New York based alternative rock band the Goo Goo Dolls hit the Paul Paul Theater Stage at the Big Fresno Fair on Oct. 9.
The Goo Goo dolls, started in 1985, have a total of 11 albums in their discography to date. Although only two current members are from the original band, the Goo Goo Dolls have clearly not lost their sound or rhythm and brought nostalgia to full effect in their performance.
The audience was filled with fans of all ages, since the band has been around for 32 years and is still performing strong.
“Slide” was the first of many familiar tunes performed, which appeared on the “Dizzy Up the Girl” album in 1998.
To slow things down, the band performed the song “Better Days” from their “Let Love In” album released in 2006. The audience responded, raising their hands in the air and waving back and forth to the song’s slower rhythm.
The band also performed songs from their recent 2016 album, “Boxes.”
“So Alive” is a more recent tune that was enjoyed by the audience as much as they enjoyed the throwback hits.
In between songs, the band reached out and spoke to the audience.
“Actually, this is an exact replica – only bigger, of the guitar [he used for this performance] that Woody played in ‘Toy Story’,” said John Rzeznik, lead vocalist and guitarist, to the audience between songs.
The band closed the concert with their hit “Iris,” which is famous for being in the 1998 motion picture “City of Angels.” This song has made a huge contribution to the band’s success as it landed a spot on their sixth album, “Dizzy Up the Girl.” It also reached the No. 1 spot in the modern rock, pop and adult contemporary charts in 1998.
The audience was alive most during this song; hands were waving and lips were singing during this piece.
In this era of auto-tune and digital beats rather than instruments, it was a pleasant change to see live instruments and pure vocals in a performance. This event had the true feel of what a rock concert should be.
If Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule applies to anyone, it’s the Goo Goo Dolls. The Buffalo bred band began their music career nearly a decade before their breakout success with “Name” in 1995 on A Boy Named Goo, which was their fifth studio album. But that was just the beginning. They’d follow it up three years later with Dizzy Up the Girl, which featured “Slide,” Black Balloon,” “Dizzy,” and “Broadway.” And who can forget the heart-tugging “Iris,” off the City of Angels soundtrack, which was ranked #1 on Billboard’s “Top 100 Pop Songs 1992–2012” chart. The multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated band includes founders John Rzeznik (lead singer, guitarist) and Robby Takac (vocalist, bassist), who have garnered an impressive 14 top ten radio hits and 12 million album sales. I had the pleasure of catching them on tour at The Greek for their latest EP release, You Should Be Happy, and it’s my first time seeing the band live. Those in my inner circle are aware that nearly all my free time is spent attending the concerts of earnest up-and-comers, but every so often a girl wants to go to The Greek to celebrate a seasoned act. And the Goo Goo Dolls delivered. In fact, they far exceeded my expectations. Rzeznik’s interaction with the audience creates an intimate, small-venue vibe, which is hard to do at the illustrious Greek. As for Robby Takac, he has a rare raw energy which could fool you into thinking this is the first time they’ve played these songs live. They’re grateful to their devoted fans, and it shows. I was fortunate enough to pick the brain of Robby Takac, whose colorful career extends beyond the Goo Goo Dolls with his own label, festival, and more. Read below to learn the secrets of The Goo Goo Dolls’ success and longevity.
In researching your band, I discovered that you were hustling for a decade before your breakout success.
Yeah, making punk rock all over America.
Do you know the exact turning point? Was there some sort of creative shift?
I think we got to live out a decade in public that most bands get to live in their basement. In that time, we learned how to play, we learned how to sing better, and we learned a little bit more about album making and the music industry. The stars lined up, and we had a hit record.
I also read that you had a less than stellar experience with your label at the time.
We were signed to a label that I won’t give the press to right now. It was two labels, actually, before we signed to Warner Bros. Records. I’m the sort of person, personally, who looks at every experience as leading you to where you are today, and we’re in a really great place today. I don’t think I would’ve changed any of that history, honestly.
When you look back at that 10 years before you broke out, was there a period where you thought this just isn’t going to happen and maybe I should shift my career?
