NYC ROLL-TOP: The Flying Biscuits Brigade

Besides several slapstick between-set raffles, there was little mention of Hurricane Katrina or her victims at Headcount's September 13th benefit at Manhattan's Spirit. For New Orleans, the city that mothered jazz, it seemed perfectly acceptable to use a benefit as an excuse for musicians to just get together and play without being overly self-important about the job. So they did. Appearing in various configurations, The Disco Biscuits, drummer-about-town Sir Joe Russo, and RANA's Scott Metzger anchored the evening, along with guests and really loud DJs, taboot.

A bit out of place on a bill of electronic-influenced jambandia, Metzger and Russo's only previous gig as the acoustic guitar/drums Danjaboots duo was opening for country boozer Roger Alan Wade (of "She's Gone Back to Whoring" fame). They made the most of it, though, pulling the decidedly heady crowd in with familiar covers of Ween's contemporary classic "Piss Up A Rope" and Bob Dylan's tender "The Man In Me" (y'know, the one from Lebowski, man) and — hopefully — holding them with Metzger’s originals. Attitude-wise, the songs — with titles like "Drunk By Noon" and "You and Your Baby’s Daddy" — tended towards the Ween side of the equation. Russo’s drumming (and falsetto vocals) were minimal, but effective.

It was likewise the sophomore flight for the Flying Circus, also featuring Russo and Metzger (now on electric guitar), alongside Disco Biscuits' keyboardist Aron Magner and bassist Marc Brownstein, as well as Russo's former Fat Mama comrade, turntablist Kevin Kendricks (sadly, without his vibraphone). The music sounded exactly like the fantastic confluence of ongoing relationships that it was. Shaped grandly by Metzger's exploratory shredding, the band pulsed from the spare spaces Russo and Brownstein have explored in Electron, through the anthemic crests of countless Russo/Metzger jam sessions, before landing in the Brownstein/Magner-led euphoric hippiedom of the Biscuits' "Little Lai" (with a sidetrack into a well-cheered tease of the heartbeat intro to Phish's "Maze").

With no gigs announced in the immediate future, and their own Camp Bisco just weeks behind them, the Disco Biscuits' appearance was a casual treat for their New York fans. Officially the first show of the post-Sam Altman period, the Biscuits were backed by old friend and former Ally drummer Mike Greenfield for the first half of their set and encore, and (yes) Joe Russo for the rest. Opening with a timid "Voices Insane," the band rose leisurely to its feet. By the time they launched into a forceful rendition of "Little Shimmy In A Conga Line," the band honed in on a cycling psychedelic jam, the familiar colors of former Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda spilling over the crowd.

Russo took over from Greenfield midway through a gliding "Svenghali," and the set took a propulsive turn upwards. Whether he plays with the drummerless Biscuits more in the future or not, Russo fit into the band's vocabulary naturally, riding "Svenghali" and "Confrontation" to swirling conclusions. Magner, pleasantly restrained behind something like 117 less keyboards than usual (three, to be precise), painted the songs' edges. Playing a set mysteriously devoid of segues, the Biscuits focused on older staples of their repertoire, including Brownstein's "Three Wishes" (revamped with a jam) and their set-closing "hit" "Helicopters," whose intro was met with a deep cheer, and whose drop into an electronic jam was met with a deeper one.

And so, by the time the Biscuits disappeared into the night (or onto tour with Conspirator, another side-venture from Brownstein and Magner, as it were), their future was no less in the air than when they showed up for work, but their past was certainly one show richer.