Not just your heady uncle’s jam band.

Goose fans (Geese? Gooseheads? Goslings?) line the rail at The Palace Theatre April 17th. Photo by Casey Carlson.

“Ive heard from five different people tonight that the band isnt going on until closer to 9:00” Said the security guard I spoke with last night in the photo pit. Its rare these days that bands play exactly on time anyways, but a whole 45 minutes late to the stage means that they’ll keep the audience guessing if they still have time to grab another beer or not. And with the band following the typical jam band, “evening with” format, fans were already in for a long night.

While the band did play here just a little over a year ago, Goose’s return to Minnesota felt overdue, especially by the amount of fans who had filled the Palace Theatre to capacity. I spoke to a couple of fans who drove all the way here from Chicago, where they saw the band two nights in a row at The Salt Shed. “We really wanted to see them again. Its’ worth the drive” they said. They were younger than myself, perhaps not realizing that following a jam band around is something thats been done long before our time. A musical right of passage.

Goose comes to us by way of Connecticut, but their music comes to us by way of a variety of jam band patriarchs like Phish, Grateful Dead, and many of the antiquated jam bands of the 20th Century. But Goose takes the best parts of those that have come before them and rolls it all into their own music. They’re Grateful dead without the folky/bluegrass background. They’re Phish without the cheesy trampolines, nonsensical lyrics and stage antics. But best of all, they’re a jam band who has a great vocalist. In many cases, so many of these jam bands have to rely on guitar solos to hide their mediocre singing voices (sorry, Jerry Gracia.) Goose’s lead vocalist, Rick Mitarotonda, has a voice that is just as fluid as he is on guitar. If I pretend for a minute that Goose wasn’t as good at their music as they are, Rick’s voice alone sets them apart from so many other bands.

The band sat at their battlestations, (quite literally) and started with the thunderous beats of “Dr. Darkness” that set the tone for the rest of the evening. As the band transitioned to “Yeti,” the energy in the room soared. A fan dressed in a Yeti costume appeared in the center of the upper balcony, as if he had been summoned – or perhaps he summoned the song himself. The vibey version of “Tumble” was a refreshing take on the original track, and it showcased the band’s ability to always experiment with their sound. It was also the longest song of the night at over 25 minutes. A fan who had spent the majority of the set dancing next to me asked me if they took a setbreak mid-song. I told her that I think they do, but that it was my first time at a Goose show, too. Because Im used to the typical 2-sets put on by jam bands, Im also used to the idea of a band giving it their all in the second set. But watching Goose, it was surprising to see them reach the kind of musical peaks and meld with eachother as a band so early in their set. If this kind of fast, musical chemistry is possible in the first set, how could this possibly be topped in the second set?

As the night progressed, Goose’s performance of “Mas que nada” took the audience on a Latin-inspired journey that had everyone dancing and grooving to the beat, again showcasing Rick Mitarotonda’s fluid vocals. The second set began with “Arrow” and “Bob Don”, cheers for the opening notes of each echoing that these were crowd favorites, and the band’s flawless execution of these tracks continued to show their musical prowess. I don’t think I heard a missed note all night – unherd of from a jam band.

The second set was shorter than the first in terms of it’s tracklisting, but not in it’s length. “Arrow” alone clocked in at 23 minutes, with “Arcadia” and “Hot Tea” both at 17 minutes apiece. Nearly an hour of just 3 songs, for those of you keeping track. “Flodown” and “Your Ocean” also made second set appearances.

But it was the encore, Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” that sent the crowd wild. Guitarist, Pianist, Vocalist, and band mixer Peter Anspach teasing the haunting piano riff before launching into the song with the rest of the band. Accompanied by Mitarotonda’s soulful vocals, which filled the song with emotion and conviction that would make Hornsby proud.

It was at this point of the night where Sunday had turned into Monday, and while some of the crowd had left the first set to go home to get some shut eye, the rest of us were treated to an encore song the band doesn’t pull out very often, Even if it was 12:15. Jam Bands often have their haters that roll their eyes at the idea of going to a three-plus hour long concert, or the hokieness that comes with some of the acts. But Goose doesn’t have that. There’s finally a jam band that has a singer that your girlfriend could get into, and technicality that your music theory best friend could have their mind blown with. Thank goodness they’re here – and thank goodness Goose will be back. “We dont get to come up to the great white north very often “said Peter Anspach before ending the second set. He looked up at the balcony smiling “But we sure have to come back more often now.

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