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Published: 2012/10/30
by Sam Robertson

Marco Benevento, Bowery Ballroom, NYC – 10/12

Photo by Brian Stollery click here for gallery

Touring in support of a stellar brand new album Tigerface, Marco Benevento and his trio celebrated the album’s release (one month belatedly) at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. On Tigerface, the historically instrumental Benevento allows his music to mingle with vocals for the first time, and Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver sings on two tracks. On this night at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, Brooklyn residents Traver, along with her Rubblebucket bandmate, trumpet player Alex Toth, journeyed to Manhattan to join Marco. The surprise Rubblebucket member sit-ins were only appropriate for a special album release night, which featured Benevento sprinkling most of Tigerface into a setlist that also included older originals and a couple of familiar covers.

By the third song of the set, new tune “Escape Horse,” the Marco Benevento Trio had lashed out at full power – as Benevento’s piano leapt around Dave Dreiwitz’s fuzzed out bass and Andy Borger’s crashing drums. Suddenly Benevento’s fingers wandered off into uncharted waters with the rhythm section relentlessly rumbling along behind, before a racing piano solo led the band back into the menacing melody. Though Tigerface seemed to represent a shift towards more concise, rock-based songwriting, Marco isn’t afraid to take these songs for a ride live, and “Escape Horse” and “Going West” in particular found the trio already testing the boundaries of the new tunes.

Their playing reached a new level during an exploratory take on “Two Of You” from Marco’s last album Between Needles & Nightfall, powered by an explosive piano solo. Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth then joined in for a thoroughly jammed out “RISD,” also from that last album, which featured Kalmia on saxophone rather than singing. A cover My Morning Jacket’s “Golden” followed and evolved into their spaciest jam of the night, as Benevento’s jazzier side took charge, before unwinding into a loose crowd sing-along of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” and arriving back into the familiar jangle of “Golden.” But Marco wasn’t quite done hearing the crowd yell “Everybody must get stoned!” and ran through another verse and chorus of the Dylan song in the middle of the incendiary take on “Bus Ride” that followed. As he launched into the irresistibly catchy synthesizer riff of Tigerface’s leadoff track “Limbs Of A Time,” Kalmia Traver bounded onto the stage to sing and lead a wild dance party. A stuffed tiger mask ended up on Dave Dreiwitz’s head as he delivered an onslaught of heavy fuzz bass, and eventually the mask made its way around the stage, landing on each musician’s head. With nearly a dozen musicians dancing around the stage with a toy mask and infectious childish innocence, the moment felt like a true celebration of the fun, exciting new musical directions that Marco embraces on Tigerface.

Few musicians can write songs as addictive as the dance pop of “Limbs Of A Pine” and also as sonically weird as “Escape Horse,” not to mention pull both styles off, but Benevento leaps between genres with ease. The night featured two openers – the weird but catchy indie pop of Home Body and the sprawling Krautrock soundscapes of Woodsmen. And after seeing Benevento perform, it was clear that the openers could not have been more appropriate. Home Body and Woodsmen don’t share much common musical ground, but there is a link between the two bands, and that link is Marco Benevento. He falls squarely in the middle of that pop vs. weird Venn diagram, and smoothly incorporates pockets of intensely wild improvisation into well-defined rock song structures.

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