Camp Bisco 4: A Farewell to Sammy and a Festival Trance-Formation

From August 26-27, 2005, Camp Bisco 4 was held in Van Etten, NY at the Skyetop Festival Grounds, marking the first time the festival was not held in Pennsylvania. The festival grew this year, and would return even stronger in 2007 at Hunter Mountain before firmly establishing their presence in Mariaville, NY from 2008-2013.

Camp Bisco IV lineup

This weekend in particular held additional significance for the Philadelphia-based hosts of Camp Bisco, the Disco Biscuits. Original drummer Sam Altman would be leaving the band after this weekend to pursue a medical degree. With the fate of the band, and festival in question, Camp Bisco IV: The Trance-Formation was held to send Sammy out on a high note. The band would later welcome current drummer Allen Aucoin behind the kit at shows starting that fall.

Map of the festival grounds

Ahead of Camp Bisco IV, Meat Camp Productions (now MCP Presents) took over management of Camp Bisco and, being fans, the band felt the festival would be in good hands. MCP sought to make Camp Bisco a larger event by moving to Van Etten, and drew a reported 4,400 attendees, the largest Camp Bisco at that time.

Camp Bisco IV offered two sets of the Disco Biscuits each night, as well as 2005 up-and-coming bands Umphrey’s McGee, The New Deal, Conspirator, John Brown’s Body, The Benevento Russo Duo, Brothers Past, Big in Japan, and DJ’s Christian Bruna, Omen and D.R.O. (Final Phaze NYC), DJ Mauricio a.k.a. Fractalien (Portland), and Orchard Lounge (Chicago). Many acts can be seen on the Camp Bisco IV official DVD, which is incredibly still in stock.

Friday night would feature regular Camp Bisco acts including Brothers Past, Orchard Lounge and The New Deal. The Disco Biscuits would kick things off with “Astronaut” -> “Shem-Rah Boo” -> “Astronaut,” the start of over 100 minutes of non-stop playing in their first set of the weekend.

Day 2 of Camp Bisco IV featured even more music, as well as overcast skies that would lead to rain later that night. Lynch, featuring Jim Loughlin of moe., John Brown’s Body from nearby Ithaca, the Benevento Russo Duo, two sets of Chicago firebrand Umphrey’s McGee, and following two sets of Disco Biscuits, the trance-heavy sounds of Simon Posford projects Hallucinogen and Younger Brother.

Camp Bisco IV boasted not only a family-friendly environment, with a family camping area and child play-park (Mulberry’s Dreamland) as well as the first time Color War was a featured activity during the day. The event pitted four teams of festival attendees (Orange, Green, Yellow, Purple) in friendly competition, reminiscent of summer camp ‘color wars’ of the past. Activities included volleyball, dodgeball, capture the flag, a freestyle competition and much more. The Orange team was victorious in the first event, now a staple of Camp Bisco, held at Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA since 2015.

Color War schedule of events, as created by Yancy Davis

The emotional build up of the weekend would take place late in the Disco Biscuits’ second set on Saturday, following “Floes.” Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig noted to the audience that there were some in attendance that night who were at the first Disco Biscuits show, saying, “So we feel like we have a lot of the old, a lot of the new, and everybody came together up here in the mountains for a very, very special night. The Professor, his last gig on the drums. Let’s hear it for Sammy.”

With that, the crowd roared with appreciation as the band played “A Song for Sammy,” referencing songs he wrote, inviting him back to perform whenever he wanted, tying an emotional bow on the weekend.

Appropriately, the band returned to the stage to perform “Spectacle,” with lyrics that spoke to the closing of one chapter of Disco Biscuits and Camp Bisco lore:

Asleep in the day, awake in the night, only so many roads to take your life.

The problem you see, you can’t mess with time, and take a different road you’d try.


Special thanks to Camp Bisco Color War HQ for photos of the first year’s events.

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