photos by Andrew Blackstein
The Disco Biscuits came to the Mann Center in Philadelphia for the last night of City Bisco Saturday September 27, accompanied by Risky Disco and Giorgio Moroder. If you’ve never been to The Mann Center, you should put it on your radar. Similar to New York’s beloved SPAC with lots of space and rolling hills of grass to lay out on if needed, it retains better sound quality and (at least for Biscuits) most of the pavilion is GA seating. From the top of the hill you can also see the beautiful Philadelphia skyline which is definitely a plus.
Upon entering the concert, each patron was given a City Bisco baseball card as part of an official art installment called “What Summer Sounds Like” that was created by illustrator Alex Fine. Each card features the band members on the front with little facts on the back such as what year the band formed, and a trivia question about HeadCount. This trading card installation added a fun, whimsical vibe to the experience as soon as you entered the gate, and gave a reprieve from the extensive and slightly invasive search.
In a stroke of luck for Biscuits fans, Orchard Lounge, the originally scheduled opener had to cancel and The Disco Biscuits stepped in to play as their alter ego The Perfume. A Perfume set is when the band plays their own songs in a different style of music, as if another band was covering them. They started early, around 7 o’clock and the crowd was sparse but excited. The band came out and people settled in to dance. Guitarist Jon “Barber” Gutwillig came out dressed to impress with a bright red velour jumpsuit that looked like it could be made out of velvet.
The styles of each song of The Perfume set were interesting and varied, ranging from a dub style “Mindless Dribble” to a garage band punk version of “Kitchen Mitts”, a definite highlight. They started with a Devo-style “Frog Legs” that turned into a disco dance party that was perfect foreshadowing for Giorgio Moroder. “Frog Legs” got the crowd moving right away with a version of the song that would fit right into the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever. From there they got their reggae on with the aforementioned dub “Mindless Dribble”. A Wa-wa “7-11” and raucous “Pilin’ it High” came after that really amped up the crowd. The beauty of a Perfume set is that it was so different I didn’t realize that they were ending their set with “Kitchen Mitts” at first. So much so, that I left my spot to get a drink. As I walked across the back part of the venue I recognized the song so I stopped to revel in it and saw a mosh pit.
The second set started with an outfit change, Gutwillig coming out in a black shirt and white pants. Musically, it started and ended with “Little Lai”, with keyboardist Aron Magner trilling notes on the keyboard, while Gutwillig followed suit on guitar. A cohesive jam followed with each player adding their share, but with Magner and Gutwillig taking the reins. The transition into “Caterpillar” was pretty flawless and took the crowd on a musical exploration of the darker side of electronic jam music that The Disco Biscuits do so well. The drummer, Allen Aucoin, lead the pack on this one like a drumming machine.
The theme of the second set seemed to be about delving the crowd into musical chaos then pulling us out of the darkness by juxtaposing upbeat, dancey tunes. This can definitely be heard as the band went from “Caterpillar” into “Little Betty Boop”. The set ended with a subtle and funky “On Time” back into “Little Lai” that had Gutwillig wailing pretty hard on guitar to end with a flourish.
Set break featured Giorgio Moroder, also known as “the godfather of disco” who came all the way from Europe to unleash his beats on our American ears. At 74, Moroder threw down harder than most people in the crowd. His music had us flashing back a few decades, remixing songs that he produced such as Donna Summer’s 1979 hit “Bad Girls” and 1984’s “Never Ending Story” which he composed. He also remixed the contemporary “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea which was unexpected and awesome. After Moroder’s performance every member of the band turned into the 80s kids that grew up with his music. Moroder is so legendary he had a hand in making his own theme song…Daft Punk’s “Giorgio by Moroder”. They were star struck in the biggest way because without Moroder, the disco in Disco Biscuits wouldn’t exist.
The third Biscuits set commenced with a fan requested “Crickets,” the beginning of which was slow and sexy as always. It eventually worked the crowd up into a frenzy as the song progressed. The song alternated between high energy peaks to lows riddled with bass bombs thanks to bassist Marc Brownstein. After “Crickets” they played a faced paced “42” into Conspirator’s “Orch Theme”. The first half of the third set focused more dark, heavy electronic jams, some of which didn’t really go anywhere. Seldom played “Aquatic Ape” developed into a break beat jam that really showcased Aucion’s skills. “42” rounded off the set with a happy and upbeat ending.
“Helicopters” worked really well as an encore, encapsulating the energy of the show into one song. It had everyone out of their seat, dancing and yelling lyrics at the top of their lungs. It was the perfect nightcap to end the show on a high note with Gutwillig slaying the guitar. Overall, the energy of both the show and the crowd were great meaning the Biscuits rocked Philadelphia out right.