Camp Bisco 12: Raising the Bar

Over the past 12 years Camp Bisco has climbed the ranks of EDM festivals becoming a Mecca for electronic music lovers all over America. Camp Bisco is an annual event that I look forward to from the very first moment early bird tickets go on sale. Each year I meet friends, new and old, for a three day gathering of amazing music, art and people. This year certainly did not disappoint and was one of the best Camp Bisco experiences I’ve had. Every aspect of the festival contributes to the foundation of a phenomenally amazing experience, and it’s so close to home you really can’t go wrong.

The past two years, I spent the extra money for a VIP ticket, so this year I left Wednesday night to ensure that my friends and I would miss traffic and have a full day of live music Thursday afternoon. What I have found in the past years is that there will always be traffic. I often like to think that I’m the only person in the world who is belligerently excited to be back at Camp, and I am always sadly mistaken when I hit that line of traffic miles from the Indian Lookout Country Club. Overall it wasn’t too bad and I was happy we made the trip up a day early so we had a full day of music on Thursday.

Thursday afternoon started the weekend off right with a beautiful blue sky and some great daytime music. Although the day began a little rocky for my friends and I, as we ended up locking the keys in our car with the engine running and spending hours trying to break in with a bent hanger, we were lucky Camp Bisco has AAA on site, so clearly this fairly common predicament for campers was solved for us. Judging by the amount of people I ran into who had also locked their keys in the car throughout the weekend, it’s safe to say that AAA should be on site for every festival.

With the release of Daft Punk’s new album Random Access Memories, it seemed to be a major trend within many sets throughout the weekend to sample or cover one of their new songs. Twiddle and Digital Tape Machine kicked it off with the first sets of the weekend mixing in a little Daft Punk, which the crowd certainly did not contest. The Manhattan Project took over the label tent with a phenomenally large crowd for an early set, which was no surprise. This was The Manhattan Project’s third year at Camp Bisco and it has been amazing to see their talent and fan base grow so immensely year to year. RubbleBucket Orchestra took the main stage in the late afternoon with the perfect upbeat, feel good music. One thing I can say about the sets at Camp Bisco is that they are almost always spot on with separating the beautiful and relaxing day time sets with the late night high energy sets. I, of course, had to check out a little bit of Macklemore’s set on main stage (“Thrift Shop” is quite possibly the most catchy song in the entire world.) I’m not really a huge fan of live rap shows simply because the sound is extremely difficult to emulate the quality of a studio recording, which sometimes make it difficult to hear the vocals. Still, it was an entertaining set with hilarious moments. Camp Bisco does a great job of bringing in different genres, and especially with their rap acts, getting the latest and greatest artists.

Although I’ve never really been the biggest Umphrey’s McGee fan, I was definitely impressed by their set, despite bassist Ryan Stasik not being in attendance, as his daughter was born that weekend. Bryan Dohery of Digital Tape Machine, Dave Murphy of STS9 and Marc Brownstein of The Disco Biscuits filled in on bass during the set, with Brownstein stepping out to play on a cover of the Biscuit’s own “Home”, to welcome everyone back to the festival we have all grown to love so much year after year. Being a huge Sound Tribe Sector 9 fan, I went over to Main Stage 2 early so I could be front and center to see what they had in store for their sunset-set. Some of the craziest shows I have ever seen in my life have been at main stage of Camp Bisco during sunset (Shpongle live of Camp Bisco X was mind blowing). Sound Tribe certainly did not disappoint. Some highlights included “Scheme”, “Inspire Strikes Back” and “Vibyl”. They were also accompanied by live saxophone and trumpet who brought the level of energy and the complexities of each song to new levels.

Overall all of the Biscuits sets were absolutely amazing and this year brought some of the best Disco Biscuits sets I have seen at Camp since Camp Bisco 8. The Disco Biscuits started their first set of the weekend on a very high note, including a 20 minute “Spaga” and a stellar 25 minute “I-Man”. All around, the Biscuits gave a great performance. Oh, and the new light show? C’mon. Insane.

Late night in the Label tent consisted of Com Truise and Squarepusher, two highly anticipating artists. Com Truise had a lot of energy and was an all around feel good show. Squarepusher was quite possibly the most chaotic and amazing set I have ever seen at Camp Bisco, and having wanted to see him live for almost eight years, I was unbelievably floored that he was playing a festival in Upstate New York. His set, true to his nature, was insane. I think a lot of people expected something else and were very confused when they walked into the tent. Squarepusher focuses mostly around heavy drum and bass and electro-acoustic music, so often times the progressions are spastic and abrupt. He took the stage donning an intense mask that lit up in sync with the projections behind him, and to his music. It wasn’t until he stepped away from his table and picked up his bass that I was truly blown away. This set was certainly one of my highlights for the entire weekend. After Squarepusher, I walked down to the hill stage for some Silent Disco, but once the sun started coming up, I made the responsible decision of getting some sleep before the next long day of music.

