An enchanted city, New Orleans effortlessly casts her spell on millions of visitors each year and last night—whether by voodoo magic or cajun spice–she cast her spell on Goose and she cast her spell on me, too. It may have been my first time in The Crescent City but it’s probably not yours so I’ll spare you the Frommer’s guide and get right to it: with the sixth show in eight nights of its Dripfield Fall Tour, the indie-groove jam band from Norwalk, CT dropped a Mt. Rushmore quality show on this reviewer’s list of personal favorites.
In a city known for its easy way of life and unhurried pace, Goose took the stage nearly two hours after doors as slow-gathering patrons leisurely made their way to The Joy Theater. A 20×30 foot stage used to be very hospitable for the rising Connecticut quintet, but with two drum risers and state-of-the-art light rigs that fill most of an 18-wheeler, such is no longer the case. The musicians were literally climbing over gear and equipment to reach their positions on the intimately cramped space, a physical proximity which in hindsight no doubt contributed to the tightness of their jams.
The most crowded spot belonged to multi-instrumentalist Peter Anspach whose five keyboards plus Hammond B3 organ forced the stand holding his Suhr Classic guitar to balance on just two of its three legs. As if he needed more stuff, he lovingly placed the rubber ducky-adorned Mardi Gras beads that awaited him over Luigi’s neck before guiding the band into “Elizabeth”.
Goose – “Elizabeth” [Pro-Shot] – 10/6/22
Ten minutes of fun was followed by ten minutes of introspection as “Travelers” came next with soul-piercing lead guitar and poetic verse courtesy of Rick Mitarotonda and part one of the “Elmeg” suite. It’s funny to think that a song just nine months old has an OG version but “Atlas Dogs” has exactly that after being reworked just a few months after its debut earlier this year. Continuing the theme of contemplative lyrics and now fully locked into the five-as-one mind meld that would begin to pay major dividends by way of live improvisation, the “Atlas Dogs” jam was highlighted by an extended detour through “Greensleeves”. Hearing Mitarotonda’s guitar match the traditional folk song commonly associated with Christmas note for note was quite simply something to behold.
The mood turned light once again as “Earthling or Alien?” brought on the funk, Anspach on the Hohner clavinet and Trevor Weekz on the five-string bass leading the way early as Rick quickly discarded an inflatable alien that made its way to the stage—sorry, no room here—before another guitar solo drenched the room with its incendiary magnitude.
“Turned Clouds” threw a lyrical ode to New Orleans, “Look around this city, you must be out your minds!” as Mitarotonda continued to squeeze note after intoxicating note from his PRS Hollowbody II Piezo. Usually somewhat stoic while he plays, it’s worth mentioning that I’ve never seen the guitarist so engaged physically: hips gyrating, shoulders rolling, knees slapping, and feet tapping, with a cat-that-stole-the-canary ear-to-ear grin to match. Without question, all five guys were at their best last night, but it was Rick’s night, period, stop.
Earlier in the night before the show, drummer/percussionist Jeff Arevalo posed for a picture with merch-man extraordinaire Naveed Quarterman. Wearing a t-shirt that said “All I Naveed”. Jeff exclaimed “This one’s for the internet,” before the band backed him up on stage with the classic jam vehicle “All I Need”. With Peter finally reaching for his shell pink Suhr Classic and challenging Mitarotonda as a two-guitar band, this 15-plus minute jam quickly found notable off-script improvisation of a high-intensity nature.
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Goose would then recap the first set, portend the second, and offer an easy headline by way of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night”, the first such cover dating back to South Farms, CT on 9/17/20, a 119-show gap.
“Butter Rum” kicked things off, if not the best ever then definitely the best since Richmond night two one week hence. One of the shortest songs of the set at just under 15 minutes, Mitarotonda continued to be the story, steadily guided as is often the case by drummer Ben Atkind’s relentless beats and head-scratching fills.
The Brothers Johnson’s “Get The Funk Out Ma Face” then surfaced almost a year to the day since its last outing (10/9/21) with more incendiary two-guitar Goose in tow as Rick again found his dancing shoes while Trevor thumbed his five-string and the band planted an earworm this writer still can’t shake. With high walls closing them in on three sides and the aforementioned tight confines, it seemed at times as if the band was playing inside a diorama. Lighting director Andrew Goedde used that space in a manner reminiscent of the stage production of David Byrne’s Broadway production of American Utopia, utilizing both light and shadow to masterful effect.
Under that spotlight, Goose would then embark on a 40-minute segment that could be my *favorite* stretch of Goose of all time. Recency bias notwithstanding, “Wysteria Lane” was due for a big outing and last night delivered hand-over-fist, with more absolutely explosive two-guitar Goose which, as discussed in a recent review, is often the most challenging and intriguing kind.
Twenty minutes later “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” followed and where better to play it (other than perhaps Mississippi)? Unable to contain himself, Mitarotonda elbowed his way into the first solo and never looked back, an absolutely ballistic jam that bore no resemblance to the Grateful Dead classic from which it was born. There was even a segment at the end that might have been our first-ever look at metal Goose. Arevalo confirmed, “It got heavy. The room was ready for it.” “Your Ocean” then enjoyed its best placement ever, closing the second set proper while continuing the aquatic theme.
Scratched off the handwritten setlist the previous three shows, the band finally delivered “White Lights” in the encore slot. The band members couldn’t not, just as they couldn’t help themselves from taking it deep, off-script, and incorporating a “Loose Ends” jam, the first since Radio City Music Hall (6/25/22) when they were joined for an entire set by that guitar guy from Phish, a set that begat an upcoming eight-show joint tour with the Trey Anastasio Band.
Every now and again a team or an athlete comes along who captures hearts as they defy expectations, perhaps even setting a few records along the way. Following that line of thought, it’s not such a stretch to think that a band of professional musicians might do the same, though it’s often hard to recognize in real-time. Even so, a host of personal factors render the statement every show is the best show since the last show until the next show wholly subjective. It is easier to agree, however, that as the band continues to improve from year to year, tour to tour, and night to night, we still haven’t seen Goose’s ceiling. Currently, that ceiling for me was last night.
Goose returns to The Joy Theater tonight. Find the rest of their upcoming tour information here.
Setlist: Goose | The Joy Theater | New Orleans, LA | 10/6/22
Set One: Elizabeth, Travelers, Atlas Dogs, Earthling or Alien?, Turned Clouds, All I Need -> Wild Night
Set Two: Butter Rum, Get The Funk Out Ma Face, Wysteria Lane, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Your Ocean
Encore: White Lights -> Loose Ends -> White Lights
 Greensleeves jam.
 Van Morrison.
 The Brothers Johnson.
 The Grateful Dead.