Words by: Jarrod Dicker
Garage A Trois :: 12.19.09 :: Bowery Ballroom :: New York, NY
New York City was covered by snow on this Saturday night, whiting out the city landscape with an awe-inspiring touch of gray. There was no visibility beyond the foggy haze that lay within 15-feet of perception. Being on the Upper West Side, I had to be utterly insane to diagonally cross town in time for the Garage A Trois Bowery Ballroom gig... but the thing is, I am completely fanatical.
Trenching knee deep through snow, slush and city grime, I combined subway and leg work to reach my Lower East Side destination with the aid of a reliable amigo, Jack Daniels.
I trekked down the stairs and was met instantly by a sign on the foyer door stating, "Due to inclement weather Mike Dillon will not be performing tonight. The rest of Garage A Trois will be joined by Adam Deitch."
The snow had caused Garage A Trois to slightly amend its act this evening. With percussionist Mike Dillon unable to get into New York, Lettuce's Adam Deitch was scheduled to play drums alongside keyboardist Marco Benevento, drummer Stanton Moore, and saxophonist Skerik.
You'd think fans would have been pissed that Dillon was unable to attend, however, observing the outrageous weather conditions present in the city that night, patrons were just relieved that the show was still on.
October 2009 welcomed the release of "Garage A Benevento's" (the jargon name for the new-fangled version of Garage A Trois) album Power Patriot. With the recent departure of eight-string guitarist and co-founder Charlie Hunter, Garage A Trois signed on keyboardist Marco Benevento to replace Hunter's sounds and commence a newfound fashion to the band.
As stated in Court Scott's interview with GAT on JamBase, Benevento had previously played with Skerik and Dillon in the group Coxygen and opened for Critters Buggin for various East Coast gigs. He has also accompanied Garage A Trois sporadically since 2005. Clearly, Marco is no rookie when it comes to the naturalness and reciprocated melodies that are established by Garage A Trois.
| Marco Benevento|
Deitch, Skerik and Benevento kicked off as the opening act, and morphed into Garage A Trois later upon the arrival of Stanton Moore. The scene was heady, even with the torrential blizzard, and the Ballroom was nearly packed. People wanted to hear some music and GAT had every intention of giving them just that.
At 11:30, I started to speculate a reason behind the group's belated start. The fans were becoming restless, howling towards the stage to begin the show. Something had to be brewing, as there were no announcements of delay of any kind. But unexpectedly, a Willis Reed moment took place that wouldn't fit comfortably anywhere else but New York City.
Walking up from the downstairs bar and main entrance enters drummer Stanton Moore. Instead of coming through the back of the venue, Moore walks through the crowd with a bag on his back, hinting at his late arrival. The audience comes together in ovation, cheering as Moore waves at his subjects and moves towards the stage access stairs.
Moore's arrival was delayed due to the commanding weather conditions, but neither rain nor snow could stop the Louisiana native from getting there. He immediately hit the stage with various crew and set up his kit. Soon after completion, Moore stepped back behind the stage.
Marco Benevento soon stepped onstage, followed by Skerik who immediately grabbed the microphone.
"Stanton just got here, he's going to the bathroom and then we're going to get this thing going," he shouts. "We're going to pack three hours worth of material into an hour and a half!"
| Skerik by Jeffrey Dupuis|
Any Skerik fan that has witnessed him live knows how dominant his onstage presence is, and thus his announcement impelled adrenaline throughout the waiting fans' yearning veins.
From then on it was absolute musical mayhem (in the most awesome of ways). Moore's drum work was brilliant as he further established himself as one of the best in the business. Skerik served as MC and saxophonist extraordinaire, slaving to Benevento's musical aura by repeatedly gazing in awe at his bandmate.
The Mike Dillon shout-outs were nothing short of habitual. "Let's dedicate this to our missing Mike Dillon!" or "Play it for Mike D, Stanton, play it for Mike D!" were heard repetitively by Skerik in between beautiful, melodious fusions and atop concentrated climactic collaborations.
As the flier stated, Adam Deitch was set to join the other three members. This, understandably, was not meant to be taken literally because his participation was very minimal. When he did appear onstage, the drummer would position himself to the left of Benevento and offered flattering firework-like electro-rhythmic explosions to compliment the already sonic fueled partnership GAT was exhibiting.
While Mike Dillon was most certainly missed during the track, "Electric Doorbell Machine" (where Dillon is notorious for playing his instrument aka the Electric Doorbell Machine), the trio improvised well, and in fact, capitalized on it skillfully. Skerik, Moore and Benevento played their hearts out and channeled the funk/rock/hip hop/jazz fusion that GAT is so very well know for.
I've read album reviews of Power Patriot, and while all primarily flattering, I read one that claimed Moore's drumming was not "front and center" as usually is the case when he is involved in a project. This may be the case on the actual record, but it is nothing but the contrary in the live setting, with Moore bouncing from seated to standing throughout the tenure of the show, demonstrating key backbeats and solos, while also driving the songs as he worked on top of Benevento's bass-like rhythms.
So now the big question: How is the group progressing without Charlie Hunter?
| Stanton Moore by Chad Smith|
It seems that the function and philosophy are the same. Benevento replaces Hunter particularly well and supplies bass lines and other familiar Hunter-esque responsibilities. It was an outstanding idea to bring in a Hammond organist, as it complements the group exceptionally well. Having the keyboards, organ and a dissimilar approach to the bass, this sound circuit creates a heavier constituent that was lacking in previous albums. Benevento truly brings the heavier rock and roll edge to Garage A Trois.
The band performed songs from the new album ("Rescue Spreaders"), some old tunes ("Five 2 Survive") and covers. Skerik led an audience accompanied, slow escalating chant, starting with a simmered "Deerhoof... Deerhoof," that eventually amplified to a crowd engaged, "DEERHOOF! DEERHOOF!" This consequently led the trio into the song "Twin Killers" by Deerhoof, covering it with stunning eagerness and accuracy.
The other cover was unveiled towards the end on the night. Benevento began with a long, heavy organ solo that made even the most tripped out GAT fans coil into serene psychedelia, just long enough for a quick cut in to the recognizable and beyond legendary "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin.
And what would a Garage A Trois show be without a little Critters Buggin? The familiar and often played "sorta-cover" "Punk Rock Guilt" finalized the performance, making it a New York City wintry whiteout to remember.
In later news, the Garage A Trois' Philadelphia gig on Sunday was cancelled due to weather conditions. So what does the band do? Mike Dillon gets to New York and they perform at the Brooklyn Bowl that Sunday night instead. Damn, now that's a supergroup in every sense of the word.
JamBase | NYC
Go See Live Music!