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Petaluma musician’s comeback complete


For any band trying to succeed in the music business, it is important to go on tour in order to reach a wider audience and build a fanbase.

The Brothers Comatose, who started out playing in Bay Area bars eight years ago, have become West Coast headliners and festival favorites with a nationwide fanbase. A key reason for their success is that they play upwards of 150 shows a year around the country.

But life as a touring musician can be hard, especially for one who has to leave a young family at home.

That’s why bass player Gio Benedetti dropped out of the five-piece string band at the end of 2013 to spend more time at home when his wife, Jenny, was expecting their second child. But after a year off, he returned to the band.

“It was really helpful to be home and help out with our newborn daughter,” he said. “But it was hard for me because I wasn’t on the road playing music.”

Benedetti kept busy teaching music, both at St. Vincent High School and privately, and playing in a couple of local bands. But his wife noticed that he wasn’t his usual happy self.

“I had worked so hard to help get this band going that was on an upward trajectory, and I wasn’t part of it anymore,” he said. “I was missing the opportunity to be performing for a living versus teaching for a living.”

During Benedetti’s absence, the Brothers Comatose hadn’t found a bass player they were excited about, so they invited him to the recording sessions for their third album, “City Painted Gold.”

“I did two shows with the band during that period and I thought, ‘I would love to be able to do this again with my family.’”

So after discussing it with his wife, he rejoined the group.

For the band’s first big tour of 2015, Benedetti rented an RV and brought his family with him, while the other band members traveled in their usual touring van.

“It was an awesome experience,” he said, “and the kids loved it. It was really cool for them to come along and meet people and share the experiences that I had been telling them about.”

But it proved exhausting for Benedetti, who did all of the driving.

Benedetti, 36, went to St. Vincent High School with brothers Ben Morrison (guitar) and Alex Morrison (banjo), but The Brothers Comatose wasn’t formed until nearly 10 years after they graduated. Philip Brezina (violin) and Ryan Avellina (mandolin) now round out the group.

Despite their name, The Brothers Comatose are anything but lethargic. In fact, they are known for their high-energy shows – jumping and dancing onstage and sometimes walking into the audience while playing.

Other attributes that have helped the band’s ascent are the brother’s work ethic, their respect for the venues and the audience and their reputation of playing shows that are fun.

One time, the band was opening a show at the Bottom of the Hill club in San Francisco.

“It easily could have been a throwaway show,” Benedetti said. “It happened that Devil Makes Three (a nationally known trio from Santa Cruz) were in the audience. After the show, they were so nice and complimentary. They gave us a list of contacts and venues we could play up and down the West Coast. That kind of support was huge.”

Devil Makes Three also invited the band to open for them on a tour.

Life on the road isn’t always fun and glamorous.

“There are times when we get grumpy and have arguments or everyone is exhausted,” Benedetti said. “But then we get on stage and the energy of the show and the audience completely rejuvenates everybody.”

Long before the Brothers Comatose, Benedetti formed the bass-and-drum duo Toast Machine with drummer Brandon Warner (now Paige Warner) and the two recently reunited for a show at a birthday celebration for the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma.

Benedetti didn’t set out to be a bass player. He started out playing his father’s guitar and learning songs from James Taylor and Paul Simon songbooks. But when he went to play music with a friend who also played guitar, the boy said, “I already play guitar. You can play drums or bass.”

Benedetti said, “I didn’t even know the bass existed before that.” He took lessons during his teenage years and then earned a degree in the jazz studies program at Sonoma State University.

Although he left his teaching position at St. Vincent High, Benedetti continues to teach private and group music lessons. He and his wife, Jenny perform children’s music and stories around Petaluma.

“We call our little land of musical make-believe Benedettiville,” he said.

Benedetti is also a talented artist. Some of his drawings can be seen on his websites. He finds it to be a good way to connect with his family when he is on the road.

“Since I’ve been back with the band, I illustrate four or five stories, drawing from each stop on our tour and send them home for the kids.”

His “Road Comics” are also the source for his podcasts, children’s stories that can be heard on benedettiville.com or through iTunes, Soundcloud or Stitcher.

“All parents need stories to keep their kids occupied,” he said.

Although he doesn’t take his wife and daughters (now 6 and 3-years-old) on the road with him all the time, Benedetti has found a way to balance his music with his family life.

“The most important part is to have a partner who is willing to work on that balancing act with me,” he said. “My wife is the reason this is possible. She supports my playing music and is willing to work with me and still have a strong family. It is something for which I am incredibly grateful.”

(Chris Samson is the former editor of the Argus-Courier. Contact him at chrissamson@yahoo.com.)