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Disco Biscuits Take Their Fans into Paradise

On the scene with Mayan Holidaze’s epic jungle adventure

Mayan Holidaze

Photos: Dave Vann / Words: Benjy Eisen

Considering that music goes all night, 11 a.m. is bright and early at Mayan Holidaze. Nonetheless, we met in the lobby of the Now Sapphire resort – our home base for four days – to embark on a day of jungle boogie. Here, Disco Biscuits' bassist Marc Brownstein (center) meets up with Rolling Stone's Benjy Eisen (left) and friend Max Blackman (right). At this point, we knew very little about what our adventure would entail – but we knew it was going to be great. And we were right. As our guide Euri Hernandez would tell us on the ride over, "When you get to the jungle, just be free."

– By Benjy Eisen

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

‘One of the Coolest Things’ Ever

Climbing up a long flight of questionable stairs on his way to the top of the jungle canopy, Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein was in fine spirits. Fans continued to congratulate him on the band's beachfront shows from the nights before, but Brownstein's mind had turned to one thing: exploring the jungle. Afterwards, he would tell Rolling Stone, "That was one of the coolest things I've ever done – and that is coming from a guy who has headlined Red Rocks three years in a row."

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Zip Lining Across the Jungle

Mayan Holidaze is produced by Cloud 9 Adventures, which also produces Jam Cruise, Holy Ship! and other destination music events. On the jungle expedition, Cloud 9 liaison Jon Sweetwood agreed to wear a camera to capture Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein and Allen Aucoin in full motion. Here, a guide prepares Sweetwood for his own zip line ride.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Jungle Expedition Crew

Less than 100 spots were available for the Jungle Maya Expedition, and we broke into several smaller groups yet for many of the activities. Our group included Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein (left), Will McCosker, Rolling Stone's Benjy Eisen, Max Blackman and photographer Dave Vann, who took the picture.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Zip Lining Into an Underground River

The group rappelled down into an underground waterway at one point, and we snorkeled along the Nohoch Nah Chiich – part of the Sac-Actun cenote system which forms the world's largest known underground river. But the first time we got wet was when we took a zip line that began in the trees and ended in this cave.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Taking a Dip

Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein, Rolling Stone's Benjy Eisen and Cloud 9's Jon Sweetwood are submerged in water after zip lining directly into the cenotes from the jungle canopy.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Splash Landing

Here, a fellow fan and adventurer zip lines from the jungle canopy into a cave, complete with a splash landing. While the vacation package advertised that it included zip lining, snorkeling and swimming with members of the Disco Biscuits, it never said that, sometimes, those things would happen all at once.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Welcome to the Jungle

Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein and Allen Aucoin were busy mingling with fans throughout the adventure in the jungle – not to mention zip lining, swimming and exploring – but here they share a celebratory moment together, after drying off from snorkeling through an underground cave.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Wild Ride

Without warning, we were loaded onto a Mercedes Benz Unimog and literally whipped around in every direction on a jungle trail that made dirt paths seem like luxury terrain. Everyone held onto the middle pole for dear life as we  jostled about – without seat belts. Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein wasn't scared – but he gripped the pole tightly.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Venturing Through the Jungle

After a brief lunch of native Yucatan food, we were off in the jungle again, this time headed to a cavern for an authentic Mayan purification ceremony. Here, Rolling Stone's Benjy Eisen ventures down a happy trail with Max Blackman and Will McCosker.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Mayan Purification Ceremony

During the Mayan purification ceremony, we were told to breathe in only positive thoughts and let anything negative out when we exhaled. It was the only time that Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein (far right) looked serious. So did drummer Allen Aucoin who later relayed to Rolling Stone that it was the highlight of his adventure. "The whole experience was very magical," said Aucoin. "But my favorite part was the ceremony with the Mayan priest. He cleansed us and blessed us."

