If you are anything like my friends, you probably decided to spend last Thursday drinking instead of going to Toad’s to see Addison Groove Project. And judging from the thin crowd, you did. Who needs culture when you’re wasted?
Well, it’s really too bad, because these six boys from Massachusetts really know how to play their instruments. For two hours, Toad’s was filled with funky saxophone licks, smooth organs, and one killer lead guitar.
The songs all had titles, but it didn’t matter because they were elongated by improvisations, and really the concert was just one long song with pauses in it — which has its pros and cons. On the pro side, it really put these guys’ virtuosity on the front stage. Brendan McGinn had a rock ‘n’ roll style of lead guitar that rivals Elvin Bishop’s. He wailed on his axe like it was a toy he’d been playing with since he was born — and none of those psychedelic scales Phish and Phriends are so phond of. (I’m sorry. I can’t help it.) Dave Adams and Ben Groppe played their alto and tenor saxes in perfect harmony with each other, switching off for solos that rival those of the ’60s funk bands the group is clearly spawned from. The drum and bass didn’t miss a beat, and Rob Marscher filled out the band’s sound with airy keys.
But then of course there is the problem that the audience ends up listening to a two-hour song. Dancing is great, but somehow I feel like AGP is better than just a band you dance to. And for those not dancing, certain themes ended up sounding repetitive. So basically people end up chatting, drinking at a table and using the band as background music. Which is fine — in the framework of their show, they were awesome background music. And even if the band is completely happy with its following — some fans were VERY into them — I just think that the band is selling itself short.
Of course it may not be the band’s fault. If the group puts out good music, that’s what really matters. Maybe it’s the scene’s fault. Everyone has to have a hemp necklace, some sort of relic off Garcia’s body, and a Phish T-shirt. Any group that improvises is immediately thrown into the pen with all the other ones and adulated by high school weekend stoners as the next great “jamband.” But that crowd doesn’t fit the crowd of people who go to jazz joints or James Brown concerts. So why is AGP, a group more influenced by the latter groups, subjected to the same criterion as moe. or Leftover Salmon?
As a critic, I realize I am probably more responsible for such categorizations than anyone else, but at least I am conscious of this fact. If AGP did not have the following it had, it probably would be broke. But the following it does have gives it the stigma of a garage band, not a really good jazz band. Not that they are necessarily a jazz band, but they certainly are not a garage band. In the end maybe it just doesn’t matter. I ended up listening to their music sitting at a table with some friends. Had they been in a garage, I would have done the same; had they been at Birdland, I would have done the same. But I am one person —
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