Concert Review: Goose Earns Its Indie-Groove Wings
By Paul Robicheau
Goose has seen its stock in the jam-band world soar at a pace unseen since… well, Phish.
The line stretched around the corner for blocks, forcing a lot of fans to miss the start of the first set. Others got in early to hoist microphones in the tapers’ section, even though the band posts live recordings online.
The buzz surrounding the sold-out opening night of Goose’s spring tour at Roadrunner on Thursday reminded of an early ’90s Phish show even before the Norwalk, Conn., quintet began to play. It was the group’s first local headlining date since a 2019 gig at the Middle East’s Sonia room. But similar to Billy Strings, over the past year, Goose has seen its stock in the jam-band world soar at a pace unseen since… well, Phish. That band’s Trey Anastasio even jammed with Goose from Radio City Music Hall to a co-billed fall tour that hit Lowell ‘s Tsongas Arena, sort of like the passing of a torch.
“You looked a little tight out there,” Goose keyboardist/guitarist Peter Anspach said before Thursday’s encore to the crowd that stuffed the 3,500-capacity Roadrunner. “Hopefully next time y’all can get us to a bigger place!”
So, what warrants this devotion from a younger generation? Eschewing the abstract, spacey improv of predecessors like Phish, moe. and Disco Biscuits, Goose favors more straightforward, taut-yet-fluid grooves that rise and fall through exhaustive jams, morphing through sometimes same-sounding songs that seem like incidental frameworks. And all the energy stems from lead guitarist/singer Rick Mitarotonda’s incendiary noodling on a hollow-body electric that slightly resembles Anastasio’s trademark guitar.
A 75-minute first set surged from the chugging momentum of “Flodown” (where Mitarotonda teased “Hey Jude” on guitar) to a wild 26-minute finale of “Earthling or Alien?” Its sticky funk slowly migrated into stinging waves of rip-current guitar before he cued a classic rock crescendo that ticked back to a funky amble.
But the near-three-hour show peaked during a second set “Hungersite,” another near-20-minute jaunt begun with a wistful guitar hook over Jeff Arevado’s congas, Mitarotonda bathed at the center of criss-cross spotlights. It’s one of the band’s signature songs (from 2022 album Dripfield, which sealed Goose as an “indie-groove” outfit) and perfect for Mitarotonda’s calming vocals. He still wound his way to a throttled-guitar peak while Boston-bred drummer Ben Atkind burst from his easy anchor role to drive propulsive fills around bassist Trevor Weekz’s rubbery pulse. That flowed into “Red Bird” (laced with red lights, natch), where Anspach’s own winsome lead vocal culminated in a chorus round of “It’s time for a bird to fly.”
Goose tucked in a few covers through the night, casting Father John Misty’s “I’m Writing a Novel” (whose author sang it during the same Radio City show with the Anastasio cameo) as a Phishy country-rock bop, while David Gray’s “Please Forgive Me” assumed a faithful glide as a cheery, piano-rooted shuffle.
The night also wound to a close with new millennial influences in the indie-psych feel (evoking Tame Impala) of second-set closer “Pancakes” and a burbling synth bridge and tastefully Autotuned vocals lending different flavors to encore “Slow Ready.” With one hand on his keyboard, Anspach — a picture of jazz icon Dave Brubeck on his shirt — danced and ran in place with a big smile.
By then, the band’s reigning strengths – Mitarotonda’s nimble, shifting guitar flights and (following in Phish’s footsteps) an active if robotic light show of roving beams around a blinking grid – had both reached points of near-numbing saturation.
Nonetheless, as evidenced by acceptance from both the Phish and Grateful Dead camps (Mitarotonda also performed with the Dead’s Phil Lesh), Goose has clearly earned its wings. And as the quintet heads for its next scheduled area appearance at Marshfield’s Levitate Festival on July 8, with Anastasio’s solo band topping the lineup to foretell additional collaboration, it’s time for Goose to fly higher.
Paul Robicheau served more than 20 years as contributing editor for music at the Improper Bostonian in addition to writing and photography for the Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He was also the founding arts editor of Boston Metro.