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Mayan “In Lak Ech” Hand Ritual

During the Mayan purification ceremony, we all joined hands together for something called "in lak ech." Our guides explained that the translation means, "You are my other or my brother." In essence, it is to say that we are all the same, all a mirror. That turned out to be an appropriate thing to think about on an expedition where fans were joined by members of their favorite band. "When we did that Mayan symbol with our hands," said Disco Biscuits' drummer Allen Aucoin, "I felt a presence or something there – it was really cool."

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Hanging out With Fans

A picture of our group, including Disco Biscuits’ bassist Marc Brownstein, drummer Allen Aucoin, Rolling Stone’s Benjy Eisen and our guide Euri Hernandez. The group bonded with our guide so much that Brownstein insisted she come with us back to the Now Sapphire resort to watch the final Disco Biscuits show of this year's Mayan Holidaze.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

A Jungle Toast

Disco Biscuits’ drummer Allen Aucoin and his wife Sandra share a margarita with Rolling Stone’s Benjy Eisen at the close of the jungle expedition. It was a toast in celebration of an unforgettable adventure in the Mayan rain forest – and to the final night of Mayan Holidaze, which featured sets by the Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee and Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9). "It was a really cool way to wake up and spend the day and then go play a rock concert," said Aucoin, back at the resort.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Fans Watch Disco Biscuits on the Beach

Fans enjoy one of five sets that the Disco Biscuits performed at this year's Mayan Holidaze in Mexico. For the second consecutive year, the festival – which originated in Jamaica – was held at the Now Sapphire resort along the Mayan Riviera, about a half-hour from Cancun. The stage is erected directly on the beach and many fans can even watch the music right from the balconies of their rooms – or even from their hot tubs.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Disco Biscuits’ Marc Brownstein

Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein performs during one of the band's five sets at the four-day Mayan Holidaze. Before 2011 – when Mayan Holidaze moved to the Now Sapphire resort in Mexico – the event was entitled Caribbean Holidaze and held in Jamaica each December. Perhaps Brownstein's Bob Marley shirt is in homage.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

The Disco Biscuits Perform

The Disco Biscuits perform in front of a sold-out crowd at this year's Mayan Holidaze. The event also featured co-headliners Umphrey's McGee and Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9), along with electronic acts like the Polish Ambassador and Big Gigantic. A late-night disco goes until dawn and daytime sets by DJs such as Wylys take place poolside.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

‘Munchkin Invasion’

The Disco Biscuits bring their psychedelic light show to the sands of the Mayan Riviera. During the Disco Biscuits encore, "Munchkin Invasion," they sang, appropriately, "We come from the city; we come from the jungle."

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Fan Participation

During the daytime, fans at Mayan Holidaze – seen here taking in a set by the Disco Biscuits – get to enjoy vacationing at an all-inclusive resort, often rubbing elbows with members of their favorite bands. Activities include a poker tournament with STS9's David Murphy, a golf tournament with members of Umphrey's McGee and water jousting with the Disco Biscuits' Jon Gutwillig.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein

Disco Biscuits' keyboardist Aron Magner and bassist Marc Brownstein – who are also members of the band Conspirator – are seen here in mid-jam as the Biscuits perform on the beach at Mayan Holidaze. The band broke out several of their aquatic-themed tunes, including "Above the Waves" and "Magellan," in acknowledgement of the beachfront setting.

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Shipwreck Dive

Disco Biscuits' Aron Magner takes control of his command center, on stage at this year's Mayan Holidaze. While bassist Marc Brownstein and drummer Allen Aucoin took fans on a jungle excursion, Magner went for a two-tank shipwreck dive. "That shipwreck was one of the most fascinating things I have ever penetrated," Magner tells Rolling Stone. "Still drunk from the night before, I somehow became the fearless leader of a crew of eight fans, leading them into the abyss of these ancient Mayan waters."

Mayan Holidaze

Dave Vann

Disco Biscuits Close Out Mayan Holidaze 2012

Disco Biscuits close out this year's Mayan Holidaze on a high note, with a setlist that bassist Marc Brownstein wrote with input from fans after returning from a jungle adventure.

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