~Meniscus Archives~
Spring 2005
Issue #7
The Mojo Issue

Issue #7 Home


Hall's Groove Project
Jon Heinrich
As Addison Groove Project moves on with the encapsulated life of John Hall in front of them, they are driven by the memories of his relentless positivity and unceasing commitment to doing what he loved.

DVD Review:
The Ultimate Party Collection
Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused
Chrystie Hopkins
If 1976 was about pot and muscle cars, then 1982 was all about attitude and getting laid. Now available as a set, Dazed and Confused and Fast Times as Ridgemont High make up the ultimate party DVD set.

CD Reviews:
Sound Tribe Sector 9Artifact
Color and TaleaProject Mayhem
Oshe—The Good Book


Hall's Groove Project
Jon Heinrich
Published 3/31/05

Addison Groove Project was all but graduated from college in 2002. One by one, each member achieved the goal they set for themselves and were ready to explode into a national tour-de-funk. But just as they came to the finish line, the excruciating news of bassist John Hall’s critical cancer nearly stopped them in their tracks. But it didn’t.

What could they do but go on? They had no choice and they certainly weren’t going to let John’s illness stop the band cold in its tracks. That would have been worse than getting cancer in the first place, for John. To see his friends’ dreams dwindle away because of him would be unacceptable. Despite a friend and bassist on hiatus, AGP continued to tour. After all, the band was named after Hall’s father, Addison.

It came quicker than anyone thought. On the night of Thanksgiving, November 25, 2005, after spending the day with his family from all over New England, John Hall passed away from cancer at the age of 25. Despite a year and a half battling the disease, Hall would never allow it to be the focus of attention. From his bed, he played an active role in the band’s national tour. His selfless dedication to the band drove every member to constantly keep the temperature rising.

Now, as Addison Groove moves on with the encapsulated life of Hall in front of them, they are driven by the memories of his relentless positivity and unceasing commitment to doing what he loved.

* * *

Prior to the Boston Paradise show...

on February 2, 2005, the opening act, Akashic Record was going through soundcheck, and AGP was back stage relaxing before the show. Rob Marsher’s mom showed up unexpectedly with a birthday cake for the keys player even though his birthday was still a week away. She wanted to be sure and get some time with her favorite keyboardist before the show. That’s not hard to believe, she’s his biggest fan.

The backstage lounge was relaxed as the band prepared for their first Boston gig since John had passed away in late November. Knowing that I was there to talk about John, everyone was very open about their experiences and agreed that we should get together to talk. Now, however, it was time for the show.

That morning, the band arrived from their Burlington show. They spent the last night at the new Higher Ground, celebrating music with old friends. They felt a tremendous welcome from friends of John from Skidmore College—and friends of John’s are friends of yours.

For the first time, people were really starting to talk about John; about his life, his illness and his death. Up until then, it was never a subject of focus. “He never wanted to bring attention to his cancer,” says Marscher. “Now that he’s passed away, we feel more comfortable getting the story out. We know how it ends. We’re really looking forward to letting lose for this show, having a good time with all our friends—not weighed down with eminent questions.”

I could hardly believe the enthusiasm coming from Rob’s lips. Then I realized why it made sense, he and John are not like most people. They spend their lives doing what they love: “All I want to do with my life is have fun and play music. Nothing else matters. This is what I’ve got to do because this is what’s important in my life. I’m not going to get a job that I don’t like, I’m just going to play music,” says Marscher. “I could die tomorrow.”

The last time the band was all together with John was on his 25th birthday, on November 20, 2004. Going into the Boston Avalon show that night, Brendan McGinn on guitar, vocals and trumpet, wondered if he was going to see John again. “I had a sense I might not see him again. Then it was confirmed when I was trying to reach him that week, the week before Thanksgiving.” Brendan reached down to show me the text message on his cell phone. It was his last message from John. “Sorry I’ve been having a rough week,” it said.


