Photos by Mike Nusbaum
Around 3pm on Thursday afternoon, after sleeping through my 5am alarm, packing everything we need to stay alive in five minutes, overshooting the fest by an hour, and realizing we only have one stake for our tent—our five-man Bisco crew walks in a line triumphantly down the dirt path into the festival for the first time. The air around us is heavy with clouds of beige dust that kicks up with our shoes shuffling to the sound of kick drums, shouts, and mysterious explosions in the distance.
The 200-acres of fields at the Indian Lookout Club stretch before us, to the right my eyes fall on a new ferris wheel, the only peak rising above the heavy dust. More than 20,000 kids clog the dirt path or stand in scattered clumps around the two Main Stages in front of us. The blazing sun glistens off sweaty skin and heat rises in ripples from the dirt.
Some kids are putting the final touches on a slew of totems, which are excellent this year: the tie for best is between one “Parent Orientation” sign from someone’s unsuspecting college and a giant Rage comic flag with “HAVE YOU SEEN MOLLY?” scrawled in Sharpie beneath. Then there are the usuals: dead babies, blow up bananas, LostinSound.org and Mass EDMC (Mass. Represent!) topping long poles.
Parent Orientation Totem. Photo by Nicky Digital. Full Bisco Gallery at nickydigital.com.
“Hey they have a haircut stand,” my photographer, Nusbaum says to me.
“Lauren, you should get a Skrillex haircut!”
Whipping around to smack him I run full-on into a pack of Bisco fans and fall into a heap in the dust. You can always recognize them: flat brims, skateboarding sneakers, Camel Backs and shades. Huge pupils. Reciting set lists from that one show two years ago, praising Mark Brownstein as their God, and most of all: genuinely looking forward to all six Bisco sets this weekend. Sorry guy, but I notice you look 16, and the Biscuits formed a year before you were even born—POSER!
I get back up, brush the dust off, and shudder. Then look up at a world bursting with color.
“I’d rather wear that Sex, Drugs, and Dubstep shirt,” I say, sniggering and pointing to some bro near us, and run at top-speed down the path and into the crowd. That’s the last time I see Nusbaum for more than 15 minutes for the next two days. Burying my phone in my pocket, I promise myself then and there that for this year’s Bisco, I’m going to have the true festival experience: no media tent. No cell phone. No Internet. No distractions. Just music and mayhem.
We are now reporting live from Camp Bisco XI.
Roughly four hours later I’m standing in the VIP viewing area by myself as Skrillex’ remix of Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” floats over a massive mob of kids, like some sort of demented sky full of glowstick-stars.
When Skrill-dawg moves into “Internet Friends”, the bass is like a machine gun hitting me repeatedly. I’m dead. Like the guy in a Grateful Dead tye-dyed shirt who’s standing up on the steps attached to the metal fence that runs along the side of the crowd, his arms (and he) high, swerving along with what must be some invisible chilled out beat in his head, his fingers snapping. His torso and that of the totally naked woman dancing on the step next to him rise above the crowd, directing them like conductors of a hard-electro-orchestra.
Skrillex is jumping around like a madman and swinging his hair all around, and it kind of worries me that half the time his headphones aren’t even on. Well, at least he’s smiling hugely enough for me to see it, and the performance is pretty mind-blowing—if only to watch the crowd climbing on each other’s shoulders, beating each other with blow-up aliens, throwing themselves up to crowd surf, and launching glow sticks into the night …
the intense bass totally overpowering the following lyrics:
“I love you / Look at everything I’ve done for you / You’d be nothing without me / You blocked me on Facebook /And now you’re going to DIE.”
With an especially intense jolt of bass through the towering speakers (about six times the size of the Skrillex’s short form), my sunglasses fall off my head and break and I try to escape the crowd, only to realize I forgot my flip-flops. I run back and a girl has found both of them and hands them to me. The boy on my other side fixes my aviators and puts them back on my head. Though my “thanks” is dwarfed by the swooning crowd as “Promises” melts them with the intro and then turns them into a collective glob of dubstep sex.
