Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Camp Bisco by Katherine McNamara

Camp Bisco thumped with a kind of energy more explosive than that of just a few bands and a few thousand wily fans. No, Camp was zapped with a shot of magic that sparked with ease and spread with speed. If the Camp Bisco Potion had a set of instructions, they might have simply read ‘just add water’. But before the rain even came, our campgrounds were mired in muck. Dancing feet of Biscuits fans from across the states churned up a swampland. The Indian Lookout Country Club became a kind of whacked out cauldron in which a collective energy brewed. Like Frankenstein, what emerged took on a life of its own the moment we created it.

The music didn’t disappoint, the sky certainly didn’t disappoint, and somewhere between the muck underfoot and the perfect crescent moon lingered a vibrancy that could doubtfully be repeated. Although, it’s a tough call to make; if you’re getting Shpongled beneath a tent, amidst a prismatic light show, stuck ankle deep in mud - you’ve either got to struggle to wade out of there, or just become a part of that colorful, muddy, undulating sea. Thankfully, we all went with the tide and got a little weird.

The first night, that Thursday, the moon hung slender and low above us all in our little cove of musical abandon. I overheard one guy repeatedly shouting that we were all turkeys let loose of our cages, and although he was probably spun, he was also probably right.

But first – a word for the bikers– can you imagine a government force overseeing Camp Bisco? A positive alternative to the police; they were realistic in their expectations and helpful to the modern breed of gypsies that set up shop on their land. Nothing like a well kempt vigilante to make us criminals feel at ease. We should all be grateful for however these dudes came to have a country club, and for whatever possessed them to allow us a good romp on it. Because that sure as shit was no putting green.

It’s easy to mention a sense of Camp community in the abstract, but there were plenty of tangible instances of health and kindness at Camp Bisco. Let’s face it – Biscuits fans don’t always get the best rep in the scene, but a lot of what I saw contradicted that old Bisco kid conception.

Strangers Helping Strangers is an organization that sets up booths at music festivals and donates all proceeds to local food banks. The aim is to “feed the hungry, one concert at a time”, according to manager Donald Pearson. 100% of the proceeds go to maintaining the program and providing food for the hungry. The booth at Camp donated all proceeds to Schenectady Inner City Industries. Don was assisted by Amy Strawberry Mama, a volunteer who mines for crystals in Fonda, New York.

“The earth rewards us with these beautiful treasures, and then I get to bring them here and share them with everyone, and all for a good cause,” Amy said of her work with SHS. The booth sold Amy’s crystals, and also took donations from both bands and fans. The prize for the biggest donation was a meet and greet with the Biscuits.

Festival food is prime. Of course there’s always the deep frier, but there are plenty of healthy, green options as well. A vender called Vegetable Oasis was run by vegan musicians Terri Basilone and Amit Shamir. They play together in a project called the Violet Tongues and make a living serving healthy food at the music festivals they love to attend. Although not always possible on the road, the pair makes a concerted effort to buy locally when they can.

“I love going to music festivals,” says Terri, “it’s our own sort of activism, in a way, you know, living the way want and providing a service we truly believe in.”

Color war is a Camp Bisco tradition that conjures the cutthroat sense of vengeance you could never truly leave at your sleep-away camp of old. Rivalries are rehashed in field games that include races and volleyball matches. Teams even competed to gather the most canned goods for Strangers Helping Strangers. Color War participants took to the field in the wildest Friday rains. But like the rain, the Campland battle did more to unify than divide.

Orange team captain Greg referred to embracing one people and situations as larger theme that emerged from the competition. He mused that Camp Bisco 09’ was a place where “creative expression – whether it was through dance, color war competition, conversation or my Orange-inal Buddha Orange Team T-shirt design” paved a wide path for people get out there and get weird, without a second thought.

He felt no compulsion to comply with “a generic biscuit mold that doesn’t authentically reflect me.”

After all, it’s about fun and music; not your fitted – no matter how fly it be.

The vibrancy at camp was no doubt a result of the strange and varied brew that bubbled there. So from the Ivey League MBA just back from the financial district in Japan, to the crispy fried Colorado kid just crawling out of a Japanamation K hole (and I had the distinct pleasure of kickin it with both) people came out and got down for Bisco VIII.

Well done, Campers.

By Katherine McNamara

...and now the photos by Britt Nemeth