South Florida received an uncanny treat in the form of a free Marco Benevento show at the beautiful Hollywood ArtsPark in Hollywood, Fl. A late Winter chill, by Florida’s standards, would do little to keep fans from coming to see keyboardist Marco Benevento, well-known amongst jam band aficionados for his role in the Grateful Dead cover band, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. It would do even less to stop them from dancing to the mix of electronic rock, funk, indie, and psychedelic tones his band put out this night. The talented Karina Rykman joined Benevento on bass, whose popularity in the scene continues to ascend with each thumping bass lick she produces. Rounding out the trio was Chris Corsico, who filled in for the band’s usual drummer, David Butler, while he was on tour with Guster.
The band took the stage shortly after Electric Kif, who did their part to pump the crowd up. Mixing funky rhythms and cosmic tones, they dove right into their lone set and built anticipation by opening with “Oh Baby Can’t You See.” Chris Corsico did an excellent job of steadying Benevento and Rykman’s grooves, but towards the end of the set opener, Corsico nailed the drum solo typically performed by Butler, thus taking full advantage of the opportunity he had to be in the spotlight. He certainly could have fooled anyone if they were told that he was the trio’s normal drummer.
The prog-rock anthem, “Let it Slide,” from Benevento’s 2019 solo album release of the same name, followed. Despite containing little improvisation, an intimate moment ensued where Benevento sought to engage the crowd with shouts of “C’mon” and “Let’s go,” as well as encouraging the crowd to clap along made this fun for all. The crowd’s response indicated a sincere reciprocation of Benevento’s energy. Often in live music, fans constantly demand improv and long jams. These moments of the band to crowd engagement are equally crucial to the overall experience. Benevento exhibited a complete understanding of the need for both.
The band spent the next 15-20 minutes diving into some of their lesser-known songs, trading opportunities to show mastery of their respective instruments and fulfilling people’s appetite for heavy doses of musical creativity and improvised sounds. At this time, the few people who thought they could sit on the grassy knoll all night could no longer do so. Steady beats and synchronized jamming became the groundwork for an intense dance party, and everyone wanted in. The move towards the stage by the masses made it difficult to discern whether the crowd or the wind was causing Rykman’s hair to blow away from her face.
During the next tune, “I Can’t See the Light,” the crowd did, in fact, see the light in the golden-haired bassist. The song’s funky, disco-like bass rhythms could be felt deep in the fabric of the audience’s soul. Very few eyes were directed elsewhere as her infectious, smiled-ridden playing became a dominating force that soaked everyone into her glowing sphere of influence. While the crowd clearly found difficulty in taking their eyes off Rykman, Benevento set the foundation for the bassist to shine with his mix of synth and piano tones that alternated with upbeat piano-only measures. Benevento’s unequivocal willingness to relinquish the spotlight became both admiration and inspiration as humility remains a characteristic even the best musicians struggle with. Benevento, in fact, could not hold back his enthusiasm at this moment and treated everyone to some silky-smooth dance moves that are typically not seen when he plays with JRAD. Rykman, for a moment, contributed moves of her own.
The band shifted into higher gear with the crowd-pleasing “Dropkick,” sustaining the hour and a half dance party. The intimate, but bouncing venue then experienced an explosion of energy with their cover of the Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper.” For fans of the ’90s, nostalgia took over with Rykman providing vocals for the song’s catchy, rhyming lyrics. The band then worked into the highlight of the night, “Limbs On a Pine.” Rykman’s cosmic bass blasts during this song made this reviewer wonder whether or not a band really needs a guitarist to lead the music. The answer is both yes and no, but on this night, clearly no. Benevento’s subsequent solo brought everyone back to Earth.
The set came to a thundering conclusion with “Send it On a Rocket” and “At the Show.” The former built upon the song’s lyrics by creating a healthy environment where the band and crowd experienced a loving collision of gratitude. The latter provided another opportunity for Corsico to stake his claim as more than a capable substitution by beating his way through yet another convincing solo.
The crowd showered the three bandmates with appreciation, love and chanting for one more song. The band obliged and gave them yet another chance to relive the 90’s with their rendition of INXS’s “Need You Tonight.” This particular version contained teases of “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite. They walked off stage around 11:00 pm and left everyone thinking they needed more Marco Benevento not only tonight but many more nights, as well. Benevento and Rykman came out after a short period to talk with lingering fans. They were admirably gracious in allowing for hugs and photo opportunities, which was the proverbial icing on the cake. Was it mentioned that this concert was free? This reviewer could hardly tell.
To satiate the desire of needing more Marco Benevento, catch them at the end of the month for a 2-night run at the Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY, on March 27th and 28th. Head over to their tour page for more details about these shows and other dates in your area. And check out more photos from this show.