One of the undeniable highlights of the recent Suwannee Hulaween was the rare communion of drummer Joe Russo and keyboardist Marco Benevento as The Benevento/Russo Duo. The two originally met as middle school classmates, and have been playing music together for the better part of two decades. Most recently, they’ve taken the live music circuit by storm as 2/5 of “more-than-just-a” cover band Joe Russo’s Almost Dead–a project conceived as a one-off tribute that has blossomed into one of the most successful and in-demand outfits on the touring circuit.
But before JRAD was even a thought, “The Duo” was already turning heads. As we’ve seen with Almost Dead over the past couple years, The Duo started as something small (a weekly residency in a small sub-room at New York’s Knitting Factory) and grew into something massive and exciting and uncharted. Russo and Benevento released a string of critically acclaimed albums, toured the nation with their core duo, and even added various talented musicians to the equation for extended stretches, including touring for a time as “G.R.A.B.”, featuring both Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and Phish bassist Mike Gordon (who reprised his collaboration with The Duo at the end of their Hulaween set).
The Duo launched the careers of both Joe and Marco into the stratosphere, and their music still defies expectations of just how much sound can come from just these two guys. The two still dabble in The Duo’s material during JRAD shows on occasion, but aside from a surprise set at a minuscule Brooklyn brewhouse late last year, a highly-touted slot on January’s Jam Cruise, and a single club date at Brooklyn Bowl in February, The Duo hadn’t played as “The Duo” in more than 8 years before their highly anticipated set at Suwannee Hulaween 2017.
Though the Gordon sit-in grabbed most of the headlines about the rare Hula Duo show, the band showcased their innately tight and communicative partnership throughout the set–showing no signs of rust, playing to the others’ strengths. Throughout their all-too-short evening set, the two musicians’ happiness, excitement, pure joy, was apparent to everyone in attendance. As Marco commented near the the end of the performance, with unmistakable sincerity, “That was very special.” But he didn’t have to tell that to the crowd for them to know. They could see sit on Joe and Marco’s faces…
As a Sunday treat, check out a selection of highlights from The Benevento/Russo Duo’s unforgettable set at Hulaween, via videographer Rex Thomson. Let the improvisation heavy fireworks they displayed echo out for you from beyond the last note and into eternity!:
“My Pet Goat”
[Track title unknown (holler if you know!)]
“Play, Pause, Stop”
[Cover photo via Rex-a-Vision]