Marc Brownstein is waiting at the doctor’s office, hoping he doesn’t have a case of the “disco flu.”
While he’s joking and the check-up is standard after a season of touring, the setting seems appropriate when speaking with the Disco Biscuits bassist. In the last year, the uber-popular live act took a hit when multiple members missed shows due to injury. Vocalist/guitarist Jon Gutwillig broke his wrist and missed a couple of shows (and switched from guitar for several others), while drummer Allen Aucoin recently missed several gigs due to hospitalization from an asthma attack.
In the meantime, the Disco Biscuits have called upon several friends who’ve filled in admirably and given their fans a “great show each and every night,” Brownstein says. He admits that the Biscuits aren’t the first jam band to move beyond injuries or, even worse, death, and that pleasing fans is the name of the game.
“We’ve found that we can get through it,” Brownstein says. “I mean, look at the Grateful Dead. Someone dies and they still go on. They still manage to forge on in the end. Widespread Panic went ahead without Michael [Houser]. We’re just so lucky that it was just a broken wrist and a respiratory arrest. That gives us some perspective, and we’ve found out more about ourselves.”
Brownstein explains that the ability to push through in the live setting is an obligation, something they feel quite thankful for yet responsible that they have to provide. After all, a Disco Biscuits fan is a rabid one, usually the type to travel long distances and spend significant amounts of money to see them for the second, third or 10th time.
“When you’re a band that people travel to see, you have to do what we do,” Brownstein says. “People come from out of town. They’ve paid for plane tickets, concert tickets and hotels. We just can’t cancel shows. You have to press on. It’s all about the fans for us. We have people using their vacation time and every last extra dollar on a show. So we’re going to make sure we blow it up.”
The first time Brownstein realized the Biscuits had a different fan base than most was in the touring season of 1998, when he noticed 100 or so fans following the band from city to city. Those kids are now having kids, so the audience is much more varied than it used to be, especially as the band has diversified its sound from its jam roots to a fusion of hip-hop and indie rock. Still, the fans remain as committed as ever, given that the two shows at the 1,000-person Boulder Theater have been sold out for some time.
For a storied act like the Disco Biscuits, who first formed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995, the touring life could become a rote exercise devoid of meaning. Yet Brownstein actually looks back at his earlier years and says he took it easy back then compared to his current regimen. The more time that passes, the more he’s grateful for the Disco Biscuits’ longevity. He’s determined to not take it for granted and he’s willing to work hard to keep the momentum.
“I don’t know that we’re the hardest working band in rock ’n’ roll, but I know that we never stop working,” Brownstein says. “My wife hates me. I never stop working all day long. I don’t take weekends off. I don’t take other days off. I’m 37 years old now, and I’m just wanting to put everything I have into this music. I’m to that point where I know this is what I do and this is who I am. I don’t have time for anything else, nor do I want to.”
While details aren’t officially available yet, Brownstein is also excited to confirm another round at Red Rocks in 2011. Fans should save their time and money to get in on an event he promises to be “mindblowing,” but unfortunately cannot yet say who will be featured in the line-up. Yet given the live history of the Disco Biscuits, it probably doesn’t matter who else is involved. Fans will be happy all the same.
On the Bill
Disco Biscuits play the Boulder Theater on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14 at 9 p.m. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are sold out. 2032 14th St., 303-786-7030.