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The Biscuits are back


For trance-fusion jammers the Disco Biscuits, the past six months were loaded with loss and gain.

Original drummer Sam Altman played his last gig in August, before leaving to pursue a career in medicine. Soon after, the three remaining band members auditioned and hired a new drummer, settled into a new studio and released a live, two-disc album.

They are past the tumult - re-energized and back on the summer touring circuit. They will headline this year's Starscape Music and Arts Festival in Fort Armistead Park on Saturday.

But there was a time last fall when the Biscuits' future was more uncertain. Altman's departure left a hole the group hesitated to fill. Altman drummed for about a decade and helped define the band's thumping mix of rock, jazz and techno music.

"I think everybody was a little bit trepidatious at first, [asking], 'Can we do this with another guy?' said keyboardist Aron Magner. "When you replace another member or another dynamic, things definitely change."

In the end, band members decided to try out other musicians and hope for the right fit. They took the top four candidates to Atlantic City, N.J., and played a pair of two-set shows. Each drummer performed one set with the band, and prospect Allen Aucoin's segment instantly clicked, Magner said.

"It was by far and away obvious to both us and the crowd that Allen was our guy," Magner said.

Aucoin became an official Biscuit, which meant the band could start scheduling shows and begin practicing in its newly leased studio. Formerly occupied by DJ Jazzy Jeff, it is heaven compared with past ones, Magner said.

"It's fantastic," Magner said. "It's a place of inspiration where you want to be hanging out. All of the other practice studios that we've had were kind of the cubicles of the musical world."

Magner said they record all of the jams at the new home base and have fashioned a couple of tracks for a future studio album.

For now, the Biscuits' legion of extremely loyal fans (called Bisco heads) will have to keep spinning The Wind at Four to Fly, the double disc released in April. It features tracks culled from performances before Altman left. The Biscuits have always been a live band foremost, and the record captures their full-steam live dynamics - no small affair, Magner said.

"That's one of the hardest things to do is to translate the energy that really only exists at a show," Magner said. "There's lights going around, there's thousands of watts of sound coming at you, and all your friends are dancing around you."

Listen to The Wind at Four to Fly, and it's easy to imagine bassist Marc Brownstein's head bobbing nonstop and guitarist Jon "the Barber" Gutwillig's blank stare and sloppy half-smile. The album also features plenty of Magner's crazy synthesizer riffs.

"I kind of like to alter people's brains with sonic lasers that I can shoot out," he said.

At Starscape and most of the festivals they play, the Biscuits usually take the stage late night and play well into the morning. This year's Starscape is monstrous as ever, with four stages: the Live, Buzz, Drum 'n' Bass and House stages. The Biscuits are scheduled to go on at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and wrap up at 3 a.m. DJs keep Starscape going until 6 a.m. Sunday.

"There's a different vibe playing in the daytime for us versus playing at night," Magner said. "When the sun goes down everybody always goes crazy, regardless of whether there's music going on. There's just a different feel to the nighttime."

The Disco Biscuits headline the Starscape Music and Arts Festival, which starts at 6 p.m. Saturday in Armistead Park. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the gate. The park is at 3984 Fort Armistead Road. Call 410-547-SEAT or visit ticketmaster.com.


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