by Christian Pezzino
Fans of the trance-fusion band The Disco Biscuits have entered a serious dry spell in recent years, subsisting entirely off of a few brief runs sprinkled through the northeast, Colorado and Mexico. Fortunately, Electron has interrupted this drought Friday night at The Note in West Chester as Philly native Marc Brownstein (bass) and Aron Magner (keyboards) of The Disco Biscuits, along with Mike Greenfield (drums) of Lotus and Tom Hamilton (guitar) of Brothers Past, swept the sold out crowd into a maelstrom of livetronic delight.
The entire venue teemed with excitement- and for good reason. Formed in 2000 during Brownstein’s six-month hiatus from the Biscuits, Electron has only played a handful of shows, marking this four-night run from Baltimore to New Haven as an especially rare and intimate series of performances. Set lists from the past few nights have featured songs from Brownstein’s Chemical Warfare Brigade rock opera which have undergone heavy rotation over the past few years in The Disco Biscuits 70+ song catalog.
An energetic “Confrontation” kicked things off before the band dove straight into a spacey “Humu”. The band began to hit their stride when Magner’s trance infused keys and Greenfield’s insistent dance beats led a jam which culminated into a lurid peak of maniacal intensity. Hamilton’s soaring guitar teetered on the edge of psychotic break—and right then I knew that I wanted to be pushed off. That’s what I, like many others, love about a band which holds no reservations when exploring uncharted territory, often taking huge risks that may never pay off. But when the band locks in, the music comes alive, each note a life vest in a stormy sea, undulating along the rhythmic waves of improvisation and the only way to survive is to cling onto every note.
The “Portal to an Empty Head > Home Again” segue felt truly refreshing. For a moment, I felt as if I were at a Biscuits show again. After meandering across the tropical rock ‘n’ roll beaches of “Kamaole Sands,” the band jammed back into the ending of “Confrontation” to end the first set. A powerful “Chemical Warfare Brigade” and a rare “Three Wishes” appearance set the tone for a raging second set. The band coalesced and hit full stride during the “Ladies” jam, a trancey, dancey, fully immersive onslaught of heavy bass and drums, eventually unfurling into dazzling electro-guitar themes as each member picked up speed during the segue into “Rock Candy.”
By this point the crowd was all smiles. Brownstein popped off funky wah bass lines in what I can only describe as Tokyo on acid. The band continued traversing the peaks and valleys of the second set, from the serene, free-flowing “Grass is Green” back into dark, dirty “Ladies” as Hamilton shredded his way back into “Kamaole Sands” to finish a spectacular second set. Electron came out to perform an encore featuring a lively cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” and a soothingly appropriate rendition of “Fearless” to ease the crowd home.
While Electron’s tour ended Saturday night in New Haven, CT, Brownstein has planned a busy schedule this summer to satiate his fans improvisational appetites. Conspirator is touring around the east coast and the three day Camp Bisco music festival is in Mariaville, NY over the July 11 – 13 weekend. Closer to home, Sucker Punch, featuring Marc Brownstein (bass), Aron Magner (keyboards), Mike Greenfield (drums) and Jamie Shields of The New Deal (keyboards), team up at The Blockley on Saturday, June 22!
As I left the venue, I heard nothing but excitement spilling out onto the rain soaked streets of West Chester. Regardless of whether or not Electron sounded like “old school Biscuits” or “Bisco Lite,” their enlivening jams cast ear-splitting smiles among a very festive Philadelphia crowd, leaving even the harshest critic happy.