There’s No Place Like Home
Disco Biscuits w/ special guest Swift Technique
The Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA – 2/6/16
Adam Winokur Photography
By Barry Brandow
Homecomings are always special. When a person or group of people work hard at something, gain a wide notoriety outside of the area they started in, and then return after much success, it’s amazing to see the welcoming they receive. When the brand new Fillmore in Philadelphia, Pa. opened its doors in early October one of the most famous bands to ever come out of Philly, Hall and Oates, packed the house on opening night. Since then, many other bands have filled the room with their adoring and enthusiastic fans. When Philly natives the Disco Biscuits planned to return to town and play The Fillmore they knew one night wouldn’t be enough, so they scheduled three. The Biscuits invited a different band to open each show. The D.C. area band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Philly rockers Darla had the task of “wow-ing” the crowd during the first two nights of the three night run. The most highly anticipated night had to be the third night, the final night. After blowing the roof off the building on nights one and two the boys from the City of Brotherly Love knew they were going to have to pull out all the stops and leave a lasting impression on the sold out crowd with a monumental performance.
To help complete the trifecta they recruited one of the hottest rising bands in the Philadelphia area, Swift Technique. Swift Technique is a 10-piece funky party machine that consists of founders Jake Leschinsky on bass, Andy Bree on lead guitar, John Perry on drums and Jay Davidson on keys. They also feature one of the most enthusiastic horn sections around, Greg Rosen on trumpet, Ian Gray on trombone, sax player Jason O’Mara and the newest member, Sam Greenfield, on the baritone sax. They create an energy unmatched by any ordinary band. Putting them over the top and into the extraordinary category are the two members who bring the party to a peak level and keep the funk machine revving all night long, the beautiful Chelsea ViaCava with her passionate and powerful vocals, and Nik Greeley with his strong vocals and ring leading showmanship. It seems like the “pedal is always to the metal” when these guys take the stage. Although they’ve played many big shows before, this could be the biggest stage they’ve had the opportunity to play so far. You could tell they were pumped and primed from the moment they hit the stage. They started their energetic set with a few originals “Chicken in a Bag” and “Who You With.” It didn’t take long for the room to get jumpin’ as Nik conducted the festivities on stage and had the entire band bouncing to the joyful sounds they created. When Chelsea made her first appearance of the night it didn’t take long for her to prove that she can sing with the best. Several minutes into their song “Newsies” (a tribute to Philly) it slowly transformed into one of Donna Summers biggest hits, during which Ms. ViaCava hit a note that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up! Throughout their set there were several “WOW” moments as each band member shined in the spotlight when the opportunity presented itself. Very notably were the talents of bass player Jake Leschinsky whose ambitious bass runs came to the forefront several times during their set. Before their set concluded Swift Technique paid tribute to founding member of Earth Wind and Fire, Maurice White, who had passed away a few days earlier with a stellar version of the EW&F mega hit “Shining Star.” To conclude their set Swift Technique made the most of their shining moment and went full throttle party mode, rewarding the fired up crowd with a sizzling rendition of Guns & Roses “Welcome To The Jungle.” If the mission was to prove that funk was alive and well in Philadelphia, then mission accomplished! I have no doubt you’ll be hearing more from these extremely talented musicians in the future.
When it comes to “jamtronica” very few bands can say they’ve experienced success equal to that of Philly’s own Disco Biscuits. Since forming in 1995 these four gifted musicians have been mesmerizing die-hard fans consistently with their unique blend of hardcore rock jams and techno flavor. Accompanied visually with a superb light show that is second to none, they’ve packed venues and have been the highlight of many festivals, including their own festival -“Camp Bisco”. In their 20 plus years of existence the Biscuits have made many returns to the city where it all started and packed just about every theatre in town. This homecoming was special. It was special because they were playing one of the premier concert venues in Philly, The Fillmore, for three sold out nights. With Marc Brownstein on bass, Aron Magner on keyboards, Allen Aucoin on drums, and Jon Gutwillig on lead guitar, the Disco Biscuits have been creating an explosion of sound and developing a loyal following all over the United States.
After taking their places on stage the band wasted no time getting down to business, starting things off with an amazingly ambitious version of “Save the Robots.” Many Biscuits fans who were there on the third night had also been to the two previous shows, but showed no lack of energy as they grooved to every beat like one big dance party. This was my first time at a live Disco Biscuits show and I was immediately impressed by the cohesiveness of the band as well as the musicianship of each member. I can remember focusing on each individual while they were giving it there all and saying “Holy s***, that friggin’ guy can play!” I was also impressed by the friendliness of the crowd and the obvious bond they had with the band. The extended jams continued with “The Tunnel” > ”Great Abyss” > “Sound 1.” To conclude the first set the Disco Biscuits invited the Swift Technique horn section back on to the stage to add flavor and full power to the Elvis Presley hit “Suspicious Minds.” During the song several people dressed in Mardi Gras and Mummers attire paraded and danced across the stage while the band and guests belted out the timeless classic. The final song of the set also included the ST horns as they played The Doors popular hit “Touch Me” during which baritone sax player Sam Greenfield was given the spotlight and commanded a spectacular solo to close the set.
Video by Mariana Rossman
After a brief intermission the Disco Biscuits picked up right where they left off and dove right into an energetic 50-minute version of “Little Betty Boop” which morphed into the song “Crickets” (inverted) and then returning to conclude “Little Betty Boop.” I remember looking around at the adoring crowd as they danced among the amazing lights and lasers that shot out from all angles of the stage. It was quite a spectacle for both the eyes and ears to savor. There were so many “WOW” moments throughout the night, but I can especially remember noticing guitarist Jon Gutwillig during “Story of the World.” He was just ripping jams and riffs that I’m sure melted many faces as he had been doing numerous times during the night. To end the set the Biscuits played the popular “House Dog Party Favor” for the tireless and fun loving fans at The Fillmore.
When they returned to the stage bass player Marc Brownstein approached the mic, thanked the capacity crowd and expressed how special these three shows were. You could hear the appreciation in his voice and you could see the heartfelt emotion in his face. The first encore was a reprise of the song “Magellin” which they played two nights earlier to end the first set followed by a mind blowing “Basis For a Day” to conclude an amazing three night run. The crowd responded with an enormous ovation that let the Disco Biscuits know how much they love and appreciate them.
This night proved that there is no limit to what either band can accomplish. Swift Technique proved that they are a legitimate force in music with raw talent and showmanship. The Disco Biscuits proved that they are easily one of the top touring bands in the country and will be a force in music for a long time to come. Both bands proved that some of the best music today is coming out of Philadelphia, Pa. and there is “no place like home.”
For Swift Technique tour dates, music, and info go to www.swifttechnique.com
For Disco Biscuits tour dates, music, and info go to www.discobiscuits.com
For info about Camp Bisco Music Festival go to www.campbisco.com