What John Was to the Band

It was obvious after talking to the five remaining members of Addison Groove Project, that John Hall was the performer of the bunch. He was always focused on the presentation during shows, served as the emcee between songs and wrote all the setlists before each performance. Rob Marscher, on clavinet, synth and organ, recalls: “He would always remind us to look at and interact with the crowd, he was a leader in that aspect.”

Not only did John constantly work the audience, together with Andrew Keith on drums, he was a solid foundation of the rhythm section. Now that Marscher has stepped in as John’s replacement, playing all the bass lines with his right hand on keys, he has a new found respect for what John provided musically: “I don’t know if it was the head bobbing that he did, but he really held down the groove. He was just like a rock; that was always great to have.”

With a relatively long history for such a young band, the members have become firmly entrenched in each other’s style from years of playing together. After drummer, Andrew Keith, and Hall made their debut playing together for a seventh grade English project, Keith and Hall did a few gigs with McGinn. Keith recalls: “We’d get together with our band and play our favorite tunes. And John from the very beginning brought a real energy. He loved the music we played—you could tell. He always had a sense of performance energy that he really tried to bring to all of us. He always tried to get us to step up to the plate for a gig and encourage us to really rise to the occasion.”

Not only did Hall keep the band focused on playing to the audience, he did so in a very humble manner. Ben Groppe, tenor sax player for the band, says, “He was very unselfish with his playing. He played with a lot of energy to hold down the groove but he’d do it without dressing it up or drawing attention to himself.”

Who better to recognize his humble playing than other bassists? “He would get compliments on that from other musicians all the time. We hooked up with the guys from Big Birth at the Belle Cher music festival in Asheville. After we played, the bass player went right up to John and said ‘you were really driving the band, you really know what you’re doing.”’ Keith added, “it was especially a compliment to John because that bass player was the centerpiece and focus of that band, the musician of that group.” Groppe continued: “I also remember how Beau, Tom and Max [from Uncle Sammy] were really into John’s playing when we were touring with Uncle Sammy. And they had Brian O’Connell in their band—an incredible bass player.”

If other members of the band complained that the crowd wasn’t into it, John would point out that it was their responsibility to read the crowd and get them into it. He would take responsibility for getting the crowd groovin’ to the music. He always engaged the crowd to keep them riled up and looking for more.

A Send Off to Remember
There’s nothing easy about losing a friend. You can not escape the deep hollow feeling in your heart, no matter what you do. The realness of the sensation feels a bit like heartburn, a bit like dehydration, a bit like someone is standing on your chest; and no matter what you do to try and distract yourself, the feeling is ever pervasive. Pain, loneliness, sorrow; you just can’t escape it.

Even though the cancer came quickly and took care of John in just 18 months, the band had long hours on the road to contemplate what all this meant. And it all ended before they even realized it was so serious. Chronic enthusiasts, each band member always felt hope that John would once again join them on tour—to complete once again, the troop of musical evangelists traveling the nation to spread the groove.

Most surprising, was their overwhelming positvity. Not only were they all very optimistic through the struggle, that John would be cured, they were optimistic to the end. Even the day of his funeral, where his soul was put to rest with the aid of 750 people in a grand celebration. People from his elementary school, from college; family and friends from Vermont, members of the church. It was evident how many people he touched. All his friends were together, that’s how John would have wanted it.

John was happy when he died. He knew that he lived life on his terms, exactly as he wanted it. Just like any of us, all of life wasn’t perfect. But John had a remarkable ability to see the glass half-full side, always. He took full responsibility for his own happiness, and tried his hardest to pass that happiness to the revelers in the audience dancing to the searing brass-studded funk streaming from Addison Groove Project’s music.


