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Mission Hill vocalist keeps coming back for the music

| Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vocalist Adam Jensen of the Boston-based band Mission Hill isn't going to run away from his past. When asked if he's glad he left college to pursue a career in music, he quickly says, "I was expelled."

Not once, but twice, he adds.

"After traveling around the world, you come to realize people from the Boston area little bit of their own breed, a bit confrontational," he says, "and it's always kind of gotten me into a little bit of trouble."

Those experiences are in the past, he insists. If Mission Hill's music is any indication, Jensen has found a pursuit that will exhaust whatever miscreant energies that led him astray in the past.

Appearing Thursday at the Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square, the band has a pop-rock sheen that recalls the sound of Matchbox Twenty and the Verve Pipe. But Jensen's lyrics on the band's two releases, "Mission Hill" and "Beautiful Addiction," are far from upbeat.

"I'm a Boston boy, a little rough around the edges, and then I sing these melodic songs," he says. "The subject matter is a little darker than the music."

Jensen started out playing piano -- "I was convinced I was going to be the next Johann Sebastian Bach," he says -- and once came to school in a white wig dressed as the composer. But after seeing Nirvana on MTV's "Unplugged," Jensen turned his focus to rock 'n' roll, teaching himself to play guitar, drums, saxophone and other instruments.

After being asked to leave George Washington University and Northeastern University (he played soccer at both schools, albeit briefly), he formed Mission Hill in 2007. But trouble still managed to find him on occasion. Last year, he was jumped on the way home from a gig, and was recuperating in the hospital with a leg injury when he learned Mission Hill was selected to open for Bon Jovi at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

"It was a little bittersweet for me, because I like to jump around onstage a lot and my leg was injured," Jensen says. "But there was no way I was going onstage on crutches. I didn't care if they had to duct-tape my leg, I was going out there. You can't sit for a show like that."

Then came a most unexpected invitation to perform a monthlong residency at a Hard Rock Cafe. The only problem was the venue was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Jensen isn't quite sure how Mission Hill was selected for the gig, but once the band arrived, it adapted quickly.

"The people of Vietnam, they love music, they love the feel of it and everything about it," he says. "It's a beautiful country. ... People were so nice to us, they treated us like rock stars. We'd walk into the Pizza Hut, and the ladies there would try to feed us pizza."

Jensen's goal is to play whenever and wherever he can. Last year, in addition to playing the Bon Jovi show, they performed at a Boston holiday concert with Keshia and Jason DeRulo.

The next day, the band played a club show for five people.

"Our only goal is to get in front of fans and play," Jensen says. "I think once they hear us, they'll like us."

Additional Information:

Mission Hill

With: Voodoo Babies

When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday

Admission: Free

Where: Hard Rock Cafe, Station Square

Details: 412-481-7625 or website

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