Layafette Apple Festival, just south of Syracuse, will enter 2021 as a regular stop for touring bands as we ride out the COVID-19 pandemic, and assuredly should continue to be a destination for live music moving forward. Over October 29-31, The Disco Biscuits performed to large crowds in Lafayette who were hungry for the often imitated, never duplicated release that live music provides, and in doing so put an exclamation point on the Northeast Drive-In season.
Having performed in Syracuse on Halloween in 2015 at Crouse Hinds Hall, and again last year in November at SI Hall at the State Fairgrounds, The Disco Biscuits are regulars across New York State. They’ve hosted their Camp Bisco Music Festival numerous times between Van Etten, Hunter and Mariaville over 2005-2013, and make regular stops at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, among other venues.
Even with the rain that pounded the grounds on Thursday night, the staff assisted fans if they got stuck and took necessary measures to ensure a smooth entry and egress from the grounds. The crowd did their part two by following the lead of the staff, abiding by basic social distancing norms and remaining confined to their assigned spots for the evening.
But being ‘confined’ to your car area has its perks. The physical space around your vehicle is greater than you might find perched up in the crowd at a music festival, and with limited interference from others. While at a festival, you have the spatial boundaries to dance and enjoy the performance, but others are close by so your volume and limbic movements are limited by comparison, or at least contrained to social norms and appropriate levels of touching.
During COVID-19 times, touching is limited just to your personal bubble, and within your space at an event such as the Disco Biscuits, or Dirty Heads a week earlier, you have an immense amount of freedom to dance with unbridled abandon and exuberance, having only a thin tape of elastic and the proximity to your car and spot-mates keeping you confined. Even at temperatures hovering around freezing, there were major benefits to the layout of these Drive-In shows.
Thursday night’s performance was marred by an intense amount of rain, which led to the stream on CouchTour.TV to be lost – although they quickly replaced the stream with footage from Drive-In shows earlier in October. The night started out wet, and led to a shortened first set. The crashing of rain and its deafening sound brought out a fitting “Magellan” with a “Widow in the Rain” bustout mixed in between.
Disco Biscuits, Lafayette, NY – Thursday, October 29, 2020
Set 1: 7-11-> Lunar Pursuit-> Minions-> Miracles
Set 2: World is Spinning, Magellan-> Gangster-> Helicopters (inverted)-> Widow in the Rain-> Magellan
Encore: Frog Legs
On Friday night, the band waited until 7:45pm to take the stage, allowing for all to have sufficient time to enter the muddy grounds and safely arrive in their spot. The first set lasted roughly an hour, and featured one of the new songs performed last fall in Syracuse, “Freebis Slinky.” Entering into set two, “Highwire” kicked things into high gear, while a late set “Pimp Blue Rikki” gave was to rising star of the Biscuits’ catalog, “Clocks.”
Disco Biscuits, Lafayette, NY – Friday, October 30, 2020
Set 1: Portal to an Empty Head, Freebis Slinky-> Rock Candy-> Grass is Green (inverted)-> Rock Candy
Set 2: Highwire-> Astronaut-> Crickets-> Mindless Dribble-> Pimp Blue Rikki, Clocks
One thing that is amplified in the Drive-In setting is behavior that would otherwise be incidental at a normal show. Case in point, leaving a show before the encore. Normally, you would just excuse yourself, walk out of the venue without issue, and there’s a little more space for everyone else to enjoy the encore. This happens, rarely with cause for event, and is a forgettable exchange at best.
But at a Drive-In show, the counterpart to leaving early is a bit more engaging with your neighbors than just ducking out to beat the crowd. Provided there is no medical emergency, the act of starting your car, turning on headlights and beginning to drive out while others nearby are still enjoying the show is rude and, when weather is mixed in, can be dangerous and obnoxious. If not a venue policy, the general norm of not leaving until the show is fully over should be considered for all Drive-In shows, for safety and general courtesy of all who paid top dollar for these limited live music experiences.
Halloween found the band walking out wearing sweatshirts that bore V, O, T and E, making it clear what their message was this Halloween – let’s get down, then on Tuesday, let’s get down to business and vote.
“Rockafella” launched the first set into the night, giving way to an unfinished “Little Betty Boop,” which led into a large “Morph Dusseldorf” sandwich, layered with a tease of the James Bond theme (in honor of Sean Connery, who died earlier that day), “Feeling Twisted” and a thorough “Abraxas.” After an incredibly lengthy set break, the band returned with “Save the Robots,” taking a patient stroll through the composition’s open space, leading to an extensive, tension building pause where the band got spooky, before finally dropping back into the jam, spawning an eruption throughout the audience.
A monstrous “Orch Theme” arose with the ominous synth out of the year-old “Running Into the Night,” which did the heavy lifting in following the top notch “Robots” and kept the set flowing from jam to jam. An inverted “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a” surfaced before diving down into a nasty “The Great Abyss” before returning to “Running Into the Night.”
For an encore, Gary Numan’s “Cars” was the most fitting song of the weekend, if not the whole run of Drive-In shows. The first cover of the song in over 10 years, “Cars” let the band stretch their legs in the New Wave classic, before shifting into the semi-rare “Naeba” and back into “Cars,” a perfect encore choice after a high energy second set, keeping up the dance vibe all throughout. With post-show music of Poolside’s “Harvest Moon,” the crowd carefully made their way out of the grounds and off into the night.
Disco Biscuits, Lafayette, NY – Saturday, October 31, 2020
Set 1: Rockafella, Little Betty Boop (unfinished)-> Morph Dusseldorf-> Feeling Twisted-> Abraxas (unfinished)-> Morph Dusseldorf
Set 2: Save the Robots, Running into the Night-> Orch Theme-> Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (inverted)-> The Great Abyss-> Running into the Night
Encore: Cars-> Naeba (inverted)-> Cars
Hopefully this isn’t the last Disco Biscuits show of the year, but it likely won’t be the last at Lafayette Apple Festival. We look forward to 2021 mixing Drive-In shows with the return of live music to the venues across New York and the rest of the country.