Welcome to Buffa-vento

EStein_MarcoBenevento_IronWorks_102015_5It was a misty cool mid-Autumn Tuesday evening, in a quiet revitalized corner of Buffalo at the Iron Works. Sometime after 9 p.m., the three women of And the Kids (Hannah Mohan on guitar/ukelele, Rebecca Lasaponaro on drums and Taliana Katz on bass) came on stage and sparked up a flame. A fire of music to gather around and keep us warm.

And the Kids are indie rock upstarts out to prove that the East Coast’s answer to Portland, OR is not Portland, ME, but Western Massachusetts. They mismatched glittery face paint with outfits of dark grays. However, the music was full of color. Mohan’s angular guitar leads were backed by driving bass and drums, while her unique and wide-ranging vocal delivery was often outlined with perfectly placed backing harmonies. The songs were short blasts of catchy yet off-kilter pop gems, each one feeling like it could be the song that catches them a big break. Original band member, keyboardist Megan Miller, was deported to Canada earlier this year. Being so close to the border, the band paid tribute to her with their song “No Countries” off of their latest Turn To Each Other. They squeezed 13 songs into their 45 minute set, pulling heavily off their newest release, including the hypnotic round-like vocals of “Neighbors,” and “Cats Were Born,” with its startling screams of “Aiyeeeee!”

After a short break, with the flames cooling down, Marco Benevento and his bandmates, Dave Dreiwitz on bass and Andy Borger on drums, came out to throw some more wood on the fire. Wearing a top hat and pink sunglasses, Benevento was clearly ready to get the party started with some color of his own.

Benevento’s unique take on muEStein_MarcoBenevento_IronWorks_102015_3sic has grown to be wholly unique and more than a little difficult to describe. It borrows from rock, jazz, funk, classical, pop, techno etc., without ever residing within any one of those. Most impressively, a Benevento song can be a singalong with lyrics or without.

His customized upright piano makes ample use of effects pedals to become his own personalized synthesizer keyboard. When he wants that pure sound of hammers hitting strings, it’s right there waiting for him. No synthesized piano sound, no matter how expensive, can ever capture that. He also has the luxury of reaching inside and holding down the strings, creating a cool staccato effect, as he did during a long intro solo for This Is How It Goes.

After a couple of Beatles teases (“Norwegian Wood”, “Eleanor Rigby”) early on in the set, it was pure Benevento from then on out. Though there were hints of Steve Winwood’s playing here and a flourish reminiscent of Bernie Worrell there. He took many an opportunity to ham it up with the crowd as well, carrying a small keyboard out front and dancing around like a quasi rock star. Later, on “Limbs of a Pine,” it would be more of the same, this time singing at the front of the stage while capturing it all with some selfie GoPro filming. In the middle of the soundtrack-esque “Fireworks,” Benevento broke into a rambunctious barrelhouse blues number that appeared to be completely improvised. The man is playing by his own rules, on his own whims, and his band is right there every step of the way, never missing a beat.

The most thrilling moments however, came when the Dreiwitz and Borger weren’t following, but right in the thick of it. On “Escape Horse,” Dreiwitz opened with a mean slide bass solo before channeling the late Allen Woody with some monsterous bass blasts, while Borger slammed away on the skins producing one of the more rocking moments of the night.

Late in the set, they played a couple of new tunes off an album due out next April. “Follow the Arrow” was a funky number, with some elements reminiscent of “Thriller” thrown in. Another new one, “Dropkick,” will be released on a special 45 in November for Record Store Day.

The show closed with a one-two punch off of Swift. “Witches of Ulster” had Benevento performing a mid-set wardrobe change as he swapped the top hat for a seasonally-appropriate witches wig and hat. Then they finished off with “At the Show,” ensuring that all in attendance would have the impossibly infectious song stuck in their heads for the rest of the week. Benevento had once again made his own unique mark on Buffalo. Welcome to Buffa-vento.EStein_MarcoBenevento_IronWorks_102015_1