It had already been quite a week for the Disco Biscuits by the time the band reached Brooklyn Bowl Sunday night for the first Bisco Power Mission benefit.
On Tuesday the band released its fifth studio album, Planet Anthem, and played a show in Philadelphia. On Thursday, guitarist Jon Gutwillig injured his hand after a show in Albany. And Friday's show, in Boston and minus Gutwillig, was cut short by the local fire marshal.
Nevertheless, as bassist Marc Brownstein explained as he took the stage for what turned out to be a long, jam-filled evening with four guest guitarists, including former Disco Biscuits drummer Sam Altman (!), "Tonight is very much Jon's night." Reprising what he'd said in a recent HeadCount interview, Brownstein explained that the guitarist's interest in renewable energy and sustainability had inspired the Bisco Power Mission initiative to assist in the funding and installation of solar paneling at Philadelphia’s Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School. "This is [Jon's] issue," Brownstein emphasized. "This is the money he wanted to raise. This is the cause he wanted to give the money to. This is what he really cares about."
And so the show went on. Coincidentally, the Bisco Power Mission benefit marked almost exactly the tenth anniversary of a legendary March 11, 2000, Wetlands show the Biscuits played as a trio sans Brownstein. (The police broke up that show, too.)
Chris Michetti from Raq and Mike Carter from Indobox filled in creditably for Gutwillig during the first half of the first set. Michetti played on "Commercial Amen" and "Liquid Handcuffs," songs from Brownstein and keyboardist Aron Magner's Conspirator side project. But Carter in particular evoked Gutwillig's looping, pattern-driven grooves during a searing "Confrontation>Cyclone>Confrontation" sandwich.
The evening's first real surprise occurred when Sam Altman, now a physician, took the stage with guitar for "Trooper McCue" and "Barfly," two rarely played early Biscuits numbers. "Yeah, Sammy plays guitar," Brownstein said as Altman launched into a wah-wah driven solo. "I know you've heard the rumors. You get to see it now with your own eyes."
Michetti returned after the set break for "M.E.M.P.H.I.S.," "Digital Buddha," and "Boom Shanker." Then Brothers Past guitarist Tom "The Ham Sandwich" Hamilton, who also performs with Brownstein and Magner in Electron, joined the foursome for "Kameola Sands" and then took over for some searing work on "Little Lai," "Plan B," "Quad D" (the night's only Planet Anthem song), and "Shelby Rose."
Brownstein was ebullient throughout, jumping around, chatting with the crowd, and changing lyrics to fit the unexpected circumstances. "For a couple of weeks we'll just have to take it all in stride," he sang in "Little Lai," "Just for a couple of weeks." And then in "Plan B": "I never imagined that Barber [Gutwillig's nickname] was someone I'd miss." Plan B indeed. It's hard to imagine that somewhere an ailing guitarist awaiting surgery wasn't feeling just a tiny bit better.
Stream or download the show here.
(Top and bottom photos by Liz Odonnell; middle photo by Jamie Huntsman)