Monday, July 21, 2008
I saw an erect penis poking out of a pair of shorts while its owner casually asked a group of guys if they had a condom. I saw a Porta Potty with one type of human waste on the walls and two more in the toilet. I saw a dreadlocked girl scrunch her face and wonder how it came about, at this same festival one year ago, that she statutorily raped a high school student. I saw the beating sun cook up a toxic miasma of hippie sweat, body odor, and septic overflow. I saw Snoop Dogg.
I saw a lot of things at this year’s installment of Camp Bisco—the seventh, if you’re counting—but what I mainly saw were white people. Nearly everyone roaming the Indian Lookout Country Club’s sprawling grounds, from the Hells Angels security detail to the thousands of scared-to-death-of-Hells-Angels attendees, was woefully Caucasian. So Caucasian, in fact, that during his performance, a bewildered Snoop repeatedly asked the crowd if we were ready to hear 311—despite the fact that 311, currently touring with the estimable Dogg, were not there.
Camp Bisco was not unlike its myriad counterparts dotting the neo-counterculture summer landscape. Music and camping events, typically held over weekends, have sprung up everywhere from Masontown, West Virginia (All Good), to Lawrence, Kansas (Wakarusa), to piney Mariaville, New York (Camp Bisco). The format, by now, is wonderfully formulaic. Organizers mash a few famous acts with a buffet of no-names, place the concert stages in the midst of vast dirt fields, and then make sure that it rains. If you’ve been to any of the summer festivals, you’ve already deciphered these answers for yourself: yes, mud comes out of leg hair fairly painlessly; no, I would not like to purchase the drugs you’re selling; yes, you’re better off peeing in the woods than anywhere else; and, actually, what drugs are you selling?
While the specter of a drug-addled, sound-tracked vacation should be universally appealing, the reality is a bit more antebellum. A festival is where Whiteness goes to regroup and have a self-affirming experience before returning to its one-bedroom apartment above Mitt Romney’s house. The pasty crowds don’t dance so much as they get rickety and throw glow sticks at people several rows in front of them. Glow stick culture, moreover, operates along a quirkily white hierarchy, wherein people who wear many of them are almost as cool as people who fashion spinning glow stick wheels, while both groups look up to the Glow Stick Kings—the luminescent lords who sell the toxin-filled tubes to other white people for bizarre prices.
And where would any concentration of Whiteness be without some better-living hypocrisy? Not at a festival, that’s for sure. Drug dealers, after failing to sell you MDMA, ask if you’d rather sassafras, an all-natural alternative to MDMA that is better, they say, since…well…MDMA is bad for you. Birkenstockers preach Green while ingesting a series of chemicals and foods more inorganic than Angelina Jolie’s immediate family. It’s all hilarious (and a lot of it’s on videotape), and about as swarthy as the American picket fence.
Camp Bisco is particularly egregious, since its eponymous band, The Disco Biscuits (who both organize and headline the event), are the whitest band of all time (if you can stand the anti-Motown pallor, click on the Biscuits picture above, snapped on CB7 premises by photojournalist extraordinaire Robust). I have seen the Disco Biscuits on more than a dozen occasions, including two Camp Biscos, and have come up with the following bio: they are four white dudes who dress like each of the four archetypal White Guys (punk, prep, slob, and skater, respectively), play music with no groove, and have an almost exclusively white fan base. The Disco Biscuits are so white, in fact, that they were recently awarded their own genre: “Jamtronica.” Doesn’t sound too bad? Consider this: most non-white musics—funk, jazz, blues, soul, rap, rock—have one syllable.
“Jamtronica,” besides for sounding ridiculous, has four.
Conclusion: The Disco Biscuits are four times whiter than they should be.
Let there be no misunderstanding—festivals, Camp Bisco included, are completely egalitarian. Anyone and everyone is welcome, from tatterdemalion vagrants to RV-rearing VIPs. That they’ve become the Whiteness War Room is simply a sad, weakly pigmented aside.
But I can only report what I saw.
Stay Sassy, Frassy