Concert review: Marco Benevento and Mike Dillon jazz up the Old Rock House on Wednesday, September 26
The first thing that jumped to mind was how much the band sounded like the “Shiny Beast”-era Captain Beefheart and I immediately knew this set wasn’t going to be long enough.
Dillon spent the evening jumping back and forth between his electric vibraphone, glockenspiel and percussion rig containing bongos, a cowbell and a snare drum. When he kicks his playing into high gear, it’s like watching that scene in the “Matrix” where Neo starts dodging gunfire on the roof. You see him going to town but you don’t know how he can move so fast and still make each note clear and distinct. Chris Hines used his guitar as a controller for his bass synth, making sounds that ranged from the funky space bass of Bootsy Collins to an imitation of Optimus Prime during a moment of severe gastrointestinal distress.
Drummer Adam Gerstner held the time perfectly, matching Dillon’s frenetic start-and stop-tempo adjustments with flair, almost making it look easy. Carly Meyers rounded out the group whirling and twirling like a dervish when she wasn’t playing the glockenspiel alongside Dillon or wailing away on her trombone. Tonight I learned that the trombone is the sexiest instrument ever made when it’s in the hands of someone possessed by the music being created on stage.
Once you get out to the fringes of jazz where it starts to blend in with other genres of music you end up with a word salad of terms to describe the music. While it might be tempting to throw out “avant-jazz,” “funk-punk fusion” or any other myriad of hyphenated words, the only true way to describe the sounds coming off the stage is Mike Dillon.
Along with the new material, the band played a few tracks from Dillon’s other projects, including his hip-hop alter-ego MC Silver Ice. I can say that where the hip-hop stuff was good, the band really shone when they were playing the more avant-garde leaning pieces. “I Saw George Porter, Jr. Play Punk Rock with My Friend Skerik at the Jam Cruise” from the Mike Dillon’s “Go-Go Jungle” album “Rock Star Bench Press” was my favorite song of the evening, with the band playing some of the hardest punk this side of 924 Gilman Street. “I’m Gonna Find $100 on the Ground” from the Hairy Apes BMX album “Expatriape” was also a stand out, as was the bouncy rhythm of “Ding Dong the Party Is Over” from the new Mike Dillon album “Urn.”
Marco Benevento and crew took to the stage and began playing their tunes, which were very groovy piano driven pieces. They were a stark contrast to the previous set, with Benevento’s tunes feeling like you’re cruising down an open highway where Dillon’s tracks were more of the start-and-stop commute from the city.
Their pieces were long and flowing, changing up here and there while keeping the same melody running throughout. One thing that I enjoyed about the set was that there were a lot of nods to familiar artists. Occasionally a song would make me think of the Beatles, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, or some other artist that I’d heard in the past. This wasn’t in a they’re-ripping-off-Paul-McCartney-with-that-piano-riff way, it was more like: This sounds like something that would be right at home between “Martha My Dear” and “I’m So Tired” on the “White Album” kind of scenario.
Although their songs were fairly long, the band managed to keep them moving forward instead of looping like a scratched record. Although the underlayment stayed the same, different parts were fading in and receding. It was almost as if Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin had decided to make AIR a jazz-based band instead of making electronic music.
Marco and his band put on an excellent set, but I think my view of the show was a bit tainted by the choice of Mike Dillon as an opening act. After that set I wanted more in-your-face, borderline offensive material — the musical equivalent of keying my car or calling me a motherfucker. The set that I got was well done and full of excellent music, but it was a little too mellow for how I was feeling after that opening set.
I will admit that I had never heard any songs by Marco Benevento before tonight and may have had a different experience knowing what to expect from him, where I am familiar with Dillon’s work when he completely blew away Primus during their show last year at the Pageant and was expecting something more along those lines. Regardless, you can’t argue with the fact that Benevento is a damn fine musician and put on a great show.