Benevento Russo Duo @ Summerfest’s Big Backyard

Posted on July 3, 2008 by


Not that there was anything wrong with a post-rock duo at Summerfest’s Briggs stage. It was just odd that the Benevento Russo Duo stage was PACKED. And it wasn’t old Rush fans, or hipsters, or music nerds — it was a lot of bro-ey college and high school kids who seemed to know what they were listening to.

(Seemed to being the key word here: three kids up front kept trying to get me to take their picture. “Our faces — this is Summerfest right here!” one jock in a Hollister t-shirt declared. Then he turned to his friends behind him and asked, “Oh my GOD, how big are my pupils right now?!?”)
Set time was 8 p.m., but keyboardist Marco Benevento and drummer Joe Russo didn’t start playing til past 8:30. The set up took an inordinately long time; with good reason — there was just so much gear. (Was Benevento manning five keyboards or four? Did that Wurlitzer count? And the drum machine, was that plugged in?)

And when they finally started, the retarded person manning the sound board didn’t turn off the house music. So for most of the crowd, the first two songs (my favorites from their second album Play Pause Stop, “Soba” and “Echo Park”) weren’t even audible. When a fan finally told the sound guy that THE CROWD couldn’t hear the band playing, and the sound was turned on, then everything was good. Surprisingly, even though it’s under the bridge, BRD sounded awesome live.

Benevento and Russo set up their instruments facing each other — which makes sense, because they’re all about improv, watching each other for cues, adding extra time measurements for fun. Listening to BRD is like seeing math rock brought to the masses with a fresh spin. I always used to say BRD was like the post-rock version of the Black Keys, but I am wrong. Sure, they’re a duo and have an awesome drummer, but while the Black Keys are about grit and rhythm, BRD is about songs taking flight, then being tethered and taken back in, then released again. There was a great version of “Play Pause Stop” performed, as well as a searing finale that, well, sounded like a finale.

The set was only 30 minutes long, if that — but it felt like the best show I’d seen at Summerfest so far.