It’s been a summer of exposure for Addison Groove Project. The Boston-based sextet set off this summer for their first Southeastern tour; exposing the band to new cities, new audiences, and the welcoming insane humidity of the South. Aside from several club dates in the Southeast, AGP has had the fortune to play along side some of the jamband world’s greatest at festivals like Gathering of the Vibes, Livestock, and the upcoming Berkshire Festival (Aug. 10-12, Great Barrington, MA).
It’s always interesting to see a talented band come into town for the first time. Along with hoping for an enthusiastic crowd, neophyte bands also have the matter of venues to deal with. A few months back in Charleston, our highly intelligent local government decided it would be a keen idea to set a 2 AM bar closing time for all clubs in the Historic district. The Reef, a dodgy watering hole in suburban Charleston, was practically the only club in town that could stay open until the wee-wee hours between night and day. So during this 2 AM curfew, The Reef was swarmed nightly after 2 AM by the still-thirsty downtown crowd. Unfortunately for The Reef, and Addison Groove Project, the 2 AM decision was repealed right around a week before AGP’s show there on the 26th. While the downtown crowd is pleased, there just isn’t that same mass-exodus nightly to The Reef.
There were less than 100 people at The Reef for the show, only half of whom actually paid attention to the music. Sometimes a packed club is great, there can be tons of energy emanating from the crowd. And sometimes it’s nice to have the band to yourself, it feels like you’re pulling one over on all the schlubs that are missing out. While I’m sure the band was a little let down, they certainly did not portray anything but raw enthusiasm with their brand of high energy, highly danceable jazz funk.
Aside from the respective talents of the 6 members, AGP’s greatest strength lies in its potential (most of the band is still in college). Drummer Andrew Keith and bassist John Hall lay down the grooves of seasoned veterans, guitarist Brendan McGinn adds a lot with noodling solos and the always-funky wah-wah rhythms, Rob Marscher plays the keys like a junior-Medeski of sorts, and alto and tenor sax players Dave Adams and Ben Groppe top the combo off nicely with incredibly tight, overlapping horn lines.
AGP let a few of their influences be known with spirited covers of Wayne Shorter’s “Mah Jhong,” Herbie Hancock’s “Hang Up Your Hang Ups,” and James Browns “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin’.” AGP’s originals were just as stellar, playing a few songs off of Wicked Live like the “wicked-smart” grooves of “Gepetto” and the romping, good-time funk of “Beat Me Til I’m Blue.” A few vocal numbers gave McGinn the chance to show his voice, a raspy Dave Matthews-meets John Popper delivery that will surely improve with time. Keith and Hall keep the low end grooves stylin, easing the band through some difficult and equally impressive changes. Marscher shows talent way beyond his years on the keys, providing thick texture with B-3 tangents you feel deep in your bowels. The interplay of Adams and Grope is intense, flavorful, and scorching; often aided by McGinn on trumpet allowing the band to show off more of a jazz side. Though there were few attendance, the folks that were there for the music definitely enjoyed it and AGP definitely made some new fans in Charleston.
With time, most likely when the band members have all graduated from college, AGP will become even more of a powerhouse. AGP is young and they have a long way to go yet. A few equipment upgrades will definitely improve their collective noise. And some more musical maturity will allow the band to groove as a more cohesive unit, rather than focus on extended solos (which are impressive as hell).
This band has been together since high school, has managed to stay together and tour through attending different colleges, and definitely have what it takes. They are well worth seeing when they come to your town.