It is no secret that Goose is one of the hardest working bands in the jam scene, but they have also been on the cutting edge of pandemic performances. In recent months, the Connecticut-based group has performed countless socially-distant and drive-in performances at venues such as The Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, Vt. and South Farms in Morris, Ct.
However, even before those types of performances were an option, Goose still found ways to push themselves musically and conceptually while providing live performances for their fans. In June, the band “embarked” on a Bingo Tour; they livestreamed shows from an indoor location during which balls were periodically pulled with prompts such as “20+ Minute Jam,” “no drums” or “take a lap.” In addition, fans played along at home on digital bingo cards, adding another interactive element to the shows. Below, the band–guitarists Rick Mitarotonda and Peter Anspach, bassist Trevor Weekz and drummer Ben Atkind–looks back on the innovative virtual tour.
Let’s get right into the Bingo Tour. I read recently that the idea for the bingo thing predated the coronavirus stuff.
Peter Anspach: I think it was like a band conversation back in like December of last year. I wrote it down in my notes in my phone whenever it came up. So it was like something, something that we were just joking around with back then.
How early on in the lockdown did you guys sort of refit that idea into something to do as a quarantined live tour?
PA: I think it was like sometime in April. In early April we had just done like a few live streams for Live From Out There – we did three of those – and there was a moment where we’re like, ‘Okay let’s do a virtual summer tour,’ and that was kind of brought up and within a span of like, I guess a day or two. Rick and I were talking [about] how we could make this a little bit more fun and interactive and then we both thought, ‘Hey we got this Bingo Tour we thought about doing, we can just call it Bingo Tour and it will be really funny.’
What was the process like for picking the balls? Did you guys just add a bunch of your own – other than the song ones obviously which are sort of obvious but like things like the 20+minute jams or take a lap – stuff like that.
Rick Mitarotonda: Yeah, everyone kinda threw out a bunch of ideas and we kind of just ended up taking the ones that we thought would be the funniest or make the most sense or worked best but everyone kind of like threw out a bunch of ideas for those. There were very long lists of ideas for bingo balls.
PA: Yeah, a lot of them didn’t make it. Haha.
What were some favorites that didn’t make the cut, if you could share?
Ben Atkind: Um, Trevor takes his shirt off.
Trevor Weekz: Yeah. That’s probably it. [Laughs]
What were some of your favorites that did ultimately make the cut? Which ones were you most excited when they got pulled?
BA: A lot of the mystery songs. Those were either new originals or new covers–we had a blast playing most of those.
RM: Rotation jam was definitely fun.
TW: Yeah, that show’s epic.
PA: I like “Take A Lap.”
RM: All the exercise stuff was actually surprising. It kind of like… the jams got pretty interesting, but we weren’t sure how well it was gonna work. It was just… at what point do people not want to watch us. There was something about it; the jams would pick up a ton of energy when we were each taking turns doing push ups or whatever. So yeah, that was definitely a highlight I would say
Well, maybe exercising will become a fixture of shows going forward.
BA: I guess we’ll see.
When you return to a live setting, could the Bingo Balls rear their head?
TW: I’d say definitely. The original idea kind of came about just as like maybe we’ll do a show that way or even just a single set or something like that–and that was kind of the original idea and then we used it for the virtual streams but I definitely wouldn’t rule it out for the rest of time.
RM: Definitely, the Bingo Balls will rear their heads. The Balls will be back, The Balls will return.
Speaking of covers, my entry point to Goose was your cover of Paul Simon’s “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard,” which is not a song that I would expect a jam band to play. You guys have an extremely eclectic and unexpected set of covers, and I’m curious about how you guys go about choosing them or how spontaneous they are. Is it the night of the show, a long-term plan or the mixture of the two?
RM: I think it’s just the group perspective and overlap of taste and things like that. There’s definitely a sense of humor involved in the cover choices in a lot of regard. I feel like there’s a lot of songs that we think are really funny but also really dope, like Kylie Minogue or Pina Coladas [“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”]–like that song’s hilarious but it’s also kind of awesome. But I think that like for the shows, for good shows, there’s this thing where a lot of things are a joke but we also take it seriously. Kind of this hybrid situation.
Yeah that makes a lot of sense. I feel like the cover I think of when you say that is something like your version of “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins. An absolute banger.
RM: [Laughs] I’m glad you get the Loggins.
Oh, yeah. I love that.
RM: Not everyone gets it you know.
He’s got a bunch of great ones.
RM: Oh yeah. Loggins himself is a banger.
True. Another thing I’m always curious about in terms of bands that improvise is when you’re “forced” to jam as it were. You know, a lot of things I love about improvisation is that a jam can kind of just happen at any time, but in the Bingo Tour you obviously had a few different balls that were like “fifteen-minute jam” or “twenty-plus minute jam.” When you are put on the spot like that and know you’re going to be going deep, is there a different mindset you have to tap into for something like that?
BA: I think it totally depends. It’s all about the energy that’s happening. Like whatever song we’re finishing, if we see a plus 20 minute jam, like honestly we could go with anything. We could keep jamming with the same song from there or I know sometimes we just kind of stopped and started up again–it’s really whatever we’re doing. We’ve jammed together enough and we didn’t have to plan anything out there, we knew it would be just whatever we were feeling.
