The Disco Biscuits capped off their New Year’s run in spectacular fashion at the PlayStation Theater. All four nights contained stand-out moments, but New Year’s Eve was incredibly special. Billed as their final shows at the theater, the venue became their home in New York City before it officially closed on January 1st.
The event was subject to a fair amount of hype and they did not let their fans down. There were no themes or gimmicks. The show was just a well-balanced culmination of their entire career, as the setlist featured songs from every stage of the band’s history, spanning across two and a half decades.
It’s pretty obvious that the band and fan base are reinvigorated. The outpouring of creativity in their songwriting and the fans’ reception of their new music is a reflection of that.
They opened the night with a standalone version of one of their all-time classics, “Jigsaw Earth”. Right off the bat, their stage presence was through the roof. Each member of the band was feeling every single note.
Once they dropped into the first jam, it was off to the races. Keyboardist Aron Magner took them deep into the digital matrix with layers of synth while bassist Marc “Brownie” Brownstein chugged along right behind him. It’s important to note that Jon “Barber” Gutwillig and his guitar tech had his tone dialed in on his Gibson hollow body and his Fender Stratocaster the entire run. He sounded fantastic all night, and it was clear right from the beginning of the show.
The drum solo in “Jigsaw” was incredible. Allen Aucoin was playing a new kit and it sounded thunderous. His usage of his entire kit was impressive, from his phrasing on his toms to his cymbals and e-drums. It was nice seeing him get the shine he deserves. Since replacing original drummer Sam Altman after his departure in 2005, he’s contributed a level of tenacious stamina that’s unmatched.
Next came one of Barber’s new songs, a ballad titled “Stars in the Sky”. It’s a beautiful song with an emotional arrangement and soulful lyrics. Seeing Gutwillig writing such emboldened songs again inspired the fan base, who are beyond grateful for all of his brilliant contributions over the years. Not only did his Stratocaster sound impeccable, but his voice was also powerful and moved the audience.
The jam was airy. It was the musical equivalence of floating through cumulous clouds on a magic carpet ride. All four of them were focused and relaxed. Patient yet continuously pushing forward as they broke out in thumping rock n’ roll. It was the best rendition of the song since they first played it at the Roxian Theater during night one of their winter tour in Pittsburg on November 14th.
Magner led the way as they jammed into “Basis for a Day”, switching from one keyboard to the next and stacking sounds like the synth wizard that he is. His ability to fill space is second to none, watching his mind work in real-time never gets old. Once Barber found his place, Allen dropped the backbeat before he built into a massive drop. The venue erupted. They peaked with passion and conviction and slipped back into the end of the song with a fiery fierceness, which made the first set of the night only three songs.
That was a good sign of what was to come. Allen cranked the tempo up and Barber followed with a few nasty riffs before they marched into another new fan-favorite, “Anthem”. The song absolutely ripped and gave both Barber and Magner room to express themselves. They both went crazy without stepping on each other’s toes; a difficult task for many. They used it as their countdown song into 2020 and it was perfect. The balloons dropped while they shredded the ending into pieces. It was a glorious moment to witness.
One of the highlights of the entire run came next. A colossal “Orch Theme” had the power of the ball drop in Times Square. They dug down into the nuts and bolts of the composition and it got rowdy as they made great use of type 1 improvisation. It’s something that Barber recently mentioned the Grateful Dead doing on his podcast, Touchdowns All Day. They made the Playstation Theater feel like a European arena rave, and it is engraved in the minds of everyone that witnessed it.
The jam was extraordinarily hot, like the blue flame of a welder’s blowtorch. Anyone who listens back to the soundboard can confirm that the statement is an objective fact.
The transition into “Spacebirdmatingcall” was another prime example of flawless execution. When the Disco Biscuits are locked in it’s hard for them to miss. They brought the crowd from an incredibly blissed-out jam directly into another new song, “4th of July”, which was one of the most skillful feats of the night. Just like “Stars in the Sky”, this was arguably the best rendition of the song since it was debuted earlier this tour. It was majestic and will only continue to grow.