I don’t think I ever really thought that. I think it crossed John [Rzeznik]’s mind a bunch of times, but I’m always the guy that’s trying to pull everybody back in the van again for 10 years. It was just persistence. We got lucky and things happened for us right at a time where most bands don’t make it 10 years.
[In that time], we felt marginally successful because our first record sold 6,500 copies, our second record sold 30,000 copies, and our fourth record sold 100,000 copies. We were making progress. But right around our third record is when bands like us all of a sudden started getting real record deals. Our heroes were selling 30,000 copies.
Do you think it was also a sign of the times?
Absolutely. Every hit record is a sign of the times. It’s a reflection of what is allowed to happen in popular culture at that particular moment.
You’re making really good new music. Do you ever get sick of playing the hits?
John jokes about that sometimes during the shows. He’ll say, “Please don’t run for a beer right now. We’re about to do a new song.” What I’ve found is we used to put out a new record and there was a long process for people to get to those songs. They had to get to the store, buy it, unwrap it, get to their house, put it into their stereo, listen to it a few times, maybe make a tape, put it in their car, etc . . . Now, they just have to say, “Hey, phone. Play the new Goo Goo Dolls record.” New music is literally at the end of their arm. When people come [to the show], they know [the new songs] because of that ease of access. There’s all this talk about death of the music industry, all that kind of stuff. People have more of a connection to music than they ever had. It’s modernization and rebirth.
The same great talent still rises to the top. Music might be more accessible, but the standouts are a very small number. You might get YouTube hits, but very few people can fill The Greek. Do you agree?
I absolutely do. Cream always rises to the top. It doesn’t always become huge, but it always rises to the top. But when you remove the physicality from music, it becomes less of a part of your life. It becomes data. When I was a kid, I went through my record collection in my room. Those records — Deep Purple’s Made in Japan — are part of my life, man. When you remove that physicality, it removed a bit of the mysticism. This weird physical connection to the music is gone. We just released our first five albums on vinyl, for the first time. The plan is to release the next six on vinyl.
Speaking of record sales, everyone says musicians need to tour longer because people are buying less records. Do you find that?
We’ve always toured a lot, but we never have those entire years off anymore. We used to take a whole year off and rehire a crew after a year, and we’d spend that year making a record. We don’t do that anymore. I think our crew has been on staff now for the past six years. [Bands] play more now, but I think that’s how you get great.
Do you like the business element behind the music? Do you ever think, “I just want to play music, and I don’t want to do all the other stuff that goes along with it?”
It’s probably different for us. I’ve had the same manager for almost 27 years now, the same record label for 22, and the same booking agent for 20 years. They’re all like family so things are a lot different for us than they are for a lot of bands.
Many bands argue and break up and get back together constantly. Does it say something about your specific personality that you have been able to sustain those connections for decades?
It’s not about any one person’s particular temperament. Everybody in this organization has been a complete a-hole at one point or another, but it’s about knowing who ultimately has your back. Most of [our team] have proven themselves and those who haven’t have weeded themselves out along the way. Sometimes it’s sad when that happens, and sometimes it’s a joy.
A lot of our successful peers went away for a while to be actors or do solo projects. Nostalgia has come around and it’s valuable to put their band back together and make money. That’s not what we did. We have the distinct advantage of having worked at this that entire time and, hopefully, gotten better.
Can you take me quickly through how you and John met?
I played in a band with our first drummer, George [Tutuska], and I also played in a band with my cousin who played with Johnny. Johnny was in that band, too. John and I just got to be friends and got an apartment together and decided that we were going to take over the world with our amps, guitars and a lot of hairspray. We started playing around the country. We’ve been friends ever since.
How did you decide to swap the lead vocals? I know you started as the lead singer.
We’d audition lead singers constantly and never found anybody. We had a studio so I just started singing. John sang one or two songs and then it became the opposite. John started finding his own voice. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you actually let something find its own course.
How do you determine which of your songs land on the record?
I usually bring in five or six songs. When we listen to those, it becomes pretty obvious which ones we’re going to start working on for the record. John will then have a few ideas that he’s been putting together with a producer on that song. We work on them one by one.
Are you precious about your material?
