Benevento/Russo Duo :: Fall 2009

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Nov 13 2009, 5:34

Benevento/Russo Duo

Sat, Nov. 7th '09; Baltimore, MD (The 8x10)

I just got home from a four-show run with The Duo, my first time seeing them in two years [since 11/4/07 in Greensboro, NC (The Flying Anvil)]. I'm fairly certain they haven't played this region (mid-Atlantic East Coast) since then, with most of that time spent apart, to invest in solo-efforts & side-projects. Marco's released a string of solo albums, while Joe has been sitting in & touring with groups such as Further, and Younger Brother (live band).

I recall reading somewhere recently that they felt pigeonholed by their somewhat meteoric rise to success as a result of numerous tours with Phish bassist Mike Gordon ('04-'06), and one with both Mike & guitarist Trey Anastasio (summer '06). While touring success and merely being able to float above water are always desirable, breaking through rather unexpectedly can bring a band certain elements that they may not have intended, or even appreciated.

I have always loved Duo crowds. They remind me of older Medeski Martin & Wood crowds, not only because of the quasi-similarity of the groups' music, but mainly in the eclectic blend of personality & dress. But toward the end of 2006, The Duo drew a much higher proportion of tie-dye shirts, dreadlocks, and general skunk-stink, as Phish was still on hiatus, and tour kids needed something else to fill in the gap. Additionally, MMW has significantly mellowed their sound in the past four years, and acid-jazz-funk addicts have been jonesing for something else to lull the fiend. One particular show show in 2007 fit this headier crowd-stereotype to a T, the AllGood Music Festival in West Virginia -- their time-slot on the adjacent second stage sandwiched between semi-late-night between Dead-esque dream-scapists Bob Weir & Ratdog, and electro-trance-funk quintet STS9.

It was supposedly the rise to scene-stardom, and related shift in crowd-personality, that partially impelled The Duo to take some time off, and apart. Marco released three albums: Live At Tonic, Invisible Baby, and Me Not Me. Joe has played at least two small tours with psytrance electronic duo Younger Brother in their live-band iteration (also including The Disco Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein, and Brothers Past guitarist Tom Hamilton). Both members have done numerous solo-outfit residencies, along with the occasional performance by their Led Zeppelin instrumental tribute outfit Bustle In Your Hedgerow (also including Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz, and guitarist Scott Metzger). Time off indeed.

Thankfully Joe & Marco have come back together for this short stint down the East Coast toward Bear Creek Music Festival in Florida. While this same article (mentioned above) described an artist's need to diversify in order to avoid both boredom & burnout, I'm very glad they eventually remembered their longtime fans. [I met a guy at their show in Boone, NC on Mon. 11/9/09 who's been seeing them since 2003 -- mad old-school cred, Wes!] While they did a four-show run in Colorado this summer (including High Sierra Music Festival, I believe), this doesn't do many of their easterly fans any good. Seeing as it had been two years since I last got the opportunity to catch 'em, and who knows when they might decide to tour again, I decided to do a four-show stretch in my region: Baltimore, MD; Boone, NC; Asheville, NC; and Raleigh, NC (my first time in each venue).

I had just recently done a similar run with STS9, and the differences were vast. STS9 is a lot bigger than they were when I started seeing them (early '06), and there could've easily been 1,000 people at each recent show, if not more (especially on Halloween at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, TN -- probably more than 2,000). There might've been an absolute maximum of 150 at each Duo show in NC this week, with maybe 300 in Baltimore. I recalling becoming aware at many a moment how intimate these shows were, how close you could get to the stage, and how intricately one could observe the Duo's minute instrument-interactions. All of these have been lost at STS9 shows, while certainly gaining in the general crowd-intensity/energy department.

I regularly had the inclination that I was one of only few in attendance at these shows (The Duo) who was very familiar with the band & their songs. This doesn't necessarily mean anything, except perhaps that I was regularly going apeshit, dancing my fucking face off, and occasionally felt slightly chagrined that I was impeding upon those around me. However, the boys need to know that their crowds are feelin' it, right? I was also hoping that my energy would rub off on those around me, that I might be a good mentor for those only attending a Duo show for their first time. I take all of this to mean that this group is still relatively unknown. If they can play in relative hotbeds of musical tourism and still not sell-out such small venues, then I must've lucked out by discovering them early enough, or that they might be in enough of their own specialized niche to not easily appeal to the greater masses, such as STS9 has appeared to have done in the last few years.

