The Saturday air carried a festive vibe as fans filed into the Newport Music Hall on Ohio State University’s High Street. It wasn’t just any Saturday night: the #1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes had dispatched the Northwestern Wildcats 54-10 earlier in the day, which meant that Ohio State-Michigan week was officially underway, and the “Fuck Michigan” t-shirts were out in force. Never is Columbus more primed for action than during the week before the renewal of the classic rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines.
This added an extra air of excitement to the evening, and the Disco Biscuits were primed to feed that energy, opening the proceedings with a hard-driving cover of Devo’s “Whip It.” This led into a “Highwire>I Remember When>Spacebirdmatingcall” trio that got the band clicking on all cylinders.
The Biscuits hadn’t visited Ohio in some time, and, while some fans had traveled to see them elsewhere, many Ohioans were catching the band for the first time in quite awhile. Thus, the show surged with energy—it seemed the band could do no wrong.
Guitarist Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig, bassist Marc Brownstein, and keyboardist Aaron Magner were all at the height of their powers. Magner is one of the modern masters of the psychedelic-trance keyboard, while Gutwillig and Brownstein are improv virtuosos. No noodling here—these guys know how to create a great melody and really explore it. And, as many of us saw new drummer Allen Aucoin for the first time, we were astounded by his supreme talent. Time and again, Aucoin moved at superhuman speed, driving the jams higher and higher.
The energy surged when the band played the hard-driving “Little Betty Boop”—which threatened to oversaturate the sound system—before segueing back into an extended reprise of “Spacebirdmatingcall.” After a standard half-hour set break, the band returned with more of the same.
Huge cheers greeted “Nughuffer,” a signature tune that features Brownstein front and center. Brownstein acknowledged the number of head shops that he had seen around the OSU campus, drawing further cheers before launching into a comical tirade about his two-year old son. “Nughuffer” is, apparently, his son’s favorite song and, at some point, the child told his pre-school teacher as much. The teacher then asked Brownstein the meaning of the word. Chuckles were heard all around as the band launched back into the monster jam.
Similarly epic versions of “The Great Abyss” and “Shem Rah Boo” were sandwiched around an interstellar foray into Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell”— always a crowd pleaser. What made this second set really stand out was the amount of the jamming and its intensity—the “x-factors” that make or break a great jamband show. The band was just plain on and the crowd knew it. Toward the end, Gutwillig acknowledged that the band would be in Cleveland the next night and hinted at more fireworks to come. A large number of cheers indicated that many would be following the band up I-71 for the next night’s show.