June 12th, 2021 will live forever in Goose lore. Sometimes the moment is too big for words. Here’s to hoping these come close, but knowing that they won’t.
Goose returned to Connecticut on Saturday night for a sold out homecoming in New Haven, just 30 miles from Wilton High School where the gallinaceous gaggle made their childhood nest. Mother Nature has taken the term water fowl a little too seriously as of late, and a shift in the forecast that brought unexpectedly pleasant early summer weather gave fans a chance to root down and get ready for the evening’s shenanigans in the adjacent parking lots pre-show. With showtime nearing and a palpable excitement in the air, the ravenous crowd filed into the friendly confines of the converted tennis center that is the Northeast’s newest sanctum for jam bands and one just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was shaping up to be one of *those* nights.
Coming off the previous night’s Leg Two tour opener in Shwanzey, NH in which the ultimate hard curfew literally pulled the plug on the “Slow Ready” closer, the band took the stage with a bit of good humor, teasing the previously aborted tune with a “Slow” fake out before launching into a rowdy “Me & My Uncle”. Being able to spread one’s wings and get down with an abundance of space at a sold out concert is a pandemic gift of infinite delight and visibly appreciative fans were making the most of what may be their last crack at socially distant pod seating. Add in soft turf floors with perfect sightlines and sound and Westville Music Bowl was already the rowdiest shindig in town, even before “Flodown” ushered in the hoedown in earnest. As Peter Anspach and Rick Mitarotonda passed lead vocals back and forth on characteristically excellent versions of “The Whales” and “Honey Bee”, the familiar bass slap of “Yeti” arrived to whip the crowd into another frenzy.
A true once in a lifetime moment followed as Peter asked, “Where is section 221? I’m looking for Becca and Brendan. Becca has something she wants to ask you, Brendan.” While the crowd clearly couldn’t hear the words of Becca’s proposal, the kiss and hug that followed made it pretty obvious … he said, “YES!!!!” as the newly engaged couple was cheered by 3,000 of their newest friends.
This band is really at the point right now where every song is in the conversation for best ever and the best show is the one you’re at. Well, no doubt this was Becca and Brendan’s best show ever, but just in case there was any lingering doubt about that fact, Peter dedicated “Seekers On The Ridge” to the happy couple. Goose is more than just a party. With a growing fanbase that truly loves and respects one another and a band that doesn’t abide by the physical boundary between the audience and the stage, there is something special underfoot in El Goose. Add songs like “Seekers” that can rise to the emotional weight of moments like this, and Goose’s upward trajectory truly has no bounds.
A 21-minute “Madhuvan” followed, the first since the release of Shenanigans Nite Club, and while the ten-minute studio track is perfect as-is, the extra 11 minutes before set break are where this song continues to evolve and find its unique signature. Certainly last night’s version will stand up to the most scrutinous analyst, junior or otherwise.
Goose – Set One – Westville Music Bowl – New Haven, CT – 6/12/21
[Video: Marc Komito]
“Fish In The Sea” opened the Herculean second set that may forever stand up as one of my favorite sets of Goose ever. Debuted as “Mystery Song #4” during Bingo Tour last summer, this was just the fourth ever cover of the song by Fat Freddy’s Drop’s that had the crowd in an easy funk/jazz/disco induced Soul Train groove.
“Earthling Or Alien”, another newish tune debuted on 11/6/20 at South Farms, this was one for the record books. Already several feet deep into the cowfunk, the band brought out longtime friend/publicist/junior analyst Greg Knight for a freestyle rap. While it may not historically rise to the level of Jay-Z with Phish, it certainly didn’t feel any different in the moment, and major props to Greg for completely owning his minute in the spotlight. Getting loose with the Goose will be rattling around my cage for some time, as will the memory of the crowd losing their collective shit as confused fans scrambled to figure out the identity of the *famous* rapper on stage.
