“We’re having sooooooo much friggin’ fun on this little run of shows!” quipped Marco Benevento in an Instagram post on the afternoon of May 3. Later that night, the sentiment became overtly obvious as Benevento and Co. brought their colorfully energetic mix of pop and rock to Jersey City. The historic venue, situated in the Village neighborhood of downtown Jersey City, welcomed every note as if it knew Marco came home to play.
Providing a short opening set was New York City native Andrew Fox, a solo singer/producer with a small assembly of toys and knobs but a large sweeping psychedelic soul. Warming up the Jersey crowd with a selection of songs from his recently debuted EP Shock by Shock, Fox sang passionately over a mix of deep bumping bass and sinking synthesizer leads. The live performance of these tracks varies slightly as Fox mixes, filters, and plays keys. A stand out was the funky “John / Candy,” featuring a pop laced guitar riff and chopping snare claps.
In a nod to the oh so obvious theme of welcoming that encompasses Benevento and crew, Fox mentioned that the two had in fact only first met in person just prior to the show. It was just a few weeks ago that Benevento reached out to Fox via the internet and asked him to tag along for a few shows. This speaks volumes to Marco’s openness to opportunity and appreciation.
After a short break, the headliners appeared to an uproarious applause and took a moment to settle in before jumping right into “Free Us All.” Immediately, the rainbow lights began to blanket the room as the crowd swayed in delight. The trio continued on through a mix of old tunes like “All The Other Dreams,” “Greenpoint,” and “Dropkick.” Still, there was room for a new song debut and announcement that a to-be-titled album is on the way, due out in September.
Dressed in silver sequin jackets and white tees reading “We’re using time for fun” (a song committed to tape on 2007’s Live At Tonic) the trio of Benevento, David Butler and Karina Rykman held on to their smiles as much they did the groove for 2 hours straight. There is an incredible enthusiasm in this group that creates an energy so palpable it’s hard to not participate in the celebration. Marco takes every opportunity available to thank the audience, thank his bandmates, and relish in the feel-good momentum that makes their performances uniquely positive.
The mid-section of the set brought more from the recent The Story of Fred Short record with the zany “I Can’t See The Light,” a soaring “Stay In Line,” and the bouncy “Walking With Tyrone.” Benevento jumped back and forth between center stage to dance around and sing and then again to his piano rig just in time to walk up and down a solo.
Just after Rykman removed her jacket, but not the smile, Benevento made banter by recalling a previous show where the crowd roared for 10 minutes when he announced the bassist by name. The audience took this obvious cue and cheered ever more loudly as Marco clapped and yelled “KARINAAA” into the mic. It was a cheerful moment that shined a happily embarrassing spotlight on the youngest band member just before she took a distortedly delayed bass solo. This paved the way for the crowd-pleasing cover of the Butthole Surfers 90’s hit “Pepper,” led by Rykman on vocals.
As is with most musicians, this band and Benevento, especially as the songwriter, gets as much out of sharing in the music as they do playing it. This was evident through the entire set but was most clear when the trio “answered the call” to play “The Real Morning Party,” an infectious pop number that had the entire crowd gleefully singing along to the melodic hook. As the audience bounced up and down in enjoyment, it was hard to tell whether the ground was shaking because of the dancing or because of the powerful rhythm section and soulful jamming.
After one last thank you, the party was brought to a close with the aptly titled finale “At The Show.” Members of the audience were still humming the vocal melody as the three band mates took their final bow at center stage.
Marco Benevento tour continues on May 10 in Washington D.C. with Andrew Fox.
*Setlist was not written down and songs were being called out by Marco. The following list was provided by management:
Free Us All, All The Other Dreams, Solid Gold, Dropkick, Greenpoint, Send Me On A Rocket, Walking With Tyrone, Live a Certain Life, Stay In Line, I Can’t See The Light, Follow The Arrow, Pepper, Witches of Ulster, The Real Morning Party, Oh Baby Can’t You See, At The Show