Camp Bisco, a jam-tronica festival started by the band The Disco Biscuits is very well known within festival circles. CB has a long, storied, and deep past that stretches back 17 years to the dark ages of 1999, and now in 2016 Camp Bisco is back for it's second year in a row in their new location of Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania. So with it's re-emergence let's go take a look at the history of the legendary Camp Bisco.
Camp Bisco originated in 1999 "out of necessity," Brownstein, The Disco Biscuits bassist, says "When the Biscuits started as a young Philadelphia band in the '90s, we were in the festival circuit, and like any young band we started playing at noon. We knew within a year or two that we weren't the noontime band anymore, that our fan base had outgrown that, but the promoters still didn't necessarily believe it." The band played to an audience of 1,500 at the 1997 All Good Festival at noon, which quickly cleared out after the Biscuits were done playing. That was the straw that broke the camels back for the band. They wanted control, as well as a way to put the spotlight on other similar acts, and in 1999 the first camp bisco was born with the Disco Biscuits playing 4 hour sets each day. The 1999 edition of the festival included the popular jam band Sector 9, now Sound Tribe Sector 9 and 18 other emerging jam and DJ acts. With about 800 attendees and a bunch of "unknown and extremely affordable bands," Brownstein says the first Camp Bisco went off to be enough of a success to continue year after year seeing profits raise 20% every year.
After the first iteration of Camp Bisco, the festival moved around a bit. Morris, Pennsylvania at the Saw Mill Ski Area for Camp Bisco 2 in 2000. Union Dale, Pennsylvania at Salansky Farms for Camp Bisco 3 in 2002. By the time Camp Bisco IV came around in 2005, The disco Biscuits had an offer on their hands. A Production company called Meat Camp Productions (Now MCP Presents), wanted to take over the management of Camp Bisco. The Biscuits agreed because MCP were huge fans of the Biscuits, and they thought who would be better to take over the festival than the fans themselves. The biscuits made sure to retain having heavy hand in the formation of the festival. MCP wanted to make Camp Bisco a larger event and they did that by moving to Skyetop Festival Ground in Van Etten, NY. Larger acts like Umphreys Mcgee, Younger Brother, Big in Japan and John Brown's Body played the festival that year. Festival attendance grew to 4,400 people, making this the largest Camp Bisco yet. Even though the festival was a success in some respects, MCP was seeing heavy losses. But, these losses are to be expected when a company is going though a rebrand.
In 2006 Camp Bisco was moved again to Hunter Mountain Ski & Lodge in Hunter, NY. After Camp Bisco V, MCP thought they found the perfect long-term home for Camp Bisco. From 2007 - 2013 Camp Bisco took place at the Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, New York. The move was very controversial, mostly because the country club was maintained by the bikers who run the Harley Rendezvous Classic, one of the largest annual gatherings of motorcycle enthusiasts in the country. The Biscuits were nervous because of the stories of clashes between the Hell's Angels and Hippies from the 60's. They thought that this would make long time fans not want to come for fear of harassment or danger. But, the bikers turned out to be a valuable asset to CB, acting as security for the festival, with minimal problems. In 2008 the crowd size almost doubled from 2006 to just about 8,000 people. In 2009 Camp Bisco had over 10,000 people in attendance, breaking the growth goals set in 2008 by The Disco Biscuits and MCP.
Camp Bisco was getting bigger and bigger as the years went on. The pass price stayed low so young people with less disposable income could come, the jam band to electronic performance ratio was kept balanced, attendance was growing every year, and larger acts like Snoop Dogg, Skrillex, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Shpongle, Ween, and Thievery Corporation to name a few were performing. Things were looking up for MCP and Camp Bisco.
Then after the 2013 installment of Camp Bisco, things took a turn. Fans just weren't hearing anything from the organizers about what is coming for the 2014 festival. People were getting antsy to hear about what was in store for 2014, but that news never came. It turns out that the towns like Mariaville and Pattersonville that surround the Indian Lookout Country Club were infuriated by Camp Bisco and issues relating to the festival like traffic noise and light pollution. Countless complaints were filed to the local authorities from local residents. In 2013 there were a slew of drug arrests, and hospitalizations which ignited the fire that was fueled by a death by drug overdose in 2012 at Bisco. Public outcry against the festival, a lawsuit and negligence to apply for proper licenses led to the cancellation of Camp Bisco for 2014. The Disco Biscuits were trying everything in their power to get the festival running, but enough was enough and in March, 2014 they released a statement saying:
According to a report from the Daily Gazette, MCP "failed to comply with a number of contingencies, most dealing with post-event reporting."
