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Camp Bisco Sets a Fire on the Mountain

Camp Bisco Review

All Photos by Jeff Schaer-Moses Photography

In 2016 my compatriots went to Camp Bisco Music Festival and when they came back they regaled me with tales of a music festival at a waterpark with a more earthy vibe than many of the corporate mega-fests that we had attended in previous years. They serenaded me with stories of a festival so chill you could sit in a wave pool and watch the stage or lounge down a lazy river while terrific music and new down to earth friends set the backdrop to a gorgeous late afternoon. Once the sun dropped, those breezy afternoons seamlessly turned into a raging evening of body-shaking music and entrancing dance moves where everyone is in a bathing suit.

The leisurely environs did not come without a price, however, the campground is on the side of a mountain that during the winter is used by skiers and snowboarders to get their yearly adrenaline fix swooshing down the slopes. Setting up shop included precariously placing all of your belongings into the back of a giant wagon and having a truck drag it up Montage Mountain before you and your friends jumped out and dragged it the rest of the way up. They told me how difficult the load-in could be compared to other festivals. But even with all that, their stories were totally positive.

A difficult load in can make or break a festival and, considering Bisco may have the most difficult load-in of any Festival in the country, it says a lot that so many campers have nothing but good things to say about the Disco Biscuits yearly celebration.

The campground at Camp Bisco is situated on the side of Montage Mountain.

I listened to my friend’s stories and I honestly didn’t believe them. I didn’t think my friends were lying to me, I just figured like most things that have to do with music festivals they were exaggerating. I thought the overall epic feeling that many music festivals give off overtook them and had them, telling tall tales hyperbolizing the difficulty of the load-in and the epically chill vibes of the fest.

When the next year’s festival season came around, we weren’t just planning on which festival we would be attending, we were also planning my wedding. While none of the lineups that the Mega Festival’s boasted really moved me, my friend’s constant enthusiasm about the little EDM/Jamband festival they had gone to the previous summer did. It was also situated on the opportune weekend to turn our yearly pilgrimage to musical freedom into a bang-up bachelor party.

We arrived on the Wednesday night before the fest (which was also my 29th birthday) and had to make due with a campsite pretty close to the top of the mountain. The heavy duty trucks with the horse trailers to match came thundering up the dirt road to whisk away the campers to their campsites, and we began the dicey process of lugging our gear to our slopeside weekend abode.

Once we got off the horse trailer, we began lugging our stuff by way of 4-wheel cart up the slope to find the right spot. What we came up with wasn’t perfect, but it was home for the weekend. A motley crew of friends we were @_Hashtagdave, a marketer; @Timboslicebo, a painter and music producer; @bleer22, an architect; @_malcolmjames, a New York City Creative; @KJNeering a Kosher Food distributor and New York music tastemaker; and myself @TnecksJeffMoses, music journalist and photographer. On the surface, we are all wildly different, but beneath the skin we are kindred. An iteration of this exact group has been festing together since 2007.

We bickered like siblings while setting up the campsite on a hill in the dark, but once we were set, beers were cracked and stories were told as the mountain around us transformed into a colorful tent village full of friendly faces. We may not have loved dragging our stuff up the mountain, but once it was set up, the view from the camping chair wasn’t half bad. Music blared all around as we watched the campers come up the mountain ready for the weekend ahead of them. We made it an early night in preparation for the 3-days of fun to come.

Turkuaz on the Wave Stage at Camp Bisco,

Thursday afternoon started for me with cold-brew coffee and funksters Turkauz. My running buddies don’t really like to make an entrance into the festival grounds until the sun goes down, but I am always up for the daytime shows at a music festival. Especially when you can enjoy those shows with a cold beer on a lazy river.  Following Turkauz was a long walk over the bridge to the main amphitheater to catch Pretty Lights protege Break Science on the main stage. With their funky electric sounds and huge LED lights, they are definitely a band made for an evening set, but they certainly weren’t unwelcome in the mid-afternoon.

Break Science on the main stage.

When Break Science finished I ascended the mountain once more to rally with my comrades and prepare for an evening that featured Pouya, Space Jesus, Slushii, Gramatik, and Griz. While I have since had a change of heart about Griz and Gramatik, none of these acts were really my cup of tea. But in the right surroundings with the right company, it didn’t matter. The party raged deep into the night; in a blur of bright lights, loud music, and substances the crowd became closer, faster than I have ever seen at any other festival.

The ease into the culture at Camp Bisco was so smooth. Every little pleasure seemed so much sweeter after the herculean effort it took to load in.

Friday started with another exceptional afternoon set– this time by the incomparable Beats Antique. The renowned EDM/ world-fusion act had a mid-afternoon date on the main stage but that didn’t stop them from showing out like it was prime time. Their stage show didn’t just have the giant LED screen behind them, but it also came complete with extraordinary dancers of the belly variety and others. It was probably the only multidisciplinary show of the fest, and it was well worth the early call time.

Me being the pack animal that I am made my way back to the campsite to regroup with the squad and as a team, we marched back in in time to catch Classixx on the Wave Stage.

We bounced around catching G. Jones who became a favorite of Dave and Tim, and Louis the Child and some others. But then, just before Bassnectar, the sky opened up and rain poured down onto Camp Bisco. As thousands of fans tried to pile into the covered, seated portion of the amphitheater, Ben, the architect (who began the weekend with a case of bronchitis) selflessly surrendered his poncho to protect my camera. And by the time Bassnectar took the stage, the weather had calmed and the party raged on.

The Bassnectar Faithful on Friday night.

