Portland's Doug Fir has the feeling of walking into a welcoming version of Twin Peak's black lodge. An amalgamation of log walls‚ mirrors‚ and a phenomenally designed space for sound -- the walls have a personified embrace to them‚ and it was unquestionably ideal for Marco Benevento last Friday. This West Coast run featured Andy Borger on drums‚ and the other stage's wonder-child Reed Mathis on bass -- who was sporting some old‚ little bass that he paid 150 bucks for earlier in the day‚ and was positively milking the groove from the prodigal womb with it all night long. The thing sounded amazing.
Opening with the melodic drift of "You Must Be a Lion‚" Marco seemed to be seizing the one moment of the night where a quieter cut could be fully welcomed by the room. Not that the crowd was talkative‚ but there was a rustling that only leaned in the direction of mass desire for a dance-rock party. The trio would subsequently oblige. The first set loosened up early in the killer pocket of The Knife's "Heartbeats‚" and frankly really never let up from there. Both sets were cover heavy‚ which is beneficial to this writer since I'm not gonna lie to you and say I have an exceptional grasp on all the titles of Benevento's fairly extensive instrumental catalogue. I think we heard an "Atari" in the first set‚ but just in case we didn't -- whatever tune it is I'm actually thinking of was massively raging. He played a great cut from the new 7' inch he was selling‚ serving as a solid confirmation of his songwriting skills showing no signs of dampening. There was an Amy Winehouse cover in there too‚ as well as a driving set closer in a highly improved take of My Morning Jacket's "Golden." His first runs through this one were a little more novelty than groovy‚ but the digital samba beat he's got backing it now took it in new directions.
The second set opened with "The Real Morning Party‚" again appearing in a much more powerful incarnation than its novel siblings of prior. I think there could have been a ripping take on the Duo's "Echo Park" in this set‚ but again if not it was one of those big melody line rockers of theirs. The one sure thing is that the inebriating envelope of the Doug Fir drew more and more of the crowd toward Reed Mathis' side of the stage as the night went on‚ called upon by the destructive ooze that was pulsing out of his cabinet. A magical take on Zeppelin's "That's The Way" would be the climatic showing of his JPJ-ness (Paul Jones) throughout the night. You could put him‚ Marco‚ and a bowl of soup on drums‚ and it would still sound fucking phenomenal. (No offense to Borger‚ who totally locked it in all night.) The encore would open up with Pink Floyd's "Fearless‚" which I first heard Marco do in a solo incarnation and thought it sounded weak. My initial instinct was that it was too much of a vocal-driven tune to hold its own instrumentally‚ despite the killer crawl-up lick. But this night‚ Reed Mathis and the trio-format took the song to new heights. Stretching the center out to cryptic psychedelic expansion‚ falling into a roaring‚ crowd-fueled nod to "Benny and the Jets‚" and then weaving back into the last verse of "Fearless" -- the room was cradled in a unified‚ beholden‚ joy. The ubiquitous Italian soccer-chant which rightfully and naturally arose from the Floyd classic sent the band off from the most rollicking Benevento gig I've seen since he had a guy named Russo on drums.