That's all not to say that a New York based MCP festival didn't occur in 2014. In fact MCP put on a festival just an hour away from where Camp Bisco takes place in Saugerties, New York. The infamous festival was named The Hudson Project and it showcased a lineup pretty similar to what Camp Bisco would normally present.
The Hudson Project famously known for all of its problems relating to rain, mud, strict policy, underaged issues, strict security, tent break-ins, riots, destruction and cancelled performances deserves a write up of its own. Needless to say the festival was a complete failure and left people high and dry (or wet) and many without a festival experience Camp Bisco would normally deliver.
After the cancellation of the 2013 Camp Bisco and the complete flop that was the Hudson Project people were speculating that there was not going to a be a Camp Bisco 2015, even though the organizers said there would be. By April it was getting a little late in the year to announce a summer music festival but on April 28th a cryptic crossword puzzle was placed on CB's social media.
The puzzle was the first real, substantial piece of evidence that Camp Bisco was coming back that fans could cling to other than the countless rumors that were flying around the internet. The clues mentioned phrases like "Home", "Bisco", and "Pennsylvania" in the puzzle. All of sudden the 2015 installment of Camp Bisco had a new location; the home of funniest fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin, The Electric City: Scranton, Pennsylvania. Then on April 30th Camp Bisco released an official announcement confirming the new location at Montage Mountain Ski Resort (The same location of The Allman Brothers led, folk/rock The Peach Music Festival) and the 2015 lineup with Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, STS9, and Big Gigantic headlining.
The festival was a hit, but that's not to say there wasn't anything for attendees to complain about. Traffic to get in was incredibly slow at most points of the days. Parking lots were far away from camping grounds. During some of the security checks people cars, luggage, and storage were turned upside down, while some were just waved through without a glance. The distance between the parking lots and the festival grounds were supposed to be remedied by tractors taking people back and forth, but the tractors would just stop coming forcing people to lug all of their heavy equipment to the camp grounds on their own. The last point wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't so late at night, the distance wasn't so long and the hills weren't so treacherous. The attendees also had to get used to the setup and layout of the festival. Stages were pretty far apart and going between them was often a chore when crowds were large and everyone was frantically trying to get to their next set. Some of the trails were a little hard to traverse, especially if you were mildly impaired. Thursday night Camp Bisco main stay, Pretty Lights threw down a mildly sloppy performance with audio cut-outs and strange sounding transitions, still putting on a good performance, but some were left with a bad taste in their mouth. On the second day of The Disco Biscuits became the focus with Haywyre, Sweater Beats, and Mr. Carmack all putting their best feet forward and Big Gigantic and Kill the Noise to close out the night.
A rain storm plagued the last day of the festival on Saturday. Announcements were made over the loud speakers throughout the ski area asking people to return to their camp sites as the dark clouds loomed torwards the mountain. Luckily the storm was gone as quick as it arrived and festival goers were able to return to grounds, leaving behind a freindly gesture of a rainbow over the mountain.
The Disco Biscuits put on a high energy performance to rebound from the stress the rain caused followed by Bassnecatar putting a legendary set that people were waiting for since his cancellation at The Hudson Project.
Necatar's set began with his trademarked bass-filled set accompanied by a fantastic light show on Saturday night. When midnight arrived on Saturday night people began to strike their campsites and wheel their coolers and tents back to the parking lots where their cars lived for the past three days looking forward to 2016 and the next Camp Bisco.
Back in January the Biscuits put out an announcement saying that the festival would continue in the new Scranton-based home.
Just a few days ago the lineup for 2016 was also confirmed. Take a look below.
We are just as excited to return to the mountain as you are this summer. We hope to catch you there, and if you see us please say hi! For more information and to buy passes for Camp Bisco 2016 Head on over to the official website by CLICKING HERE.