It’s an uncomfortable mixture of being precious and knowing what we want. I understand the value of someone else’s expertise and ideas. That comes with growing up. When we were kids, it was a fight with every single producer. We would argue as if they were the camp counselor or the teacher. That can happen now in the course of being creative, but I don’t think [it’s the same].
Tell me about your record label, Good Charamel Records.
I started by signing a few bands in Buffalo that I really liked. I quickly found out that if you want to make enemies in your hometown you start a record label and sign bands. It’s just hard. There’s so many bands [that say], “Why not me?” Because my band was successful, the expectations were high. I was ready to shut my label down after about five years.
One of my bands, The Juliet Dagger, went to Japan and worked with a band called Shonen Knife who I had been a fan of for my whole life. They’d been together longer than my band. As I was about to close the label, Shonen Knife called me up and said, “Hey, what do you think about doing a record for us?” I couldn’t say no. I then signed a couple other bands from Japan. It’s been fun. There’s a band over here right now, actually, called Pinky Doodle Poodle that’s on tour. I’ve worked with Pinky Doodle Poodle and Shonen Knife directly in the studio. I’ve also produced records for The Molice.
You also founded the Music is Art Festival.
We started it 15 years ago with just one stage and 10 artists. Now it’s 125 displaying artists and 15 stages.
Are you very hands on with the creative process?
I do it all, and I have a great staff of people that work for the organization in Buffalo. We do camps for kids and we do Battle of the Bands for adults. This festival has become sort of the flagship. It’s pretty great.
In the past few months, Charlottesville has experienced jarring juxtapositions between political turmoil and massive artistic responses. The city was subjected to fatal white nationalist rallies — and weeks later, a larger-than-life, star-studded benefit concert was performed in retaliation, along with the Virginia Film Festival’s announcement that Spike Lee, one of the leading black voices in entertainment, would be visiting Charlottesville.
The University celebrates 200 years of existence with a multimedia event on the Lawn featuring significant voices in multiple realms of art — all amidst accusations of “200 years of white supremacy” from student groups and other members of the community.
My interview with Goo Goo Dolls founders John Rzeznik and Robby Takac showed how clearly Charlottesville represents a larger trend of political uncertainty plaguing the country.
“I’m feeling that energy here,” Rzeznik said late in the interview. “This is not a situation where we’re gonna be doing Jell-O shots and taking our shirts off — because it seems that there’s a certain level of reflection going on.”
“Which is awesome,” Takac added.
The three of us were sitting in brown plush chairs in one of the rooms of the Rotunda Friday afternoon, just hours before the band’s slated performance at the Bicentennial Launch Celebration. To my pleasant surprise, the band had agreed to answer a few questions about their role in the night’s festivities. The reason for this quickly became clear as the interview progressed — despite The Goo Goo Dolls being giants in the indie rock world, a household name for anyone who owned a radio in the ‘90s, the success seemingly never went to their heads.
In fact, Rzeznik seemed unsure that the band belonged at the event at all. When I asked their thoughts on performing alongside Andra Day and Leslie Odom Jr., Rzeznik displayed a humility more typical of a band just starting out, as opposed to one that has enjoyed enormous popularity for over 30 years.
“I’m terrified because they’re so talented — they’re so talented, and we’re a garage band,” Rzeznik said. “That’s where it started, and it may return to the garage. We’re just trying to hold our own up there.”
Despite their self-proclaimed “garage band” status, The Goo Goo Dolls’ music has a depth that is too often overlooked. I started the interview by attempting to get to the roots of their latest work, the five-track EP “You Should Be Happy.”
“It contains arguably some of your most powerful music,” I said. “What would you say the core of the EP is? Is there any overarching message that you want to get across to your listeners?”
As was the case for most of the questions in this interview, Rzeznik took the lead.
“Obviously ‘Tattered Edge / You Should Be Happy’ is a little tongue-in-cheek,” he said. “It’s definitely a commentary about the way things are shaping up in the world right now — in American culture. I hope I don’t sound like a bitter old man in it.”
Rzeznik went into more detail about the particular track.
“I don’t think that song is overtly political, but, you know, it’s maybe surreptitiously political,” he said. “There’s a deep division in the country, and people are very very vocal about it.”
