Lights are dim, the stage is empty. Club music booms from the house speakers. The boozers booze; the crooners croon; the bartenders, with their end-of-the-night eyes, stare blankly at a thinning crowd. It’s nearly last call, but the boys from Addison Station are ready for the night after a successful and surprisingly amusing show at Up or On the Rocks in downtown Hartford, CT. They mingle, exchanging momentary glances with the ladies of the crowd, down a bottle each and smile in each other’s direction: good set.
“Addison Station: A Linguistic Acoustic Mix of Altruistic Narcissistic Makers-of-Music. We do some bee-boppin’, some hip-hoppin’ and some jam rockin’. Also, if we pine to, we'll give you something to dine to and play our ballads instead.” A catchy business card, for sure, and it explains this local two-man band to perfection.
With a mix in musical influences like Jason Mraz, The Lonely Island, Counting Crows and Flight of the Concords, you can imagine the type of attitudes these guys must carry. If you guessed that they’re witty, pensive and shameless, you’d be two-thirds correct – less so on the pensive, but not because they’re stupid. These guys actually put a lot of thought into their music, but it comes from a passion they know so well that it goes beyond deliberate thought and straight to a comfortable pre-knowledge.
Jeff Kenniston and Trent Gerbers, the 23-year-old men of Addison Station, provide a smooth instrumental blend for their audiences’ auditory pleasures, Kenniston on keyboard, guitar and back-up vocals and Gerbers on lead vocals, then garnished with harmonica and the occasional beatbox. “We play whatever we feel comes across to most effectively bring about a positive reaction from listeners,” Kenniston explained.
Semi-regulars to pubs and clubs, Addison Station find themselves playing in the same types of venues, frequenting the downtown Hartford scene and New London and Torrington hotspots. “We’re always looking to expand to other markets,” Kenniston said. “We've only been playing together as ‘Addison Station’ since January, so we're just putting our toes in the water and seeing which places work for us.”
Audiences are catching on, no matter where they play, and the tone is set in the first few songs. “We always encourage [audience participation] – although it is more prevalent at smaller venues, where we are more physically connected to the audience and can get right in their faces. Just the other night in Niantic, we had an audience member sing a song to his girlfriend while I played, and also had a girl play [Jason Mraz’s hit] ‘I'm Yours’ on the piano with us,” Kenniston said. “We love it when everyone gets involved.”
Though it’s difficult not to get involved in the music when Kenniston and Gerbers set up songs like “Lost and Found” with a story about one of the member’s most memorable one-night stands, joking that “ We all have them at least once,” and they’re hard to forget. The song describes the awkward search for underwear and other belongings strewn across the floor and around the apartment, and the smirks on the faces of numerous audience members prove that the storytellers are right – most of us know exactly how that search goes down.
So they tell stories and try to relate their music to audience members. What else describes a typical show for Addison Station? “Generally, a lot of things like that. We never make a set list, so we just gauge what we play based on what we think the audience wants to hear – if people are dancing, we'll play something to dance to; if people are chillin’, we'll play something to chill to. We try to take requests, and are consciously making an effort to highlight our original music and avoid the typical bar-band scene,” Kenniston joked while poking fun at the typical Bon Jovi, “Livin’ on a Prayer” cover bands. “Or set is currently very cover-laden,but we're trying to network with prominent local original artists.”
Jokes aside – or rather, not at all – I asked Kenniston and Gerbers about their pre- and post-show traditions. “We have one,” Kenniston cautioned. “It’s called the ‘Nutsack Award.’” Only imagining what this could possibly lead to, donning a puzzled look on my face, Kenniston humored me with an explanation. “We decide who fucked up the most during the show, and they get the ‘Nutsack Award’ until the next show.”
Classy, as is to be expected from Addison Station, but they don’t let their positions as musicians stifle their crude humor. They let those positions help that humor flourish, even barraging each other with insults before shows. “I honestly tell Trent I hate him at least four times a day, and vice versa,” Kenniston laughed. “But he knows I mean it with the utmost respect.” On top of that, nerves are rarely an issue with these jokesters, and you’ll never see Kenniston or Gerbers choke-up in front of a crowd.
Kenniston wanted everyone to know that he has worn the same pair of jeans to every Addison Station show thus far, and that the two are “huge patrons of local hot dog stands.” He also wanted everyone to know that you can catch Addison Station’s next set at The Federal in downtown Hartford on Saturday, April 4th. Be sure to stop in for their soothing ballads, or perhaps their musical antics – set starts at 9 p.m., and though I’m sad to say you won’t hear any Bon Jovi, according to Kenniston, they “go all night.” Delicious.