It’s fitting that a line is “you’ve got me so high / so high I cannot feel the fire,” considering ten minutes later huge explosions of flames a la Indiana Jones shoot from either side of him with every gut-wrenching boom, the heat fogging up his glasses. This is almost too much… especially when I see Dex staring at the little guy from back stage, probably confused as shit.
At one point I’m pretty sure Sonny screams “I love you Camp Bisco!” throwing up his arms and surveying his kingdom of followers.
“Shout out to the people holding animals on sticks and shit,” he says later, obviously amused.
He ends the set with “Survival of the Fittest” (the coolest part of which is its moombahton beat) moving into his signature “Bangarang.”
The crowd goes ape shit crazy, phalanges, fire and bursts of purple smoke flying everywhere—I can’t help but feel like I’m part of some sort of animalistic demon ritual, but whatever.
Skrillex’s set was definitely the hardest the crowds raged on Day I, but
Crystal Castles was fucking dope.
Dressed in Goth and swinging her purple hair while bending her body forwards and backwards at the waste as she chants smooth, bewitching spells into the mike, vocalist Alice Glass has the crowd before her moving like puppeteers on a string, before they shift in unison with the songs into intense wailing, static noise and glitch. All of these twists and turns run atop powerful, pulsing beats, creating an occult scene and leaving me questioning what’s hidden in the dark behind her black-rimmed eyes, even though it’s 7pm and still light out.
Glass is joined on stage by other band member and producer Ethan Katz on keys, the magician behind the chilling synth.
Crystal Castles’ musical aura is proof that electronic music, when done right, is like a spell casting all varying people, willing or not, into a deeply emotive collective state of being. And the electronic band is especially cool because they’ve figured out how to create this soundscape live. Whiskey is also a key ingredient, which Queen Witch Glass swiggs between songs…
whiskey and pain.
The crowd loses their shit for an entire hour, the spins, kicks, and attempts at crowd surfing reminding me of a basement punk rock show—but imagine that with thousands, oblivious to the evening heat. We were all forbidden to take photos of the band (probably because they would steal their souls), so this is what their live performance looks like:
Sometime during the afternoon I run into my friend Mikey and catch all of Rubblebucket’s set while sitting in the shade behind a towering speaker. While jam bands aren’t my cup of tea, the weirdo psychedelic elements of the performance were cool, as well as some dubby basslines. Not to mention the fact that this was the first of two bands with mesmerizing female vocalists, who all had huge followings I was unaware of before Bisco.
After walking through the new light tunnel this year, with neon Christmas lights strung above our heads and along the fences leading between the Main Stage area and the dance tents, I stumble upon 20-year-old Afro-vicii wannabe Porter Robinson doing a set (partly with Zedd) in the B.I.G. tent.
Porter Robinson and Zedd. Photo by Nicky Digital. Full Bisco Gallery at nickydigital.com.
Surprisingly enough, I run into the “Down to Fuck” kids who are camping in the car next to us, as well as the guy and girl couple I saw screaming at each other earlier over the guy’s accusation that the girl was dressed like a slut.
“It’s a music festival! Everyone’s dressed like this!” she pouted as a pack of Bisco Boys walking by obviously checked her out.
I can’t see Mr. Robinson as I’m fully submersed beneath spastic movements, jumping feet and boobs, “party rockers” looking as if they’re having exaggerated seizures of some sort and/or shoving glowy-things in my face and swirling them around (which I admit I always enjoy), and screaming lyrics to some pulsing electro-house anthems that thankfully I do not know the words to. When I finally break free from the chaos, the grass is littered with people making out.
Guess that’s “Summer Love,” eh? FUUUUUUUUUUUU
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR DAY II AT CAMP BISCO, FEATURING DUST TORNADOES, BREAK SCIENCE WITH CHALI 2NA, BIG BOI, FALTY DL, EMANCIPATOR, AMON TOBIN, BONOBO, BEN GRAY AND LATE NIGHT RV DANCE PARTIES!