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Me gusta: Sabina Sciubba of Brazilian Girls.

 

Mountain Jam

By John Brodeur

Camp Bisco V

Hunter Mountain, hunter, Aug. 24-27

The resplendent scenery of Hun ter Mountain was the setting for last weekend’s Camp Bisco V, the fifth installment of a shape-shifting, three-day music festival, headed up by the Philly-based “electronica-jam fusion” band Disco Biscuits. (Note to bands: This egregious use of the term “fusion” has got to stop. If Miles were still kicking, he’d slap you silly.) Unfortunately, the location’s supposed resplendence was dampened by the damned cloud that sat atop the hill from start to finish.

Not that the drizzle rained on anyone’s parade—as is the norm for this type of shindig, a large number of the 5,000 or so campers were in this as much for the atmosphere as the music, and at any given point on Saturday, just as many people could be found puffing joints amid the dome tents as strewn about the hillside in front of the stage, and most seemed to be having a grand old time in either location.

More than 25 bands were spread across three stages (the main stage, facing into the hillside, boasted spectacular sound; a smaller “side” stage was actually behind the main stage; an indoor “chill-out” space was much too loud for any actual “chilling”), making for constant aural stimulation. Most acts were of the trip-out-and-go-with-the-flow variety: Take, for example, the Disco Biscuits themselves: In their two Friday-night sets, they best resembled the king of all jam bands, Phish—meaning their technically proficient jamming occasionally took the audience on a ride, but that ride came to a screeching halt every time they decided to add vocals to the mix. Embarrassing singing, with more-embarrassing lyrics: “Apple butter toast is nice”? Yes, but no.

Several Bisco-bound acts explored the strange intersection of organic grooves and robotic techno sounds. In their Friday-evening set, DFA champs The Juan Maclean played a rare live-band set, which added some oomph to their self-described “robot shit.” Boston quartet Psylab’s two Saturday-evening sets were poorly scheduled (they should have been given the late-night shift), but their pulsing beats helped the dancing mass wipe the sleep from their eyes in time for that night’s main event (another two sets from the Disco Biscuits, for which I bailed).

Future Rock, a Chicago trio that honors that city’s strong lineage of house music, delivered their charge on Friday evening, then again late Friday night/Saturday morning as Aphex Rock. This alternate incarnation found the group revisiting the perplexing, beat-driven mid-period of the great Aphex Twin, including songs from the Richard D. James Album and I Care Because You Do. The lateness of the hour (they went on at 3:45 AM), weather (pouring rain), and dancing bears (hallucination?) combined with the lights and sounds for a euphoric journey into sunrise.

More-traditional jam acts ranged from run-of-the-mill (Lotus, the Trapps, the New Deal) to inspired (early Saturday afternoon, Medeski and the Itch turned out a long set of continually mutating funk-jazz, the only thing all weekend that approached fusion).

But the weekend belonged to two acts that could hardly be described as “jam as we know it.” Spin recently called the Roots the “only hip-hop band that matters”; in their brilliant Friday-night set, they made a case for only band that matters, period. The group proved their mettle in a switch of musical styles, infusing their rap jams with doses of rock & roll and Philly soul. If M.C. Black Thought has “got the soul of a young Sam Cooke” (as he breathlessly spat on “Stay Cool”), then drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson has the soul of a Roland TR-808. Since we’re going there, guitarist Captain Kirk channeled the souls of both Carlos Santana and Prince in his 10-minute star turn on “You Got Me.” (Kirk also handled most of the singing, including the indispensable Sly Stone lick on “Star.”) Between old-schooly tracks from the excellent new Game Theory disc, the band seamlessly inserted snippets of “Jungle Boogie,” “Le Freak,” and—get this—“Black Betty” into their nonstop groove. They were, in the words of the brothers Ween, “tighter than Steely Dan’s asshole.”

Brazilian Girls (three guys and one girl, none Brazilian), whose slot was, again, about 12 hours earlier than it should have been, mowed down the Saturday-afternoon crowd with their noirish, er, fusion of dub, electronica, disco, punk-rock, and whatever else they feel like. With all these styles colliding, the New York foursome could come precariously close to sounding pretentious, but they avoid it with a clear sense of fun—bassist Jesse Murphy even seemed to be heckling his own band between songs. And vocalist Sabina Sciubba simply owned the stage: Face hidden behind a translucent white mask, she writhed and gesticulated, her breathy, seductive purr (a cross between Sade and Björk) sounding equally entrancing in five different languages. The highlight of the entire weekend: a 15-minute “Pussy” (that is, “pussy pussy pussy marijuana”), on which Sciubba goaded the male contingent into singing “I don’t have a pussy but I want one.” Out of sight.

 

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