Unfortunately for me, the setlists were quite similar from night to night. Standards such as Becky, Sunny's Song, and Play Pause Stop have to make a ubiquitous appearance each night (to appeal to those newly introduced to the group or those not seeing them multiple nights in a row), while I found that the more impressive moments came in the randomly inserted jams that occasionally reared their rip-your-face-off heads:

Example #1 [Sat, Nov. 7th '09; Baltimore, MD (The 8x10)]
This one guy was occasionally yelling out "Moby Dick" (as they occasionally do this, especially as Bustle In Your Hedgerow). Another guy nearby yelled out "Rush" (I've seen them do Xanadu before -- 6/27/06 Asheville, NC w/Mike Gordon), and then a guy yelled "PLAY Tom Sawyer NOW." So they did. ..segue'd into Moby Dick, into When the Levee Breaks, into Smells Like Teen Spirit. Fucking insane. The energy in the room was through the roof. Great way to end the set (pre-encore).

Example #2 [Tues, Nov. 10th '09; Asheville, NC (The Garage at Biltmore)]
A regular Duo fan will know that they occasionally cover Radiohead, with Myxomatosis being the more regular one. They followed a monster version of Mephisto with a powerful Myxomatosis, the ends of which sandwiched (I think) two other Radiohead tracks from In Rainbows: Videotape, and another for which I couldn't recall the title. Once again, great way to end the main set.

If any recordings come to light (I recall seeing audience mics in Raleigh), I'd recommend 11/10/09, Asheville NC (The Garage at Biltmore) first & foremost among the shows that I caught. Despite an extended technical difficulty on Marco's part at the very beginning (cut off the very end of show-opener Play Pause Stop), it had the best, most consistent solid energy the whole way throughout, in addition to (most likely) my favorite venue of the four (very quirky setup).

Setlists: (as best I could)

11/7/09 Baltimore, MD (The 8x10)

Main Set:
1. Sunny's Song
2. Play Pause Stop
3. Becky (long jam the middle)
4. Walking, Running, Viking
5. (new/unknown)
6. Echo Park >
7. (the name escapes me)
8. Say Yes (newer cover by a band called Afternoons)
9. Soba
10. Hate Frame
11. 9x9
12. Tom Sawyer >
13. Moby Dick >
14. When the Levee Breaks >
15. Smells Like Teen Spirit

Encore:
1. (the name escapes me)

----------------------

11/9/09 Boone, NC (Boone Saloon)

Main Set:
1. (new/unknown)
2. (new/unknown)
3. Becky
4. Echo Park
5. Best Reason to Buy the Sun
6. Sunny's Song
7. Play Pause Stop
8. (new/unknown)
9. Say Yes (newer cover by a band called Afternoons)
10. Soba
11. Something for Rockets
12. Big Whopper

Encore:
1. Paranoid Android

---------------------

11/10/09 Asheville, NC (The Garage at Biltmore)

Main Set:
1. Play Pause Stop [extended technical difficulties (Marco)]
2. Becky
3. Sunny's Song
4. Best Reason to Buy the Sun
5. Soba
6. (new/unknown)
7. Walking, Running, Viking
8. (the name escapes me)
9. My Pet Goat
10. Mephisto (Whole Lotta Love jam?)
11. Myxomatosis >
12. Videotape >
13. (other In Rainbows track) >
14. Myxomatosis

Encore:
1. Vortex

----------------

11/11/09 Raleigh, NC (The Pour House)

Main Set:
1. Play Pause Stop
2. Sunny's Song
3. (new/unknown)
4. (new/unknown)
5. Becky
6. Soba
7. Best Reason to Buy the Sun
8. Echo Park
9. Walking, Running, Viking
10. 9x9
11. Welcome Red
12. My Pet Goat

Encore:
1. Say Yes (newer cover by a band called Afternoons)

-------------

Other notes:

The band brought along a light-designer for this tour, the first time I have seen them do this, to my recollection. Jay did a great job, utilizing a variety of different video-smooshing. Think of a myriad of Photoshop filters applied to video, often pasting some on top of others, and occasionally shooting live video of either Joe or Marco to integrate into the feed. Very enjoyable overall, adding another layer to their performances.

There was no merchandise for The Duo on the whole tour. I was highly surprised by this, as they are probably the largest group I have seen not have merch for sale.

Each show was opened by Sean Bones, of Brooklyn, NY. A four-piece, they were primarily reggae, but with a slight indie/electronic element. I felt that their genre was almost too distinct from The Duo's to provide an appropriate opener, but kudos to the boys for having them along. Not to my taste overall, but then, I'm not a huge fan of reggae.

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