Keeping the Music — And the Party — Alivetesttest
Five years after they last played together, Power Movement Project sounds sharp. In practice at bassist Marc DeRusso’s Annapolis home, their hip-hop rock fused with reggae undertones shakes the house and booms down the street.
DeRusso slaps and taps out punchy bass lines to hold down the bottom end of their sound. Keyboardist Jeremiah Read wields dual keyboards, one hanging over the other. Switching from space tones to an organ to the classic grand piano, Read keeps it interesting over Jeff Thompson’s crunchy guitar and Brooke Maynard’s flowing rap.
It’s not just a Thursday night jam session for these guys. Power Movement Project has a comeback show on the horizon. The group reunites for one night only on July 30, at The Whiskey in Annapolis.
The Show That Never Was
“We’re trying to keep the music alive and party with our friends,” Thompson says.
“I’m pretty sure they’re going to pack it,” says Joe Hauser, friend of the band and unofficial roadie. “I know all my friends are going. A couple groups are taking party buses there. One bus is like 50 people. And that’s just one group.”
For PMP fans, it’s been a while.
The band ended its performing days on a nondescript night at Back Booth in Orlando, Fla. The guys could barely conjure up the name of the venue for their last stand, but that next day stands out in their minds as the end of PMP.
The group split up into two cars for the trek north to Atlanta for the next night’s show. Thompson got a head start on the drive. The rest of the guys brought up the rear — until they hopped on the wrong road.
When the gaff was realized, Read and Thompson were two hours outside Atlanta. There was no way the rest of the band would make it to the show in time.
“In seven years we had never missed a show,” Thompson says.
After that, the band lost its power. Within a month, the members had scattered from their Daytona Beach base to begin new lives.
Music took a backseat for the next five years. Playing in a band wasn’t paying the bills, and travel was draining. DeRusso was a newly married man and Thompson was engaged.
“I stayed with them in Florida at one point,” says Hauser, the fan. “Florida’s so spread out. There’s a lot of shows to play but a lot of traveling.”
“We just had to focus on life,” Read says.
Read and Thompson moved back to Maryland to try their hands at normal lives. Read now works as a logistics specialist for the federal government. Thompson owns an All State insurance agency in Severna Park.
DeRusso tried Fort Lauderdale before returning to Maryland and joining the family business at Beltway Transportation Services as a fleet manager.
Vocalist Brooke Maynard eventually returned to Maryland. He works as a leasing consultant for town home communities in Severna Park.
Vocalist Monique Vieras and drummer Kurt Deninger headed to California.
Deninger moved to Los Angeles to pursue music. He plays in three bands while working at a drum shop on Hollywood Boulevard.
Vieras is the nomad of the group, bouncing across the country and the globe chasing her musical dream. She lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., playing gigs throughout the state. Twice she made it to the Hollywood stage of American Idol.
“Chick’s a free spirit,” DeRusso says.
With dispersion and new commitments, Power Movement Project wasn’t likely to be firing up the amps again.
Dusting off the Cobwebs
Until the first month of a new decade.
Casual phone calls between Thompson in Severna Park and Deninger in L.A. floated the idea of a reunion show.
The idea gained traction with the other members. Then local band Grilled Lincolns put the plan into motion.
As fans of PMP, The Grilled Lincolns asked The Whiskey owner Mike Hearne to set up a show.
Hearne had no problem with offering his 300-person club to a band that hadn’t played in five years. He had, he says, “Total faith. The Grilled Lincolns know the scene well. They understand the economics of a show and what needs to be done to make money.”
PMP sealed the deal with a guarantee.
“Dude if you give us this night, we’ll sell it out,” Hearne reports hearing.
So far, the band has been as good as its word. “It was almost sold out a couple days ago,” Hearne says.
Practice started seven weeks ago to get the band back into the groove and to overcome a few obstacles.
In Annapolis, DeRusso jams on bass with his brother-in-law on drums.
Others had to shake off the rust.
Thompson has a home recording studio, but between his job and his newborn, it had been a while since he picked up a guitar. Read rarely touched his keyboards, and Maynard lost his voice.
A self-described live artist, Maynard says singing over beats in a studio is a turnoff. Back with the band, he picked it right up. “Damn, I even forgot I could be that creative,” Maynard says.
They’d played their catalogue of songs hundreds of times during their seven-year run, but it took weeks to nail down their old jams. Sure enough, they hadn’t lost it.
“We played those songs so many times they’re engrained in our skulls,” Read says.
PMP’s other obstacle is practicing without Deninger and Vieras, who won’t hit town until days before the show.
Without a drummer, the guys had to get creative. Thompson programs electronic beats into a drum machine that fills in for Deninger. Steadman, as he’s called, can’t compare to the rattle and bang of a real drum kit, but he’ll have some role in the show.
Maynard is Vieras’ fill-in during practice, singing both parts.
“We’ll have all the music laid down,” DeRusso said. “With a little bit of luck, Deninger and Vieras can jump right in.”
Power Movement Project formed in 1999 from high school bands.
The band played the Baltimore/D.C. club circuit, garnering fans and gaining steam in their ascension to the upper echelon of the Maryland music scene. PMP frequented places like Sonar, Black Cat and 8x10, as well as The Whiskey’s former occupant, the Crab Cake Factory.
The band made its mark at Coconuts in Crofton, where they played every Wednesday night for two summers.
“We took it from the slowest night of the week to the busiest night of the week,” Thompson says.
“And got paid well,” Read adds.
“We did everything ourselves, like guerillas,” Thompson says.
For the most part, the group managed themselves, booking and promoting shows. They also recorded and self-released two full-length albums, Self and Belief Upon Arrival.
When there were no shows on their schedule, the guys got creative and put on their own concerts at Deninger’s house in Bowie, charging $10 a head.
“We threw local commercials on Comcast. That’s something I really hang my hat on,” Thompson says. “We found ways to get stuff done.”
“They were doing a service for us, playing live music when there weren’t many local bands in Annapolis,” says Hauser.
By 2004, Power Movement Project felt ready for the world.
“If we stayed here, we were going to stay in that stagnant motion,” Read says, of the band’s mass move to Daytona Beach. “What better place to do it than where it’s warm and on the beach?”
For exactly two years Power Movement Project lived together, working to pay the bills and playing all around Florida.
At the same time, PMP’s popularity grew at home. The band’s heyday coincided with the MySpace boom. The social networking site made it easy for people to find bands on the Internet. PMP set up its own profile page, posting music and information. The band was more accessible than ever, despite the distance, and they thrived.
“That whole MySpace thing for us was huge,” Thompson says. “Right place, right time. We really utilized that.”
Then it all fell apart.
For now, July 30’s show seems like a one-off gig.
“As of right now, it’s one and done,” Thompson says. “But we never thought we’d do this in the first place.”
On the other hand, Maynard thinks getting up on stage, seeing the crowd and how they feed off of the music might bring back that old itch.
“I always thought there would never be a last show,” Hauser says. “Hopefully something will happen and there will be more to come.”