Friday was another beautiful day, and completely unlike the average Camp Bisco weekend, as there was absolutely no rain and it was not 100 degrees, making for absolutely perfect weather during daytime performances. If you’ve never been to Camp Bisco, or even if you have, one thing to do is ride the Ferris Wheel, which provides the most amazing view from the top and really puts into perspective how enormous this festival has become. I didn’t end up spending the money on the air bag dive, but it was entertaining enough watching other people jump off that I think it is a great addition to Camp Bisco’s tomfoolery. I popped in and out of the Label tent during Govinda which surprisingly packed for such an early set. Watching the crowd, I was very much blown away by the dedication some of these attendees have. I don’t understand how they have the energy to dance that hard for that long and not be passed out by 5 o’clock.

Being clock-less via dead cellphone made it difficult to ever know what time it was. I was happy that I stumbled upon Toro Y Moi on the main stage, who I was very much looking forward to seeing. The set was very low key and an awesome way to spend a Friday afternoon. His music is very different from most of what’s around, which is why I was so excited to see what he would pull out in a live performance. This performance proves what I said about Camp Bisco’s set placements for each artist always being incredibly on point. The schedule for Friday was shifted around a bit due to issues with Animal Collective. In true Camp Bisco fashion, the moment Animal Collective couldn’t perform, they had the legendary Thievery Corporation on a flight from across the country to fill their slot. By shifting the set time an hour earlier, Thievery Corporation was a perfect cap to the day and beginning to the night. After Thievery Corporation I took a short break before hitting up the Bassnectar set, sandwiched by double Disco Biscuits sets. I didn’t stay for all of Bassnectar because the crowd was a little crazy, but nevertheless, it was a high energy show and the crowd clearly enjoyed themselves.

Both sets from the Disco Biscuits were, once again, spectacular. Each set seemed to get better than the last. As a Biscuits fan, it can be easy to be cynical and walk away from some shows feeling a little let down, but there was none of that this weekend. Each set was absolute fire. The highlights of all of night two included “Lunar Pursuit”, “Helicopters” and a “Highwire” encore.

Gigamesh, Aeroplane and Lotus were all awesome late night sets. Gigamesh and Aeroplane were so high energy I was physically exhausted when it was time to switch tents for Lotus. Luckily, Lotus was a little slower and more ambient which was a nice end to a long day of music.

Saturday mornings are always the best and the worst at Camp Bisco. You know you have a whole day of music ahead of you, but there is still a looming reality of it all coming to an end. By the time I had gotten myself together to head down to the main stage for the noon Indobox set, it appeared there were some technical difficulties with the stage and music would be pushed back until it was figured out. Music was pushed back for a few hours so I popped into the label tent until the first Biscuits set. Everyone seemed to be having a great time despite the mishap at main stage. By the time The Disco Biscuits came on, the excitement level was high. The daytime Biscuits set is always something I look forward to. They’re often more low key than their usual sets and great to relax in the sun during. However, this set was high in energy and packed with gems. The main highlight of this set was the “Spy” although I am always a fan of a good “Magellan.” I quickly left from main stage so I could catch Break Science who had been moved to the label tent.

Each time I have Break Science, the energy is high and the talent is mind blowing. Adam Deitch is the kind of drummer you need to see to believe. I almost always try to find my way to the front just to be able to see both artists work their magic in synchrony. I wish I had been able to catch more of their set, but I was definitely happy I didn’t miss it. The next act I caught was Passion Pit on the main stage, which was definitely a highlight of the weekend. Passion Pit is just the kind of feel-good, upbeat night time set you want to see on your last day of Camp Bisco. The crowd chimed in, singing each song and waving their rage sticks through the light show that stretched across the grounds. Immediately after Passion Pit left the stage, the Disco Biscuits quickly filled in for their last two sets of the weekend. It was a treat being able to see two Disco Biscuits sets back to back, giving the crowd a full Biscuits show on the last night of their festival. Highlights included, “Story of the World, “Run Like Hell,” and a personal favorite, “Little Shimmy in a Conga line.” This was a brilliant way to end a weekend of some of the best Biscuits sets I’ve seen in a long time. After the two sets I needed a long break to recollect myself and rest before late night. The last set I ended up catching was Boombox at the Label Tent. I have seen Boombox a handful of times and they never disappoint. They put on a psychedelic, funky, disco-esque set that kept us all dancing and put the close on a phenomenal weekend at Camp Bisco.

Each year Camp Bisco stretches its potential and our expectations. The festival has branched out to include acts and artists that might not ever share the stage otherwise. Each year is an experience, and a mind blowing one at that. At one point during the weekend Marc Brownstein exclaimed, “It’s been 12 years! That means combined we’ve been at Camp Bisco for almost a month!” It’s crazy to look back at what the festival started as and what it has now become. It is so much bigger than anyone ever truly anticipated, but hey, Upstate New York knows how to party. Thank you Camp Bisco for another brilliant weekend.

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