attended one Disco Biscuits show prior to my first Camp Bisco (Halloween 2007 at The Orpheum Theater in Boston) and I ended up fleeing from it wildly before set break. I’ll admit I was an ignorant hater of the band at Camp Bisco VII. I had no understanding of jam bands and was honestly afraid of the thousands of freaks that made up a Bisco crowd. It was the “Killing in the Name of” encore during their Friday night set that gave me my first true excitement at a Disco Biscuits show. By Camp Bisco VIII and IX, I would refuse to miss one of the band’s sets. Disco Biscuits’ daytime sets almost always are a treat where you can catch a few curveball songs and collaborations. The most memorable for me being the Tractorbeam vs. Perfume set where Sammy [Altman, original drummer] sat in and they played “Once the Fiddler Paid”! Additionally, I have always been amazed at just how many Disco Biscuits fans will withstand gale force winds and hail pellets to watch the quartet play at night.
Countless high fives, bear hugs and dance-offs later, I knew what it was like to come home to Camp Bisco to see your cohorts and kinfolk. You really have to be at one of those sets and participate as a member of that moment to understand what it’s all about. A place of friends, a place of adventure, a place of drama and a place that is as weird as it gets.
In some ways Camp Bisco helped my company, LostinSound.org, grow into what it is today. It is where Dizzy, Charles and I really first caught a glimpse of something brewing culturally. It is where entire bags of Use Your Head buttons were gifted and a crew comprised of intelligent ragers from all over the country was cultivated. It is the site of our most successful installation to date, the Use Your Head Rage Dome/Side Stage at Camp IX. And most importantly, it is the kind of festival where we have been able to develop real friendships with some of the bands, producers and DJs that we have covered over the years. When Barber wore our first t-shirt, the LostinSound.org X-Wing Fighter, on stage during the Biscuits’ daytime set at Camp IX, it felt like all the work we had done up to that point had been paying off. Camp Bisco has the habit of making a start-up company or previously unknown band feel substantial and appreciated.
As far as the lineups go, Camp Bisco’s lineup is always progressive. With that, I mean that they choose acts that are either poised to break out or that are hitting shit particularly hard. Some of the sets are massive hits while others are huge misses. An act could have the freshest sound one year and might not even be considered for the lineup the next year. That’s why oftentimes the lineups are heavy on DJs and producers and less so on bands or “live” acts. Sometimes innovation these days is just easier to find with electronic acts versus bands. This often leaves a bad taste in the mouths of jam traditionalists, but “this is ain’t 1999 any more,” or even 2005 for that matter.
It was during the three years I attended (VII, VIII, IX) that Camp Bisco realized its influence over a younger crowd and began showcasing the biggest names in the EDM scene in addition to the ambassadors of various traditional electronic styles. Since then, Camp Bisco has become the largest festival incubator for electronic music in the Northeast, perhaps even more so than HARD NYC or Electric Zoo. Pretty soon this festival is going to need four main stages.
If it wasn’t for Camp Bisco I probably would never have seen Snoop Dogg swag on stage the way we all know he does, Nas and Damian Marley sway beneath a huge Jah Lion flag or peer through a fog of smoke to marvel at Method Man climbing the stage while singing “I got myself a forty, I got myself a shorty.” Camp Bisco is still the only festival I’ve seen a Tipper, LCD Soundsystem, Thievery Corporation, Diplo, Rusko or Raja Rama perform. I can honestly say that many of the bands that I experienced for the first time at Camp Bisco went on to become some of my most favorite acts.
Camp Bisco also has one of the original Late Night Dance Tents! Rest assured, inside you will find the most hip rager/raver fashions, widest pupils, and some of the most unadulterated and sweaty freedom that ever existed. It must be said that the most outrageous and gonzo experience of my life occurred during Camp Bisco VII’s Late Night Dance Tent featuring The Egg and 2020 Soundsystem. After two prior Late Nights curated by Lotus and The New Deal, I was ultra anxious about going back to that freak magnet. The air inside the tent was the usual mixture of tobacco and who knows what else… It was like stepping out onto Dagobah in search of Yoda. I recall surveying the scene as if it was two pages from a Where’s Waldo? book. Myself and many others had never heard of either of the acts that night, but EVERYONE raged as if there was no sunrise. The Egg brought the hard funk grooves that were seriously perfect after Bassnectar on the main stage playing Slayer during the most notorious rainstorm I’ve ever experienced – his hair flying everyone and dark clouds rolling in behind him. And I swear that after five years, the Egg’s song, “Walking Away,” is still stuck in my head.
If you have spent one of these memorable and gonzo weekends in July at Camp Bisco, then you probably remember that feeling of leaving on Sunday afternoon. The sun feels abnormally hot and craters are steaming from last night’s bass bombs. Emotions are high, as the magnitude of the beauty of the great decisions made (or the despair of the brainless ones) that weekend settles in. Wild rumors circulate in and out of the sounds of car batteries being jumped and Grateful Dead tunes being played from cars and campsites. Some people are alone, fast asleep on the bare earth where just hours before a campsite stood. You bid goodbye to your friends, whom you may see at a festival next weekend, the next Disco Biscuits New Years Eve run or at some unknown date either in the near or distant future.
Shout out to Big Nick, Dima Yastronaut, Becca Boop, Saul/Ashleigh/Don, Big ups to Queen B, for inspiring me to write this piece and for being the act I have seen more times than any other at Camp Bisco!
Remember to look out below, keep it movin and Use Your Head, always!
Co-Founder of LostinSound.org
Sensible Reason is looking for submissions to our Road to Camp Bisco (RtCB) series. Please submit posts to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on how to write your own and examples of last years posts check out this link!