Did you ever find yourselves checking the time?
PA: I was looking at the clock, but the 20 minute jam just ended up being twenty one minutes. At a certain point, I just stopped looking at the clock until it was done and I was like, ‘Oh that was twenty minutes.’ When a twenty-minute jam comes up you just have to put yourself in a certain mindset like, ‘Okay be patient here.’ What happened in that twenty-minute jam segment was pretty unique to what would normally happen out of a song, so I think it was a pretty cool experience.
Going off of that, Ben, you mentioned the energy. How different is it to be playing to no audience? Are you trying to imagine an audience or are you treating it more as a studio jam or rehearsal situation?
TW: I think it has its pros and cons. At live shows we obviously feed off the energy a ton. But in the Bingo Tour format, I don’t know, you can kind of go deeper into the music at times. At least that’s how I felt.
BA: Yeah, we had a small, very close group of friends and band crew and management, so it wasn’t like we were playing to no one. It was really nice having a couple people in the room.
RM: There’s a certain sense of freedom to it, too. Whereas at a show there’s so much energy being propelled from both sides and a crowd full of people who are really fired up and, you know, ready to get their faces melted. That draws a certain energy out of you, and it can be hard to get really still when in that context. So that’s definitely a pro or an interesting difference or advantage to playing in this context. There’s less immediate pull to kind of like pop the top off. We can kind of breathe a little more and explore some quieter, stiller places I guess.
Speaking of audiences looking to get their faces melted, right before quarantine you guys were really on an impressive streak of live performances. I feel like when I see Goose written about or talked about online, it’s a lot about how quickly you guys have risen in the last year or couple of years. I would imagine that it hasn’t felt as quick from your perspective.
BA: It definitely hasn’t felt quick. I mean, the rapid growth has felt quick, but it was really crazy because we’d have some rises but it was a really, really slow process, and then all of a sudden we just hit that turning point and everything changed. So like, when I think about the amount of things that have happened in the last year alone, it’s kind of crazy to think about. But it’s not like we just all of a sudden got there–there were years of grinding and everything to get there. It doesn’t feel as quick as it probably seems to other people.
PA: Those pinch me moments, especially for me, were when we were in the middle of Fall Tour last year and upcoming shows were starting to sell out as the fall was progressing. We weren’t sure about [the January New York shows] because we had just played Halloween in New York City and we were like, “Wow should we really go back in three or four months–it seems too soon.” And they both sold out in less than a minute and it was kind of like, “Who are all these people?” It was definitely a huge pinch-me moment right there that something serious was happening. Just getting to play the shows was like… you know, we’re very fortunate especially in this time. We’re very grateful that happened and all that jazz, but yeah, it’s definitely a pinch me moment.
RM: There’s like a ton of moments now, because there’s a lot of developmental things that we sort of skipped over, by the nature of how things happened. Mainly, barely being able to put like 45 people in a 150 person capacity venue in New Haven and our next show in New Haven’s probably going to be… I don’t even know how many people are gonna be there but it’s not going to be 150, you know. So, there’s a lot of instances of like, “Oh, wow, we’re going to go play a huge room in some city where the last time we played there it was 10 people there.” There’s a lot of this processing and I feel like the last couple months that process changed more so than while it’s happening.
You mention the covers are from the overlap of taste; I’m curious, who are some of your most listened to artists, who do you take cues from?
RM: Alright, you know, I think, there’s sort of different overlaps in different areas. You know, Ben and I for example, our first favorite band was probably The Dave Matthews Band. Right Ben?
BA: Yeah, oh yeah.
RM: He’s a big Carter Beauford fan, I listened to a ton of Dave Matthews when I was younger. There’s a lot of cool stuff there – that was kind of off the bat when we started playing together, that was sort of the common vibe or common thread, common interest. Also, on that note like, the whole like Medeski Martin Woods Scofield type scene, that type of stuff. All those guys are something that we definitely connect over and very much common ground. And then, you know obviously, growing up we all–or at least Trevor, Peter, and I–went to a lot of Phish shows. Now Ben’s fully on the train and wasn’t at first.
BA: Yeah, they got me.
RM: Yeah, Phish and Dead and stuff is common ground for us growing up where we did, so that stuff is sort of a given. But then, Peter and I are really interested in a lot of indie songwriters and folk, more modern stuff which I didn’t even get into until relatively recently…past five or six years or so. And that’s kind of been a huge influence in that time. Then, you know Trev just cranks mad psych-trance and lays down fat beats ,which is dope.
Is there anything else you guys wanted to highlight from the tour or speak on?
BA: I think a big thing, we all definitely would like to thank and re-appreciate our management and team and everyone working on this. Music aside, the whole Bingo Tour, the whole production team–those guys absolutely destroyed it, so we’ve been really fortunate to be with the best team possible during this team.
PA: And also a shoutout for fans getting involved in such an experimental thing, we had like over 4,000 people tuning in pretty much each night so just having that much support, you know, when you’re not actually physically with people is, it made it what it was which was a super special experience for everybody.
RM: And people just trusting us; we’re like “Bingo Tour!” – we didn’t say too much about it – everyone’s like what the hell is this but everyone just got involved anyway, we definitely appreciate that.