Great Blue opened a five-show mini-tour on Tuesday at MilkBoy in Philadelphia, an absolute heater in every sense of the word from the sold-out room that was easily above 90 degrees thanks to the jam-funk coming from the intimate stage.
In a recent interview with Live For Live Music, Peter Anspach of Goose spoke about Great Blue, the band he formed with his buddies back in high school, “There’s so much youthful energy in the music. Just awesome, hilarious stuff and that always comes back when I play with those guys so they’re always really, really fun shows.” The energy coming from the stage was infectious and the crowd responded in kind, lending the room an air of careless fun, the innocent good times of a youth fondly remembered except the experience was colored with the maturity of knowing now what I didn’t know then.
To have seen this show firsthand, it became plainly obvious that these guys spent their childhood writing the dreams that played out last night in a sweltering Philadelphia loft. The cramped stage was set up with Ethan Michael and Peter Anspach both sharing guitar/keyboard/vocal duties with Ethan stage left and a shared Nord between him and Peter to his left. Bassist Seth Zucker (bass/vocals) was stage right, only 15 feet between him and Ethan with drummer Nick Hanna packed in behind.
Heat was the order of the day, from the music to the temperature as the band would open with the original “Lily’s Tiger”, a song written by Great Blue and borrowed on occasion by Goose. At the song’s conclusion, Peter Anspach half-heartedly searched for a towel that never appeared as he gave in to the sweat dripping from his glasses which were already fogged over with heat. By the time a Nick Hanna drum fill sparked a fiery Anspach guitar solo in the following “Together Not The Same”, the drummer had already abandoned his shirt as long wet hair draped his bare back. “Tokyo Jazz Fest” saw the dueling guitarists dancing face to face, as they would regularly throughout the evening. Short bass and drum solos were, in turn, reeled back in by Peter as the quartet hit the night’s first of many major peaks.
“Doc Brown”, written by Great Blue and also played in Goose’s regular touring rotation, enjoyed a psychedelic start under swirling lights before ferocious jams settled back into a bass-induced reggae groove. As “Sunflower” segued into “Rogue II”, it occurred to me that Peter’s high school friend Ethan Michael is likely both his dance teacher and his spirit animal. “Butterflies” then saw its live debut after the prior day’s studio release.
Everyone in the room was all-in, most especially the band and its two leading personalities on guitar who took segments of the ensuing “Lion” while lying on their backs and enticing the crowd to do the same. “Can’t Have Both” preceded a dark and evil “Pancakes”, another song to recently migrate into Goose’s catalog amidst much fanfare. “Troll” made a sandwich with “The Whales”, a song highly familiar to Goose fans yet completely new under a darker and more aggressive arrangement. The band then checked off the latter half of the previous day’s live studio release with “Blue Marbles”.
“Jeff Engborg” is both a person and a song and this version–familiar to Goose fans after debuting on this year’s winter tour alongside “Pancakes”–was both old and new as it unveiled a segment that made it feel fresh and exciting. Be sure to file this one under porno funk on your favorite Boogie Nights playlist.
Great Blue – “Jeff Engborg” – 5/17/22
[Video: Marc Komito]
“Time To Flee” gave the crowd another reason to let the sweat fly as the room had long ago given in to their perspiration-soaked shirts and the throwback feel of the packed club, but the heat was oppressive and the night was nearing its conclusion. Too tight to leave the stage and return for an encore, the band announced just one more song, changing its mind on the fly as Great Blue took flight to deliver an out of this world cover of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Around The World” with Ethan Michael nailing Anthony Kiedis’ lead vocals, and in proper style, too, as he kicked, flailed, and gesticulated in a manner that would surely do Mr. Kiedis proud.
Great Blue – “Around The World” (Red Hot Chili Peppers) – 5/17/22
[Video: Marc Komito]
This was my first Great Blue show and as an avowed fan of both Goose and Peter Anspach, I confess to having set the bar uncomfortably high. Great Blue, however, was prime to the task, delivering a Ferrari while I was expecting a Mustang. Kudos to the band and audience for keeping the pedal to the metal and never letting go. Find information about Great Blue’s four remaining shows here, which include a Thursday set Dome Fest in Legend Valley, OH. Scroll down to check out a gallery of images from Tuesday’s show courtesy of photographer Jordan August.
Setlist: Great Blue | MilkBoy | Philadelphia, PA | 5/17/22
Lily’s Tiger, Together Not The Same, Tokyo Jazz Fest, Doc Brown, Sunflower (Vampire Weekend) > Rogue II, Butterflies, Lion In The Grass, Can’t Have Both, Pancakes, Troll > The Whales > Troll, Blue Marbles, Jeff Engborg, Time To Flee, Around The World (Red Hot Chili Peppers)