Photos by Kelsey Winterkorn
Once you climb the stairs and enter the main ballroom of the Fillmore, with chandeliers overhead and silver disco ball spinning, it exudes the vibe of a historic venue. The upstairs is equally impressive, with the famous wall of concert posters and a band typically performing in the lounge area; also the small balcony off to the left of the stage gives great perspective on the production as a whole and the crowd below.
Friday’s opener, BLVD, was an impressive. The music was tight, with heavy rhythm beats and great transitions with well put together songs. Occasionally the MC would jump out on stage and bust out into a lyrical montage, letting rhymes fly that for the most part were smooth and energizing. BLVD has a future as long as they can find a direction and move in it, without meandering off that path. As an opening band, they did their job warming up the crowd, garnering a great reaction from the fans. By the time they were done with their 40 minute set, the dance floor was full and the crowd ready for the Disco Biscuits.
The Biscuits came on around 10:30 PM, on both nights. Each performance was unique and defined. I would almost call it “A Tale of Two Nights” as Friday’s show was more singular, sometimes to the point of each musician illustrating his individual skills and showcasing that talent one at a time. Saturday was the complete package, the band playing more as a unit. Each night was unique.
As Friday began Marc Brownstein, the bassist, showed himself to be the resident band leader and really kept the groove building as “Story of the World” expanded out of a slow and ambient jam. This lyrically heavy song, with guitarist Jon Gutwillig on lead was a good start to the night’s show. They jammed out the next group of songs in similar fashion. The music’s blend of live instruments and electronic effects has a constant beat to it and is, needless to say, danceable. Brownstein bobbed his head to the tempo; while Aron Magner on the clavinet and keyboard, hidden behind a layered stack of instruments, was the glue holding the instrumental aspects tight to the electronic features molding them as one.
The first set nearly went to midnight. The fans were jumping, spinning and twirling, with ear-to-ear smiles in reaction to the band’s well practiced changes. The lights, with Johnny R. Goode at the helm, were integral, adding a much needed final touch. Lasers shot out from behind the band in all directions with layers of purple and yellow bathing the audience and often garnering an immediate reaction.
The Biscuits opened the second set with the increasingly rare “Abraxas” with the lights and lasers hypnotizing the audience. After that, Brownstein took time to talk to the fans and threw CDs out into the audience. He tossed some like Frisbees through the small arched windows of the side balcony and on his second try he made it as fans climbed over each other to get to them. By this point the venue seemed to be leaking slowly. Playing four newer songs in the first set to an audience whose attention span was short at times, may have led to a loss of some ticket-holders. Those who had departed, however, missed the meat of the second set where the quartet sandwiched “Tempest Jam” into an inverted “Bernstein and Chasnoff” between “Spraypaint.” By the end of the second set, an exhausted crowd was still ready for more. Hearing cheers and seeing smiles, the Biscuits encored the evening with “The City”; a great closer with Marc on lead vocals. They played it very concise with little room for jamming. The song was tight and it had a driving sound to it. One could only think upon departing the Fillmore into the dark cold San Francisco streets, that this was the city tonight.
The Saturday night show was completely different. From the beginning the energy inside the building was electric, the fans were vibrating with excitement. “Want Some?” Brownstein asked with an ear to ear grin as the band emerged and he started on a synthesized bass machine, instead of his traditional five string bass. “Flash Mob” was an intense opener, the room heavily filled with smoke, as the lights blazed through the haziness creating an ambient glow. Goode on lights was so in sync with the music that it was as if it was one machine moving in the same direction,. The songs were high energy with driving dance beats and then almost as if being flipped upside down, the tempo would change and the jam would go spacey; crossing multiple themes. There was a patience displayed by the band tonight, each song had its showcase and the beats created by Allen Aucoin on drums were machine-like; never missing his timing, he played the entire night in consistent fashion, tapping the symbols, brushing the snare and pounding out rhythmic power from the bass drum. The venue at times took on the feel another world. The entire atmosphere played its part and the band, with their high energy and intermingled playing, never stepped over each other. No one player stood out amongst the others but the combination of the pieces put together was indescribable. They sandwiched “Humu and “Lunar Pursuit” between “42” and it was hard to tell when one song ended and another began, as their transitions were so seamless and smooth. It was only when a familiar hook was played that the crowd would cheer with the recognition of the song.
The second set started with Brownstein, talking about how much fun he was having and how he loved San Francisco. Throwing more CD’s into the crowd, he spontaneously announced, “There’s one for all of you for free at the merch booth.” The crowd erupted in cheers. Then he introduced a new song, “Naively,” played for the first time. Magner went from ambient space to an almost honky-tonk piano riff, an unexpected and pleasing change. “Crickets” then started off slow with the keyboardist laying down a layered background, as the song built to crescendo. From “Crickets” they segued into “Little Shimmy In A Conga Line,” played with real intense blues riffs; featuring excellent interplay between Magner and guitarist Jon Gutwillig. Sandwiching another song, “Above The Waves,” before going back into “Crickets,” this sequence reached the climax of the two night event. This led into the electronic themed, high energy “On Time,” with vocal interplay between Magner and Gutwillig. As the song climaxed at set’s end, all of the lights were shot at the disco ball that hangs famously from the center of the Fillmore. The Biscuits then encored with “Wet,” a song Brownstein had written about an experience in San Francisco. As the band took a bow and left the stage, the room was still filled to capacity, the audience giving a sense of satisfaction and yet a want for more.
A tale of two nights, both shows reinventing songs from deep into their past, and showcasing music from their upcoming album: Planet Anthem; an event worth experiencing.