Where the Groove Project Stands
For the past four years, the band has gone through considerable changes musically, however continually refining the unique sound that sets them apart from the typical jamband. The unique lineup is the beginning of the individuality of this band, with the inclusion of two full time sax players and Brendan’s ability to put his guitar (and voice) down and pick up the trumpet for extended brass sections. The next most noticeable nuance of this Boston funk band is the complex chord progressions composed into the songs. Marsher, on organ, synth and clavinet took his classical training in impressionist composition and weaves an intricate richness deep into the chords of the songs. Sometimes the music frolics like Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun in the mid-day sun, other times it delves deep into a dark mideval labrinth of somber realism. On top of Andrew Keith’s beats, any venue is sure to be filled with dancing feet.

Now that the band is permanently down a bassist, that too adds to the uniqueness of the sound. But their compromise is quite unique. Not only does Marscher play the written bass lines that Hall played, he plays them through Hall’s bass cabinet and amp head. There are still bass strings in the case, Hall’s picture is still on the tour poster. McGinn feels its good to have him around for a bit. “It’s kind of like playing Jimi Hendrix's guitar. There’s a kind of ethermal feeling that’s happening.” Not to mention that the music is a living embodiment of his spirit.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do for tour,” Dave Adams explains. With all the plans in place, and their friend to represent, they knew it had to happen. So Rob learned the bass parts. “He was a savior, it was unbelievable!” remarks Adams. It was a very humble moment for Rob since he now had two parts to play. “But despite his right hand being tied up holding down the written bass lines, verbatim to what John played, he still went off.” Continues Adams: “Rob is the kind of guy that is so excited with every note he plays. It’s a pleasure to listen to him. But without seeing him, you’d never get sense of the music he plays. You’d never guess that such ferocious music comes from such a quiet, soft-spoken person.”

As Adams speaks compassionately about John and his fellow bandmates and what they went through together, his face lights up. It seems this 25-year-old has spent considerable more time smiling than the average person his age. And for a good reason: they bring smiles to thousands of faces with every tour they go on.


With the spirit of John Hall before them, each band member has learned something specific to their own lives:

McGinn realized he needed to take things but a bit more lightly. “We started to go out and have a lot more fun than we were before, we realized what was secondary to some larger things. It turned tour into a much more enjoyable experience, because we’re not taking anything for granted. That really got pushed in our face, and for the best.”

Adams has come to figure out how to love life. Through out the last 18 months, a lot changed for the band. But through it they’ve grown much closer as friends. The level of connection can be heard in their music.

“If I had to point to one concept about John, and his life,” explains Keith “it was his relentless forward motion. No matter what the stakes, he gave it his all, and he wanted people around him to give it their all.”

Ben Groppe agreed, “It was incredible to see him deal with cancer with that same attitude. His family was like that too, so strong, especially his mom. He was so matter-of-fact about his struggles. Even towards the end, he spoke in such a relaxed and straightforward tone. It was so reassuring that John was the same guy even though he looked so different. He was taking it in stride in a way that was so overwhelming.”

For Marscher, it reinforced his belief that you can’t get wrapped up in the little things. “You’ve got to look at what you want to do with your life. I think about how the universe is a billion years old and all the things that had to happen through evolution and natural selection to bring you to this moment where you’re alive. I wonder, maybe your spirit does exist outside of your body, but its not an experience like this, this is totally different.

As John discovered, life is short. You can either guide it or let it guide you. If you don’t take control, you never know where you’ll wind up and you can’t blame circumstance for misguiding you. You must seize the moment, work hard and enjoy life. Which is what John did. Says Brendan: “It was a short life lived well."

Jon Heinrich

John Hall

November 20, 1979 - November 26, 2004

For more info about AGP, check them out at: www.addisongrooveproject.com

To see more of Regan's photos, you can see her work in the Meniscus gallery, or at: www.wondermonkey.net

To see more of Karin Dailey and Jennifer Simon's photography, check out the Meniscus gallery or: www.karindailey.com

Meniscus Magazine © 2005. All material is property of respective artists.