Delivering pulsating trance beats within a jam-band framework, the Disco Biscuits once again turned The Palace Friday night into a dance club.
The band defies most live show rules — the songs and the show itself does not follow any real arc, the four band members rarely move from their spots offering zero visuals, and the volume does not rise or fall in the songs. Instead they propel forward with music taut with tension that increasingly builds, often with no resolution at the end. They are masters at it and that’s partly how they earned a remarkable loyal fan base over the past two decades.
They opened with an electric “7-11,” the chorus appropriately repeating, “I’m going to go out and jam, I’m going to go out and party.” From the start they ascended slowly and surely but here, they stopped at a midway point to solidify a trance groove for 15-plus minutes. Call it a warm-up.
The night continued in this form — the four band members moving humongous riffs slightly forward with subtle nudges to raise the energy until its crescendo. Simple things like a color change in the lights and a more sparse base line did enough to shift the texture of the moment. Often they crept increasingly higher, to settle at a frantic level, which they managed to sustain for 10 minutes at a time.
While there were intricate instances — keyboardist Aron Magner and guitarist Jon Gutwillig typically weaved layers over the steady thrum of Allen Aucoin’s drums and Marc Brownstein’s bass — their mission seemed to keep the dance party bouncing.
During “Above the Waves,” the exploration felt like a search expedition more than a locked-in groove, culminating with a celebratory ending and an exploding crowd declaring the search successful.
“Minions” came close to a funk-rock feel that seemed to speed up as the band lifted it with a frenetic jam led by the calculated and patient climb of Gutwillig’s lead. But at no point was there an unnecessary show of chops, overplaying, or any heroics — instead it was about producing a full jamtronic sound and experience. This much they did all night like no one else can.
The show opened with Formula 5, a Capital Region-based band that just returned from some two-dozen shows in the southern states. The one- hour, high-energy set came out roaring, moving from classic jams to prog-like rock, sometimes bright and melodic, but more often trancey and intense. There were also some heavy rock spots laced with dramatic altitude changes without warning.
Formula 5 likes detail, and clearly have countless hours and shows already under their belt, evident by the precision and ease of their delivery—the arrangements are packed with stops and starts and edgy curves which they navigate at high speeds with poise and little effort. But they are at their best when they are bent on less-structured jams, which they did, and soared, numerous times Friday night.
With only a one-hour set, they didn’t have the luxury of patience that jam bands typically enjoy. Instead, they hit it hard and fast. They are not afraid of speed, and several times you felt certain that guitarist Joe Davis was going to accelerate out of control, bringing the band with him. But drummer Greg Marek and bassist James Wood knew when to lock it down, and they knew when to chase.
On keyboards, Matt Richards set the tone with ethereal sounds that hovered slightly above the planned mayhem and often served as trail markers for the listener.
Their jams were ambitious, and often seemed outside their comfort zone, which is probably right where they like to be. Like the Biscuits, their playing demanded from listeners the same detailed attention they gave it — you couldn’t leisurely check in and out or you’d lose your place. But for all their complex arrangements and spacey intentions, they also delivered blues-based full-sweat solid jams that would heat up any hard-rock fan.
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