Addison Groove Project: Now, Not Never
For over a decade in the late ‘90s and early Aughts, Boston’s Addison Groove Project was a mainstay on the jam and groove scenes. During that time, they released three stellar studio albums, two well-received live albums and appeared at seminal East Coast fests like Bonnaroo, Gathering of the Vibes and Berkfest. At a time when the jamband scene felt more divided and compartmentalized, they also performed with a diverse mix of artists, including Trey Anastasio, Maceo Parker, Jon Fishman, Stangefolk, Dispatch, , RAQ, the New Deal, DJ Spooky, Marco Benevento, Matisyahu and members of Soulive. In fact, the band covered so much ground in their early years that it’s hard to remember that AGP formed as a Wellesley, MA high school band and that, for a good chunk of their career, the members of the group were spread out at colleges throughout the Northeast.
The band made the most of their time off however, performing on weekends throughout the academic year and touring nationally during the summer months. But just as the last member of AGP graduated from college in 2003, bassist John Hall, whose father Rev. Addison Hall remains the band’s namesake, was diagnosed with cancer. With Hall’s blessing, the band continued to perform for the next 15-months with keyboardist Rob Marscher providing basslines with his other hand. While Hall was able to make a few select appearances during that time, he passed way in November 2004, at the age of 25. The following September, guitarist/trumpeter/vocalist Brendan McGinn announced that he was entering medical school.
AGP continued to perform for the next few years, packing marquee venues like Boston’s Paradise and New York’s Mercury Lounge, and even released a final studio recording, Waiting Room. After a short farewell sprint, AGP officially parted ways after a show at the Paradise in early 2007.
Since that time, Marscher has played the highest profile gigs as a member of Matisyahu’s band and the Jennifer Hartswick Band. Alto saxophonist Dave Adams also performs with his Boston-based band East Coast Soul, and tenor saxophonist Ben Groppe played a few dates as a member of Trey Anastasio Band. Earlier this year the group made a surprise appearance at drummer Andrew Keith’s wedding and, this weekend, AGP will formally reunite for a one-off show at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on September 15. Longtime AGP collaborator Wyllys will open the night and also run lights during the band’s show.
A few days before their September 15 reunion gig, McGinn and Marscher discussed their upcoming reunion, revisited AGP’s roots and caught Relix and Jambands.com up on the band’s current plans.
Brendan, as a refresher, can you talk a little bit about how Addison Groove Project first came together and when you all made the initial decision to focus on college while you were playing “weekend warrior” shows? If I remember correctly, you, Andrew and John started playing together in middle school, then you added the horns and Rob joined in a little bit later?
Brendan: Exactly. John, Andrew, and I used to play with a guy named George Langford who is now half of the band Javelin. Once we got about halfway through high school, we added Dave and Ben on alto and tenor saxophones respectively. Rob joined in once our band beat his in a Boston battle of the bands.
There was never a question about whether or not we would attend college. All of us going to college probably increased our fan base tenfold since we all attended different schools throughout the Northeast. We’d play at everyone in the band’s colleges and then, at our friends’ colleges and so on. Full time touring outside of the summers came after graduation.
At what point did you settle on the name Addison Groove Project? The band is named after bassist John Hall’s father Addison, who was a reverend in your town, correct?
Brendan: I think Addison Groove Project was the fourth or fifth name we went through. It stuck because we entered a competition with other high school bands and actually won—hence Rob’s need to ditch his other band for ours as I mentioned before—so in order to stay known from those performances, we had to keep our name. John’s basement was our rehearsal space for much of high school and Addison was always giving us positive feedback and quirky spiritual insights. Not necessarily religious insights, but more like higher level reflections on music, hanging out with friends and life in general. We liked Groove Project but we needed an identifier, so we picked Addison.
Rob, of all the members of AGP, you have performed the most since the band broke up. Can you start by giving us an update on some of your current projects? Are you still playing with Matisyahu from time to time?
Rob: I stopped touring fulltime with Matisyahu in 2010, but we keep in touch and I sit in with the band from time to time. We’ve been slowly working on a project together that has surfaced with a few incarnations. In early 2011, we did some shows billed as Cloud Runner with Aaron Dugan on guitar, Jason Fraticelli on bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. We also performed a few times early this year, again in collaboration with original Matisyahu guitarist, Aaron Dugan. We’re hoping to do more during the next break in his touring schedule.
I’ve performed with Aaron Dugan’s Theory of Everything band and other solo projects numerous times. Last winter we did a nearly entirely improvised show with Dave Dreiwitz of Ween on bass and Mark Guiliana on drums.
Since 2010, I’ve been in the Jennifer Hartswick Band. We just performed at the Catskill Chill Festival, the Brooklyn Bowl and a few other venues. Jen has a pretty busy schedule with Van Ghost, Trey Anastasio Band and other projects so we don’t get to perform too often. The band is totally killer—Nick Cassarino, Dezron Douglas and Nikki Glaspie. We all have a blast on stage. I’ve also done a few shows with Wyllys and the New York Hustler Ensemble which includes Jen, Natalie Cressman, and other special guests doing live playing over re-edit, new disco, house, electro and ambient records mixed by Wyllys on the turntables. And then there was the Well-Dressed Groomsmen show at a certain friend’s 30th Birthday Celebration…
I’m still looking to perform more of my own music with my favorite musicians. I’ve been fortunate to meet so many mind-blowing ones over the years. Perhaps after this AGP reunion I’ll finally make it happen…
Brendan, when AGP broke up you were in medical school. Are you currently a practicing doctor and, if so, what field did you decide to pursue?
Brendan: I got my M.D. in New York City. I’m currently in my last year of an anesthesiology residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA and will be entering into a fellowship program at the same hospital in pain medicine next year.