Marco Benevento, Reed Mathis, and Mike Dillon, The Stone Church, Newmarket, NH – 3/7 & 3/8
Between the glowing, google-eyed robot perched atop Marco Benevento's spankin'-new electric piano and the chunk of granite holding Mike Dillon's Neanderthal kick-drum in place, I didn't quite know what to expect of the trio's inaugural NH run. A long way and a far cry from NYC's downtown scene, where the three were slated to perform a couple nights later, and with a mere one hour rehearsal feeding their setlist, the onstage impression was one of mutual uncertainty. So with nothing at stake and the sole option at hand for throwing caution to the wind, what followed were two nights of sweet reckless abandon. A ragged-ass rural slice of the downtown, way outside the city limits.
Drawing on material conceived during his November residency at Tonic and available on his forthcoming Ropeadope release, Marco conceded the rawness of his game-plan. Most tunes remained "part-y" while 40% of the set was purely in the moment. Undoubtedly loose, what resulted could only have been the product of such an ad-hoc gathering. Invoking the Beatles, Radiohead, and the Flaming Lips, Marco's lead could morph at turns into free-jazz, punk-jazz, noise-rock, 80's sit-com glee, and demon-conjuring sludge-metal. Trading in the vibraphone for a junk-yard drum kit and tablas (with a tube sock buffering the striker for his kick, and no less than ten cowbells), Dillon's "caveman" drumming provided stark counterpoint to Marco's sweetest moments of affected piano, and perfect punctuation for effects-laden noise. The responsibility fell squarely on bassist Reed Mathis' shoulders, however, to reconcile the two. Abandoning the ethereal, up-register, melodic approach he takes with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Reed was forced to get low and get heavy.
In addition to a Leonard Cohen cover, Pink Floyd's "Fearless," and a Carly Simon tune that Marco first heard over the PA at NY Cosmo's games as a little kid, the trio tossed in the Duo's "Mephisto," originals "Brain Teaser" and "The Real Morning Party," a Nintendo track-and-field style work-out. "Listen to it when you first get up in the morning," Marco urged. "A 60 second party before you have your coffee."
Despite the invariable lulls and missteps that any venture into improvisation will encounter, the pervading informality of the shows allowed for Mike's vocoder-work, Reed's guitar play, and an impromptu Beastie Boys chant of "we do it for Mike D!" to come to bear. Overall, the toy dump-truck on Marco's console said it best when it declared "we like to get dirty." In this case, that's a good thing.