Camp Bisco, Part I: Escape to Upstate New York

Awesome things have been happening too quickly and frequently for me write about, as usual, but that’s not a complaint. This upcoming series of posts will be about my experiences at Camp Bisco with two of my favourite people – it was a wonderful, exhausting, hilarious, exhilarating week.

Here is Bassnectar’s “Nothing Has Been Broken” to set the mood. It’s my favourite track off of his most recent album, Vava Voom:


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In a nutshell, Camp Bisco is a huge electronic music festival that is hosted by The Disco Biscuits and just celebrated its eleventh year. It takes place at the Indian Lookout Country Club near Mariaville in upstate New York (read: middle of nowhere). I later learned that this club is run by a motorcycle gang, which is why there were grizzled, portly, leather-clad gentlemen hanging out at the main clubhouse all weekend.

I had never heard of The Disco Biscuits, but since they are the headliners and the festival is basically centred around their particular version of meandering psychedelic rock, we ended up hearing them several times a day. It was a lot of Biscuit. But the weekend line-up looked all kinds of awesome, which is what eventually convinced us to splurge on tickets:

This year, Camp Bisco was held on July 12-14. The Tuesday beforehand, one of the best people ever, Alex, drove from Ithaca, New York to pick up Minkus and I to embark on our adventure. After he was questioned by the border guards about why he was going to Canada for just a few hours on a Tuesday morning – “I have to go pick up ma bitches!” – he made it through to Toronto. We packed up the car with our camping gear, Mink made some peanut butter burritos, and we were on our way to New York. Alex had burned four sweet mixtapes for the journey (okay, okay, they were CDs), so we rolled the windows down and pumped up the techno.

The border guard was equally confused when Mink mentioned that we had just quit our jobs, since he asked incredulously, “What?! In this economy?” I think he was a little worried that we might not come back from Amurrca, but we made it through without much trouble (but with a lot of flavoured Absolut from the Duty Free store – that place is magical).

On the way, we stopped to check out the Taughannock Falls, the main cataract of which is taller than Niagara Falls.

We spent the night in Ithaca, which is a truly beautiful university town (Cornell University, y’all). It has a huge campus, gorges everywhere that rival Toronto’s ravines, and a hopping downtown scene. This is definitely a place where I could commit to staying for multiple years to complete a Ph.D. I guess I am like Goldilocks in that way – I love cities, but it’s also nice to live in a place that’s not too big, not too small.

Alex showed us a few of the best gorges while there was still daylight, and then we did our grocery shopping for camp food for the upcoming week. After heading to a bar with some of his friends for a beer, we ventured through the scariest cave imaginable in order to reach a gorge for some night swimming. The rock walls jutted straight up around the black water, lit only by one faraway streetlamp and a few errant fireflies winking.

We somehow scaled the rocks to stand under the waterfall. To experience the water pounding down all around us, extinguishing all other sound with its interminable roar, was equally terrifying and wonderful. I could barely see or hear anything, or even catch my breath. Then, there was suddenly the hand of a friend reaching out from the water to guide me out onto the rocks, and to sit at the foot of the waterfall and gaze into the blackness surrounding us.

In moments like this, I actually come close to understanding what those long-dead poets whose work I studied for so many years were feeling when they tried and inevitably failed to describe the sublime:

While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
– Wordsworth, “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”

So, waterfalls and Wordsworth. We swam back to shore, returned to reality through the terrifying cave of wonders, and went back to Alex’s apartment to have our last good night’s sleep for many nights…

Up next, Camp Bisco!

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