Camp Bisco doesn’t appear to be returning to the Indian Lookout Country Club — at least not in its traditional incarnation.
MCP Presents, the Denver-based company that promotes the show, hasn’t sought a mass-gathering permit from the state Department of Health or any of the necessary approvals from the Duanesburg Planning Board for the controversial three-day electronic dance music festival. The company also hasn’t reserved dates at the sprawling 200-acre campground and venue near Mariaville Lake that has hosted the event for seven consecutive years.
“I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen,” confessed Frank Potter, Indian Lookout’s owner. “And that’s a terrible shame — to throw something out that was good for our community.”
Duanesburg Planning Board Chairwoman Sandra Scott said MCP hasn’t sought the special-use permit needed for the festival. The permit was discontinued last year after the promoter failed to comply with a number of contingencies, most dealing with post-event reporting. These stipulations included participation in a review group discussing the festival afterward and providing the board with a post-event synopsis, including a notarized attendance report indicating 12,000 tickets or less were sold.
“We had to discontinue the special-use permit because the promoters couldn’t comply with some of the things,” she said.
Both Scott and Potter suspect a civil lawsuit filed against MCP in August could be preventing the company from being in compliance. The mother of Heather Bynum, a woman who became stricken and lapsed into a coma at the festival in 2012, has accused festival organizers and Potter of being woefully unprepared to care for injured individuals at the campground.
“It all comes down to the suit they’re in,” Scott said.
With a reputation for hard drugs and booming bass, the festival headlined by the Disco Biscuits has stirred controversy in recent years. Some residents of Duanesburg and Mariaville oppose the festival, claiming it wreaks havoc on the small lakeside community.
The event is sometimes characterized by traffic snarls as fans arrive and leave. Local authorities have also pinpointed Bisco as a festival that brings an influx of drugs and an uptick of overdoses.
But Bisco also has its share of supporters, namely the businesses that cater to a crowd the size of a small city. Store owners, hotels and support services see a bump in business when the festival rolls in each summer.
“A lot of local people count on that money,” Potter said. “It’s going to be a financial blow to the county and the town as well.”
MCP still has time to book the event in Mariaville, but the likelihood seems slim since the company is finalizing plans for a different electronica festival that would conflict with the dates that Bisco is traditionally scheduled. MCP President Brett Keber and owner Jonathan Fordin have already received preliminary approvals for the Hudson Music and Arts Festival, a three-day music event they are organizing in the Ulster County town of Saugerties for the second week of July.
The festival is slated for the privately owned Winston Farm — the same venue that hosted Woodstock ’94 — and is expected to feature four stages, 80 musical acts and up to 30,000 fans, with 95 percent of them expected to camp overnight. MCP is still awaiting a mass-gathering permit from the Health Department and has not announced formal dates.
Attempts to contact MCP were unsuccessful Wednesday and a public relations agency that normally handles media requests for Bisco had no information about plans for the festival this year. A website devoted to Bisco appears unchanged since last summer.
Fans posting on Bisco’s Facebook page are also questioning whether the festival will occur. Disco Biscuits fans are also expressing a growing skepticism about the festival, enough that band founder Marc Brownstein decided to chime in about the event’s future.
“The short answer is, yes, we are planning on having a camp this year, but there are some significant changes being made, and our number one priority is providing a safe event for our fans,” he wrote in a post earlier this month. “We are hustling like crazy to make it happen and we have made huge progress in the last few weeks, and I’m feeling really good about it.”
The Disco Biscuits could conceivably host a smaller event at Indian Lookout this year. Were the band to limit the size of its festival to 5,000 people or less, they could avoid having to seek a mass-gathering permit or contend with some of the regulations imposed on Bisco.
Bisco was originally a smaller draw, pulling in only a fraction of the people it has attracted in recent years. Some Disco Biscuits fans attending the festival last summer lamented that it had strayed from its roots and seemed more focused on electronica and dubstep acts.
A spokesman for the band said no “dates or location” have been announced for Bisco. Potter assured he’d have some sort of replacement if Bisco doesn’t return to Indian Lookout.
“I’ll do something else,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world for me. … It’s unfortunate because a lot of other people are going to lose a lot of money.”