Marco Benevento: Home on the Fringe
Photo by Michael Weintrob
The property that Marco Benevento shares with his wife, two daughters and nine chickens is located outside Woodstock, N.Y., in the rural town of Saugerties. Tucked away at the end of a residential street on a tree-lined plot of land that includes a small lake that his oldest daughter has affectionately named Parade Pond, Benevento’s wood-paneled home has the charm—and adult camp feel—of Levon Helm’s converted barn/studio, which happens to be located just a few miles away.
For more than a century, artists and other free spirits have found solace in Woodstock and ever since Bob Dylan settled nearby in the ‘60s, the area has been a mecca for rock musicians hoping to get “back to the garden.”
Benevento moved his family a few hours north of New York City about a year and a half ago, after spending much of his twenties and early thirties in Brooklyn exploring the often busy intersection of jam-rock, indie-pop, groove-oriented jazz and egoless avant-garde music. He bought his new home—chicken coop included—from a doctor who used it as a second home and converted a small shed on the property into the ultimate ivory-keyed playpen. It’s one part recording studio/rehearsal space, one part museum—stacked with everything from vintage analog equipment to hard drives filled with futuristic piano sounds equally rooted in post-rock minimalism and Muppet-style mayhem.
In many ways, that yin and yang between acoustic piano and 21st century keyboard experimentation has been Benevento’s calling card since he first broke out as a solo artist six years ago.
He’s decorated his man cave with some personal touches, too, ranging from old-school memorabilia from his days touring with The Benevento-Russo Duo to his trusty vaporizer. Phish’s Mike Gordon recently stopped by with his family to try out a new bass, and one of Benevento’s closest collaborators, drummer Joe Russo, stayed over a few days earlier while in the area for a gig at Helm’s barn.
Though it’s officially release day for Benevento’s fourth and potentially career-defining solo studio record TigerFace, the 35-year-old keyboardist/composer/part-time T-shirt designer is enjoying a much-needed day off between two trips to the Bay Area—both of which, as a testament to his standing in the modern musical landscape, included onstage collaborations with Phil Lesh. During his second visit, he even had the unique opportunity to rework Deerhoof’s “Twin Killers” with the Grateful Dead bassist.
But, as he prepares a batch of his trademark eggs spiked with some fresh veggies from his home garden, Benevento seems more than 100 miles from the music industry’s East Coast capital.
“I’m on empty right now—I need to slowly get fueled up to where I am ready to actually think about the next new thing,” the always playful, shaggy-haired Benevento says shortly after pulling out some freshly laid offerings from his kitchen refrigerator. The door is decorated with different accolades, including a certificate that one of his daughters received for her first haircut.
These days, Benevento is a mature mix of family man and entertainer: His children’s pink ear muffs, which protect them from loud music, hang on hooks by his front door, and, later in the day, he’ll teach a private music lesson as part of charity project to help pay for his five year old’s day school. His wife Katie, who Benevento met through his old pals The Slip, is in town at the moment picking up some supplies for family friends who are visiting from overseas. The Beneventos recently bumped into another New York jazz refugee, bassist Chris Wood, and his family at a local farmers’ market.
“A lot of people know who I am, but there’s even more people who don’t,” he says with a childish grin. “It just takes that one song that reaches out to somebody—who plays it for ten of their friends and then, they play it for ten more of their friends. Maybe some of my new tunes are a little more listenable or more pop—maybe they’ll reach out to people more.”
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