Live Review: Goose @ 9:30 Club — 3/1/22

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Rick Mitarotonda leads Goose on the first of back-to-back sold-out nights at 9:30 Club on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Few endeavors can be as damning out of the gate as charting the course of a jam band, a breed of live and recorded music that has — whether right or wrong — earned itself a preconceived reputation.

But take stock of the group that wears that tag like a badge of pride in grabbing the whole scene right by the short and fluffies.

Behold: Goose.

A sonically explorative, party-starting outfit that has skyrocketed in popularity in just a few years’ time, Goose is comprised of a group of five longtime comrades and musicians from Norwalk, Connecticut, where the group got its start back in 2014 after years of listening to music and attending shows together in and around NYC.

Led by a bright and breathtaking guitarist in Rick Mitarotonda, Goose toured relentlessly in its early day, and these improvisational gurus credit a tight group of friends/fans back home for believing in and encouraging them through the early years of evolution, which included some lineup adjustments and in 2016 produced the band’s first studio album, Moon Cabin. A lasting work by any standard, it’s one that’s particularly impressive as a first addition to the jam band lexicon, marked by thoughtful, dynamic compositions and articulate, exact bursts of combined instrumentation.

Since the beginning, Rick’s been flanked by cleverly funky bassist Trevor Weekz and drummer Ben Atkind, whose background in jazz helps gives Goose its audibly sharp character at any pace. With the addition of the neighborly guitarist and keyboardist Peter Anspach in 2017, Goose’s core was formed, and the group was on the road maniacally in the years leading up to the pandemic. Goose needed not release another actual studio album in that time, but by grinding along, it cultivated a nationwide following, with the defining moment considered the band’s acclaimed appearance at Peach Fest in 2019.

Watch Goose’s key appearance at the 2019 Peach Fest in Scranton via YouTube.

Instead of being thwarted by lockdown, Goose thrived in it. The group stayed busy behind the scenes, keeping its goals in mind and catching up on a long list of to-dos, which also resulted in a few live recordings and in 2020 the addition of percussionist Jeff Arevalo, who’d for years made music with members of the band in some form.

Goose used time that would’ve otherwise been spent touring to create their second studio album — Shenanigans Nite Club, released last June. The record came to life in unconventional fashion, with recordings taking place in different settings and over time. Goose made its way back out on the road, spring of 2021 as part of the Showtime at the Drive-In series in Frederick.

And they began selling out shows, regularly, as word spread quickly about the band’s vivid, wildly exciting live shows and their ability to coax the dance out of the most lifeless ticketholder. In fact, Goose sold out all the shows on its fall 2019 tour.

In late February of this year, the band played an arena for the first time, selling out the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun — an amazing achievement for a band at this stage.

Stream Goose’s 2021 studio album, Shenanigans Nite Club, via Spotify:

Last week, Goose landed in DC for two sold-out nights at 9:30 Club on March 1 and 2 — just a pair of dates on yet another all sold-out tour that’s seen the band performing all over the country since January. On the first of those two nights, fans — some seasoned, some newer to the music — were packed wall to wall, on all levels, as the V Street venue would pulsate for three hours across two intense sets, plus an encore squeezed in just before midnight.

Pulling from its two studio albums — a third, titled Dripfield, will drop in June — as well as the overall live songbook and serving up a few select, informing covers, Goose appeared diligent, steadfast, and professional in tightly weaving together what amounted to two 90-minute voyages. It would have made a conclusive case to any old-school jam curmudgeon that this squad really doesn’t need to be likened to anyone else so much as it needs to be celebrated for stepping into the unrestricted space carved out by some of the bands before it, and filling it with passion, artistry, and perseverance. To show for it: the band’s growing following.

Watch the official music video for Goose’s new 2022 single, Dripfield, via YouTube:

“GOOOOOSE!” bellowed from the audience all night at 9:30 Club, even well before the band even took the stage as fans giddily clutched tour posters or records, exchanged stories about past shows or bragged about the number they’d attended.

And the first set opened explosively with a cover of “Liza Jane,” originally done by Sherman Clay & His Orchestra. This selection immediately revealed the group’s intent to inspect a range of ground with the inevitable goal of coaxing all present to boogie with all their might, the cosmically tuned sound of Mitarotonda’s Paul Reed Smith already amplified and each member of the band comfortable meandering on his own to enrich the character of the presentation by the second. Any casual onlooker would have recognized from afar these were musicians who’d been at this for some time, their level of synergy rising high to become a motor of sorts.

“Drive,” a track lasting nearly 30 minutes on one of Goose’s outstanding live recordings, was a wild, epic, treacherous jam at 9:30 Club, one that saw the group blend its interplay faster, with poise and precision as the packed house seemed to get exactly what it came for — a reason to groove. “Drive” segued directly into a big-band charged take on “Travelers,” followed by a rubbery, insatiable reggae tune, “Doc Brown,” and then a version of “Old Man’s Boat” with some of Trevor’s sexiest bass lines of the night and charming vocals from Rick.

The band premiered a song not yet played live, “California Magic,” a track lifted by a gorgeous organ swell from Peter over on the right side, and then closed out the set with one of their most loved tunes, “Madhuvan,” a jam classic from Shenanigans Nite Club. The gorgeous collective vocals, the pair of howling guitars, and tender piano floated adjacently made for an unforgettable set cap as folks all the way in the back responded physically to this music.

Stream Goose’s live album recorded in Denver in November 2021 via Spotify:

The second set — which would appropriately stop for just a brief moment as a member of the audience seemed to experience a non-life-threatening medical situation — would build upon the first, as an eager band showed not only its polished skill but its wit. A “Ghostbusters Theme” tease might have been heard to kick off “Into the Myst,” a journey emphasized by pounding drums and ranging percussion — Jeff even threw a left elbow into his gong.

Covering “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, Goose showed their ability to sustain a good time for the long haul, as this underappreciated classic bounced and twisted with undeniable optimism and funk-soul reimagined all before an eye-pleasing stage light exhibit.

A wistful edition of one of Goose’s hits, “Wysteria Lane,” carried into another ambitious jam, “Your Ocean,” highlighted by fetching surf rock accents, light hi-hat action and fluttering piano that built to a powerful finish. In marking the important holiday that was National Pancake Day, Goose closed the second set with an anticipated cover of “Pancakes” by Great Blue, a band Peter helped lead for years before joining Goose.

The encore, while certainly further reason to let loose, was yet another example of Goose’s dynamism, as a thick, edgy “Doobie Song” worked its way from Caribbean vibes to a monstrous, towering jam. Those who’d missed out on tickets for Night 2 began asking around, for the fear of missing out had set in.

Quiet and focused for most of the night, Rick eventually had to comment on the entertaining scene playing out before him.

“This is fucking great,” he smiled. “I love DC.”

This is not a band succumbing to or being stifled creatively by any uninvited comparisons. Rather, all signs point to Goose as having a sense of responsibility to keep its sound fresh and thriving as the band members carve out their own unique avenue within what appears to be a young but growing community of supporters hoping to join the ride.

Set 1
Liza Jane
Drive
Travelers
Doc Brown
The Old Man’s Boat
California Magic
Madhuvan

Set 2
Into the Myst>
I Wish
Wysteria Lane>
Your Ocean
Pancake

Encore
Doobie Song

Here are images of Goose performing at 9:30 Club in Washington DC on March 1, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.

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