Bassnectar’s fans were at Bisco by the thousands, and they all made sure to rep as hard as they could. The basshead logo was as common around the fest as flower crowns and garmentless hoods. They all raged hard for their hero, and he gave them everything they could handle. He gave them so much, in fact, that near the end, I couldn’t take it anymore. I lead the group back to the Wave stage and the calmer sounds of trance android Shpongle.

Much to my disappointment, Ian Posford was not joined by the legendary Raja Rahm on the flute, but he did have a live flutist with him as well as two of the Disco Biscuits.

As the musical high wore off, we made our way back to the campsite and to what we were sure would be our destroyed tents. When we arrived, much to our surprise we found the better part of our site intact and relatively dry. We said a prayer to the festival gods, had one more beer, and called in a night with all intentions of losing the last day of the fest to the music.

Saturday started as these sleep-deprived, hungover days often do, with an argument between Dave and I. In our exhausted state we went at each other for who knows what but neither backing down and no man budging.

Regardless of our argument thought, it was time for some Action. So Ben and I headed for the main stage. Bam Bam Baklava did all the hits without the backup of his compatriots or usual DJ, and he did with it the charisma and panache the food-focused alt-rapper always does.

Action Bronson was incredible during his early afternoon main stage set.

He hit the stage wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt, his DJ made a million mistakes caused by having never worked with Action before. He had no LED screens or pyrotechnics, but he still brought all the passion and intrigue of his tech-heavy festival mates. He did his hits, cracked jokes, and generally connected with his relatively small but invested crowd. Action captured the crowd by sheer force of will and put on what was one of the highlight sets of the festival with nothing backing him up but his own magnetic personality. In a genre that is often accused of being devoid of transcendent performers, Action Bronson is giving the crowd a piece of his soul to take home with them.

The beers flowed and the blunts burned, and after the set, Ben and I took a float in the wave pool and indulged in a giant game of keep it up with a beach ball the size of a weather balloon. As refreshing as a splash around the famed Bonnaroo mushroom fountain can be, nothing beats being able to jump in a giant clean pool full of friends to cool off after a set. And it doesn’t hurt that the water doesn’t turn brown at Montage Mountain like it does on the farm.

After our splash, we set a course for the campsite once more to reconvene with our crew and set sites on the night. But not before I picked up a ZenRick hatpin to make amends with David for our fight.

When @_malcolmjames saw an inflatable chair passing through the crowd like a beach ball hit the ground he made a new friend and took a load off on the concrete right in front of the wave stage. Mal and the man had never seen each other before but they got comfortable quick like old friends.

Handshakes and hugs followed that quickly turned to shotgunned beers with the neighbors and a small dance party erupted in our little section of the mountain. We danced our way into the early evening before dancing our way back into the festival grounds in time to catch The Werks, The Knocks, Paper Diamond, and Tokimonsta before the set I had been waiting for, the literal reason I made the trip to Scranton: Pretty Lights.

It was down to just Ben and I again because we were the only ones who prepared properly for his signature electro-funk sound. His set was downright mesmerizing–the Colorado-based electronic jam band has evolved so far past DJ Derek Vincent Smith’s electro-funk roots to become almost a cybernetic organism of funky jams and electric hooks. Derek isn’t so much a DJ anymore as a musical director or even a conductor of an orchestra bringing his live band to harrowing crescendos and filling the space with beautiful colors and music that all come together to become the magic that has been Pretty Lights since his breakout year in 2007.

It was so much more than just a musical performance, the lights, the sounds, and the dynamic band took the performance to another level.

The electronic maestro played his way through most of his most recent album Color Map of the Sun and had his band join him for a rendition of his newest singles Rainbows and Waterfalls which was released only months prior to the fest. Then shut it down with his now mythic version of the John Denver classic Country Roads.

We weren’t standing in an amphitheater so much as flying through space on an interstellar pleasure mission with Captain Smith expertly piloting his funky starcraft all the way to the cosmos.

Pretty Lights brought us back to earth toward the end of the set, and Ben and I made haste back toward The Wave stage and 12th planet, but were quickly stopped in our tracks by a wall of bass thumping dubstep that neither of us could penetrate. The stark contrast between Pretty Lights chilled out jams and 12th Planets aggressive beat dropping bass was too much to bear in our condition, and we held back and waited for the tunes and crowd to dissipate.

Once 12th Planet wound up his set we quickly found our compatriots and made our way back to the mainstage for the weekends first, last, and only helping of Biscuits. After about half an hour we made our way back out and took our first walk around the campsite near the bottom of the mountain. This is where we learned what a blessing our elevated campsite really was. While we slept soundly with the rain trickling down beneath us those who camped near the entrance wound up with their tents submerged in up to 6 inches of water.

With that swirling around in our clouded minds we ascended the mountain once more to continue the party for one last night. We battened down the hatches and finished all the leftovers and discussed the up and downs of a festival well spent and one by one we nodded out with only me awake to watch the sunrise over the home of Michael Scott.

Camp Bisco Dropped it’s 2018 lineup on Friday and with a list of players that looks remarkably similar to last years, I’d say there is a good chance this festival will be just as cozy as 2017’s.

Jeff Schaer-Moses

Jeff Moses is an experienced music journalist with more than 1,000 bylines under his belt nationwide. From the world's biggest rock stars to underground musicians living in your very own backyard he has interviewed them all with clarity and integrity. While some people think a great story needs a little journalistic spin, Jeff believes the best stories tend to tell themselves. For him covering big festivals is always big fun, but finding that band that is a diamond in the rough just itching to get their tunes out there is the greatest thrill in life.

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