Locals probably know Marco best as a late-period member of Garage a Trois, unless you really keep your ear close to the New York experimental rock scene, in which case you may be familiar with his many scene collaborations, his artist collective Royal Potato Family, his self-owned studio called Fred Short, or his array of mostly instrumental solo releases. Benevento may have fully revealed himself with this album, however, as the Millennial Todd Rundgren: a pop classicist sporting a deeply weird streak, a genuine studio rat with genuine blue-eyed soul, a piano-rock maven with a flair for the psychedelic, and a wizard/true star who’s secret is that his music is as warm and inclusive as it is stylistically expansive. It all comes to a head on this 6 (or 7) song release, a full-length addition to the Woodstock Sessions imprimatur that seeks to popularize Applehead Studios in upstate New York with live, in-house performances.
Armed with his usual arsenal of rhythm machines, laptops, and a ridiculously augmented bank of various keyboards, with only a slightly modified bass and drums duo to back him up, the maestro mainly reproduces the core of last year’s breakthrough album The Story of Fred Short, including the epic 22-minute long title track, as well as a few earlier selections, mostly from his first vocal album, 2014’s “Swift.” Normally someone so fixated on sound collages might seem alien and intimidating live, but on Woodstock Sessions he perfectly blurs the line all live albums are meant to, exhorting his audience to sing, dance, and even whistle along. Turns out Marco’s idea of psychedelia, like Todd’s, is a canvas on which to explore big, universal emotions, so what came off as intriguing impressionism with earlier Spotify hits like “At the Show” and “Dropkick” now gets transformed into one big giddy sonic foam party. Whether blowing minds with an exploratory jam like “Bus Ride” or downshifting into nerdfunk on “I Can’t See the Light.” Benevento has his cult’s heart right in the palm of his hand. Which would suggest they may not be a cult much longer.