He later amended the statement, saying that his music was more concerned with “social commentary” than politics. However, much of our conversation strayed to political topics — they seemed to be at the forefront of Rzeznik’s mind.
“Artists have been told in no uncertain terms that having an opinion is bad for business,” he said. “And my natural instinct to that is, ‘Well, f—k you.’”
Rzeznik went on to explain the inspiration behind some of the band’s most popular songs.
“A lot of my songs are just mistaken for flat-out, surface-level love songs,” he said. “And some of them are, but some of them aren’t. Some of them use the metaphor of a relationship to present something else that’s going on.”
When pressed about this statement, Rzeznik said that “Slide,” one of the band’s most beloved tracks, is often misinterpreted.
“[It’s] basically a commentary about a teenage girl getting pregnant and she and her boyfriend trying to figure out what to do … While being pressured by religion, by their families, by their community and by the pressures of the outside world and how things are going to change because of what happened in the heat of the moment,” he said.
The conversation moved to Rzeznik and Takac’s roles as entertainers.
“Doing a show, it’s like, you gotta balance fun with a message,” Rzeznik said. “Not that there’s always an intentional message there. I don’t go out every night to preach, that’s not my thing … I don’t have an agenda. I mostly wanna entertain people.”
On the subject on entertainment, I moved on to the specifics of the night’s show.
“How were you initially contacted about performing?” I asked.
“We’re never quite sure how the sausage gets made back there,” Takac said. “We got an offer and they told us about the event, and it sounded pretty special. We could get all our stuff here in time, so we thought it was a great idea.”
“This is a really big event,” Rzeznik added.
The conversation then focused in on the event itself — both its magnitude and its political context. Though The Goo Goo Dolls had never struck me as a remotely political band, “surreptitiously” or otherwise, Rzeznik made it clear that he had some very complex opinions on the topic.
“I mean, you have to vote, you have to work towards change,” Rzeznik said. “The people who are in your position, who are in college right now, have been left an enormous mess that they’re gonna have to clean up.”
This quickly shifted into a criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the arts. Rzeznik had a lot to say about what he called “the inequality in this country,” referring to both social class differences and the increasing devaluation of the arts.
“The fact that education, music, art, public services — anything to help people rise out of poverty, or enrich the common Americans’ lives, is the first thing to be thrown away … For a bigger and better bomb,” Rzeznik said. “Or another tax cut for someone who couldn’t possibly spend all the money he has.”
Despite Rzeznik’s dissatisfaction with the country’s current political status, he seemed proud of the way in which the University is attempting to handle its complex history.
“It’s very cool to see that this is a remembrance of some turbulent times, and also the good times,” Rzeznik said. “Everything is like a family, and things evolve — relationships between people evolve. The past is very important to reflect on and learn from, but it’s also meant to be left in the past. Not forgotten, but put in its place.”
His talking points kept returning to the University, and particularly the students’ roles going forward.
“Your generation is gonna have to really address these issues — and quickly,” Rzeznik said. “Because ultimately, you guys are gonna be running the world, and it’s getting more and more difficult.”
The brief interview was unusual in multiple ways — as I spoke with Rzeznik and Takac, I had more of an impression that I was just chatting with concerned citizens of the community rather than giants of the indie rock world. Only a few details reminded me of the men’s rock star status — namely, Takac’s piercings and shoulder-length hair, and the fact that Rzeznik wore aviator sunglasses for the entire interview though we were indoors.
Rzeznik had some touching parting advice for students who may be feeling lost at this crossroads.
“Everyone should really just lock their arms and look forward and go … And hang onto each other,” he said.
It was a beautiful sentiment, one that can be used as a message of solace during this turbulent and uncertain time in the University’s existence. Art may not be capable of solving all the world’s problems, but it can be a great means of achieving at least some sort of unity.
Whatever may be in Charlottesville’s future, its residents — and particularly the students of the University — would do well to follow Rzeznik’s advice to “hang onto each other.” The city has some deep-seated and complex issues that must be addressed, but until the community is willing to join forces to tackle these problems, progression will be all but impossible.
Y98 will host All Time Low, All-American Rejects, Fitz and the Tantrums, John Rzeznik and Lights, on the West Community Credit Union stage at the Y98 MISTLETOE SHOW Saturday, December 2, 2017, at 6:30pm at the Family Arena.