A proper “Jive I” kept audience energy peaking, even if fan-favorite and much more rare “Jive Lee” was cut from the band’s handwritten setlist. (Tracking “Jive II” and “Jive Lee” cross-outs would be an interesting game if some overzealous fan ever felt like tracking such a thing.) It feels odd to say that a 12-minute song was short and to the point, but the compact “Tumble” that followed was perfect for the spot and left nothing on the table.
Not every band has a white whale–you know, the one song that everyone’s chasing–but for those who do, simple mention of such raises the hair on people’s arms. I recently had the chance to interview Jon “Coach” Lombardi, stage manager and one of Goose’s founding fathers, and we spoke about “Factory Fiction” in detail.
A Vasudo original, it’s only been played four times ever by Goose, but even that stat is misleading since only one of those was in front of ticketed fans. After having been shelved by Vasudo, the first playing was years later at Pic and Jess’s wedding; then, 174 shows later, there was a dedication for Coach’s birthday on June 2, 2018 at The Octave in Covington, KY. A year, three months, and 111 shows later, it surfaced again, another private performance at Coach and Bonnie’s wedding in September 2019. It resurfaced again almost another year later, this time at Bingo Tour, with thousands of fans tuned in virtually but none in the house. So while it’s been played four times, fans without wedding invitations or all-access passes have really only had a single opportunity to have seen this song live. When I asked Coach to speculate the odds of seeing “Factory Fiction” surface in the near future, what started with “10,000-1” ended with him telling me to “put my money elsewhere.”
There is a definite thought process to keeping things special, and Coach and I specifically discussed what the room would feel like when the first familiar notes of “Factory Fiction” rang out. I wish I could really tell you what it was like, but words are no match for the still-lingering goosebumps and the forever-memory of being front row center when it happened. The crowd gasped and screamed their lungs out, and for newer fans who might have known neither the song nor the history, I have to imagine this one just felt a little different, because, well, it was. For those wives (mine) and moms (also mine) who’ll never understand why we need to see every show, “Factory Fiction” is why. Sixteen minutes of heart-attack-inducing perfection, the band understanding exactly the euphoria they provided before they took their encore leave with a heartfelt “Thank you, New Haven.” One of these days I’ll circle back and let you know how it felt from their side of the stage, as well.
Goose – “Tumble” > “Factory Fiction” – New Haven, CT – 6/12/21
A few short moments and effusive thanks from Peter later, the “Slow Ready” yam that followed was almost a foregone conclusion. Having reached legendary status under the gaze of Andrew Goedde’s lasers at Halloween 2020, after Friday’s abrupt pulling of the plug and the “Slow” fakeout that opened tonight’s instant classic, this enthusiastic jam/pop/dance tune was the perfect ending to the perfect show.
In addition to being one of the lucky few who get to recount these nights for history, I am also an unapologetic fan. As such, there is no hesitation in saying that the second set rises to the top of the heap as my personal favorite set of Goose. Without a doubt, this was the best show since the last show, until the next show. See ya at tonight’s victory lap.
Goose – Set Two – Westville Music Bowl – New Haven, CT – 6/12/21
[Video: Marc Komito]
Full audio, with thanks to Z-Man.
Goose – Westville Music Bowl – New Haven, CT – 6/12/21
Setlist: Goose | Westville Music Bowl | New Haven, CT | 6/12/21
Set One (7:10pm–8:26 p.m.): Me and My Uncle (John Phillips) (1), Flodown, The Whales, Honeybee, Yeti, Seekers on the Ridge Part 1 (2) > Seekers on the Ridge Part 2, Madhuvan (3)
Set Two (8:48–9:43 p.m.): Fish in the Sea (Fat Freddy’s Drops), Jive 1, Earthling or Alien (4), Tumble > Factory Fiction
Encore (9:55–10:00 p.m) : Slow Ready (Reprise)
(1) Slow Ready tease in intro
(2) Becca proposed to Brendan prior to Seekers
(3) Secret Agent Man teases
(4) Greg Knight on vocals during interlude