It is difficult to think of a more ubiquitous instrument than the piano. It graces the living room of many families, is featured in countless concertos, and it is safe to say that the majority of us have taken lessons sometime during our lives, with varying degrees of success. To some, the piano evokes Chopin’s passionate nocturnes and Beethoven’s powerful concertos. Others prefer Gershwin’s jazz stylings. But very few of us would consider the piano to be an important component of rock music. Rock pianist Marco Benevento will challenge this perception during his concert at The Haunt this coming Friday.
Benevento started out as many piano students do: “I took lessons as a kid for a while,” he tells The Sun. “It was your basic kid lesson thing — learning how to read, playing through lesson books, etc.” His love for rock bands such as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin began in middle school; it was also during this time that he met drummer Joe Russo, with whom he later released several albums. By high school, he was already composing his own music; he graduated from the Berklee School of Music in Boston in 1999. Making full use of the musical opportunities that technology such as synthesizers, four tracks and effects pedals affords, Benevento has become, according to All Music Guide, “... a musician so original that he can ultimately only be judged against his own standard.”
A self-described “professional capturist,” Benevento’s music is upbeat and smile-enducing, using musical patterns that are familiar, but never dull. His piece “The Real Morning Party” begins with a shuffling drum beat that is the perfect accompaniment to the shuffle out of bed that the best of us succumb to on a Monday morning. The simple tune catches one unawares; before one knows it, the blasé morning feeling has given over to enthusiastic head-bopping and shoulder-shaking. “Now They’re Writing Music” is a perfect example of Benevento’s innovative use of synths combined with a nostalgic piano melody that can’t help but pull on the heartstrings. When asked what inspire these pieces, Benevento writes that “the inspiration for writing music comes and goes. Sometimes I sit down at the piano and just want to watch my fingers move and play whatever it is that comes to mind and not really think about a verse or an intro or a solo section for a song that I want to write … Maybe I'll remember it, maybe I won't, but most times inspiration for a song comes by surprise. I find as a songwriter that the best way to ‘compose’ a song is to figure out how to ‘capture’ that moment when you are not thinking and inspiration flows through you.”
If his music videos are anything to go by, Benevento’s performance will be a treat. The videos that accompany his songs are colorful and playful; “The Morning Party” features many pairs of hands making shadow puppets and dancing feet, as well as a keyboard that plays itself. The quirky cuteness is a balm for those who have become desensitized by overly-flashy music videos featuring scantily clad girls and strobe lights. The flashing clock and the combination of animation with live action shots featured in the accompanying music video to “Now They’re Writing Music” enhances the dream-like quality of the piece. “Playing for a live audience is simultaneously the easiest and roughest thing to do,” Benevento writes. “You are supposed to be having a good time — like the audience — yet you have to provide the good time for them … So there is a sense of responsibility … Plus you are playing your own music so it’s pretty revealing at the same time.”
“I’d say that after 15 years of performing I finally feel like I can put on a good show,” he modestly asserts. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer, Benevento’s performance is more than likely to be a “good show” and provide a “good time.”