Tickets will be available through a special pre-sale on Tuesday, October 10th from 10am until midnight, using the promo code: SHOW. Tickets will be on sale to the general public on Wednesday, October 11th starting at 10am.
Ticket prices range from $9.81 to $79.95 and can be purchased at The Family Arena Box Office, through Metrotix.com, or via phone at (314) 534-1111. Tickets purchased through Metrotix or by credit card are subject to Metrotix and/or credit card fees.
Join The Charles, Country Heritage Winery and WMEE for an evening you are sure to remember, to raise cancer awareness with LIVE music- JOHNNY RZEZNIK of THE GOO GOO DOLLS! Wine slushies from Country Heritage, Gourmet hors d’oeuvres from the Chef at The Charles Fort Wayne and fabulous giveaways. Tickets go on sale October 1, check back for more details.
There are two different ticket options, including VIP, which includes a Meet & Greet with John Rzeznik.
The Goo Goo Dolls are ready to rock the Lawn after Friday night’s Bicentennial Launch Celebration at the University of Virginia.
The rock band will close out Friday’s festivities – which also include special guest performances by Leslie Odom Jr., Andra Day and more – with a concert on the Lawn. Thousands of students, alumni, faculty and staff will be on hand for the occasion, celebrating the official start of the University’s third century.
The band, which has sold more than 10 million albums since 1986, recently concluded its “Long Way Home” tour, the latest in many national and global tours it has undertaken over the years. It has even performed at UVA once before, in 2011 at the John Paul Jones Arena. The group’s 14 No. 1 and Top 10 hits include “Name,” “Slide,” “Stay With You” and “Iris,” reported by Billboard magazine to be among the biggest pop radio songs of the last 20 years.
Before the big day, we spoke with bassist Robby Takac, who will perform alongside guitarist and vocalist Johnny Rzeznik on Friday.
Q. You have performed on many stages all over the world. What are you particularly looking forward to about performing at UVA, this time on the Lawn?
A. When you play in places that hold a special place in people’s hearts, it really adds to the excitement of the event. We’ve played in some crazy places, from volcanoes and skyscrapers to aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. Anytime the venue itself is an attraction, it adds something special to the show. We’ve seen a lot of excitement online leading up to Friday, and we are excited to be a part of it.
Q. You recently concluded your “Long Way Home” tour. What stood out about this tour for you?
A. One of the things I took away from this tour, more so than past tours, is how quickly people can access your new music these days. The audience knew so much of our new music, which was great. Twenty years ago, when we started having songs on the radio, playing new songs in concert was tough because people just weren’t as familiar. Today, they can get new songs right away on their phones.
Q. You have been in the music business for more than 30 years. What are some of the other changes you have seen and what changes do you see happening now?
A. As I mentioned, the accessibility of music now has really changed the economics of the business. I also think it has made live performances that much more special. We experience so many things virtually, from keeping in touch with friends virtually to watching live shows online. There is so much information at our fingertips. But there is something special about standing in front of people who have written a piece of music that means something to you, and sharing that moment with them. That’s something you cannot reproduce over a wire.
Q. Can you share a few of the most memorable performances or moments that stand out to you?
A. We played in Madison Square Garden after 9/11 [in the Concert for New York City on Oct. 20, 2001] and did a show at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. right after. That was pretty powerful.
For me personally, one of the most memorable shows ever was playing the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium near where I grew up in New York. I saw shows there as a little kid, so actually playing there, with my family in the audience, was something I had wanted my whole life.
Q. What’s next for the band?
A. It’s kind of “rinse and repeat.” We just finished our tour, and we are ready to record more songs and keep rehearsing. We are planning to take a bit of time off this summer to spend time with our families, but we’ll keep playing throughout. We’re excited to create some new original songs and just keep this thing going.
Q. Any parting advice, especially for students interested in the arts?
A. Don’t let money get in the way of your art and your music. Certainly, you need money. You need to eat and pay rent, and that can be hard to do as an artist. Broaden your skill set, learn a few other things that you can make money doing, while still pursuing your art. I think that will be the most successful model for the next few decades.