With a strong bassline and backbeat, it could be described as space-hop. Barber looked like a teenager that just fell in love with his guitar and it definitely charged the rest of the band up. Allen supplied the backbone and the front three were interlocked as they jammed out of it back into “Spacebird”. Seeing them nail a sandwich that was made up of a new song and another one of their classics was a thing of beauty.
It was now time for the final set of the weekend after a long four nights. “Mindless Dribble” was an awesome choice as it’s pure unadulterated rock n’ roll. Barber’s Stratocaster was singing as Brownie kicked a filthy bassline behind it. The groove was heavy and the jam was snappy. They were looking at each other, nodding their heads in agreement, like “yeah, we’re crushing it”. It went deep into freeform exploration, taking the jazz roots of improvisation and adding their new-age spin to it. It was impossible for fans to stand still.
They proceeded to jam into “Helicopters” because it wouldn’t be a new year without the crowd singing, “Happy New Year! Look out below!” They dropped into the jam and Johnny R. Goode cut out the lights perfectly. He provided stellar light shows every night and did so without lasers. Barber used a pedal that made his guitar sound like a synthesizer and it was straight cash. Their capacity to make electronic music with instruments is stunning.
The build into “We Like to Party” was 2.0 Biscuits at their finest. Again, it sounded like a word-class DJ was on stage. Brownie put down his bass and yelled, “New York City, can you hear me!?”, while the crowd went crazy. The contrast between songs like “Mindless Dribble” and “We Like to Party” is what keeps fans coming back for more. With the synth-bass pumping through the speakers and Magner laying chords down, Barber danced all over the fretboard. It was an ’80s dance party of epic proportions.
Taking a page out of the Grateful Dead’s book, they flowed into total ambient space before dropping into another one of their “Tractorbeam” segments where they cover an electronic song. They knocked this one out of the park. It was a killer placement and fits perfectly with their trance-fusion sound. They jammed back into the ending of “Helicopters” and ended the final set of the weekend with a bang.
All in all, the entire show was a major success for the band and their entire team.
But, it wouldn’t be complete without a proper encore, and man oh man, did they provide one. “Frog Legs” > “Run Like Hell” is a classic Biscuits pairing. Everybody grinned from ear to ear. They went deep into the murky waters of Bisco and satisfied the taste of every diehard Biscuits fan that was in the building and watching the stream. You could feel Brownie’s bass line pulsate in your heart.
It was an illustrious display of musicianship by one of the best live bands in the world, and the perfect way to cap off one of the most important years in Biscuits history.
Well, there’s not much more to say. The Disco Biscuits closed out the Playstation Theater with triumphant performances that spanned across four nights. Fans will unquestionably look back on the underground theater, often referred to as “The Dungeon”, as one of the most important venues in the band’s history.
The back half of 2019 brought about their first official tour in ten years and a plethora of new songs. And by the looks of it, they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. So buckle up and enjoy the ride because set-break is officially over.
Enjoy a full-show pro-shot video of The Disco Biscuit’s New Year’s Eve performance at PlayStation Theater below.
The Disco Biscuits – PlayStation Theater – New York, NY – 12/31/19
[Video: The Disco Biscuits]
Setlist: The Disco Biscuits | PlayStation Theater | New York, NY | 12/31/19
Set One: Jigsaw Earth, Stars in the Sky > Basis For A Day
Set Two: Run Like Hell > Anthem, Orch Theme > Spacebirdmatingcall > 4th of July > Spacebirdmatingcall
Set Three: Mindless Dribble > Helicopters > We Like To Party > Tractorbeam Jam > Helicopters
Encore: Frog Legs > Run Like Hell
 w/NYE countdown
 with NYE lyrics
 Delorean Dynamite/Strandbar (Todd Terje)