Hey Hey In Rockers and welcome to The Lobby 2020 Version !!!!!!
I just got back from a trip to Japan with my family as my wife and daughter and I visited our in-laws over the New Years Holiday in Tokyo for a couple of weeks at the end of December. We usually stay in the Shinjuku area as we know that area really well after spending so much time there over the year, but we’ve been doing our best to discover some new areas, this time we opted to stay near the Sky Tree/Oshiage Station for a change of pace. We found it to be a pretty convenient part of town for visitors and enjoyed the particular flavor of the area and my daughter loved that there were a few ice cream shops right across the street in Sky Tree City. We had been to the Sky Tree many times in the past, so we didn’t go up to the top, but we did visit the planetarium show and enjoyed dinner at the Sky Tree during our stay.
We visited with my friend NHK presenter/host Jason Hancock and his partner Masato for lunch one day in Taito City, a place we hadn’t been since we visited Nezu Shrine a couple of years ago. We were introduced to an American artist named Allen West who moved to Japan nearly 40 years ago to study traditional Japanese art. He paints many different types of pieces but is very well known in Japan for painting screens (Byobu). We got a chance to see his studio in a traditional house down a small back alley. It was truly inspiring; all of his materials paints are made by hand from minerals he finds himself around Japan. It’s so great to meet foreigners who have embraced the culture and traditions of Japan, and this was an experience we will never forget as we left with one of his pieces to bring back to our home in America.
After seeing all the signage and coverage on western TV, my daughter Hana was curious about the maid cafes in Tokyo and we felt like it would be fun to take her for a visit so she could understand what was going on there, and I felt like I could understand it all a little bit better myself! We went to “The @Home Cafe”, the largest of the maid cafe’s in Tokyo, I believe it’s 5 full floors of cafe’s, and it’s really pretty crazy… After a long wait we were escorted to our table as “Masters” and Princesses” and ordered some cute little cakes and tea from a young girl who claimed she will be 17 forever (and we believed her)! After some conversation and helping us in pulling off some great “kitty” imitations for our server we took some pictures with our hostess and made our way, slightly confused, down the stairs through the cues of people waiting to spend some time themselves in this alternative reality known as the Maid Cafe. I was amazed by the varieties of people who were there, groups of girls, solo men, solo women, people just stopping on for lunch to visit their favorite “character”, it’s really not what I expected, but then again, I don’t really know what I was expecting!
Last year we went to Senso Ji on New Years day, it was one of the most crowded places I have ever been in my life! This year we decided to visit the day after New Years Day, and truthfully it was not much less crowded, but the energy is amazing …. All of the vendors, temple staff and attendees operating as one to make this chaotic scene function, I’m really blown away when I see things like this in Japan, it feels like we could never make that happen in the US, there’s just too much chaos, not enough natural harmony and respect between the attendees and organizers. I’ve learned much from my life intertwined with the ways of Japan and I have to say this is the thing I respect the most. We waited in the long, long cue, made our way into the temple, threw some coins made some wishes and headed boldly into 2020 ….
Goo Goo Dolls have just announced a performance at The One Asia Festival in Singapore this spring. Could we be headed your way soon ? I’m really, really hoping so….stay tuned and I’ll keep you all in the loop!
I hope things have been great for you all so far this year, and I look forward to keeping up with you all for another year in the pages of The Mighty In Rock !!!!
Frances Salter caught up with the Goo Goo Dolls ahead of their show at London’s Roundhouse to chat booze, sentiment, and rock ‘n’ roll welfare.
“What do I know? I write sappy love songs, for housewives.”
I’ve just asked Johnny Rzeznik for his secrets to lasting in the music business, which – sappy love songs or no – is something he knows a thing or two about. Since their mainstream breakthrough in the early nineties, Goo Goo Dolls’ record sales have exceeded 12 million albums worldwide, not to mention the four Grammy nominations. They’re now touring 2019’s Miracle Pill, wrapping up the UK leg at Roundhouse a couple of hours after we speak.
When pressed, he’s got some quite specific advice. “Don’t sell your publishing. Do all the drugs and drink – as much as you want – until you’re about twenty-six, and then knock it off. The myth is that booze and drugs make you more creative, but no: they lessen your inhibitions. After a while, instead of being an asset to your work, they become a liability.”
Miracle Pill is the latest step on a remarkable journey together for John and Robby, from their early punk-rock days in Buffalo, New York, through to commercial success that has seen their music covered by the likes of Taylor Swift. Nonetheless, they’re keen to emphasise that it was far from an overnight success.
“Everyone starts by mimicking other people’s voices,” says Johnny. “But the trick is to keep after it until one day your own unique voice comes out. Unfortunately, a lot of people just aren’t given the opportunity to become fully-formed artists anymore. Everything is disposable now, and very few artists are doing anything that will sound good in twenty years. When we were coming up, our record label let us ride along for three albums.”
Or, as Robby puts it, “We were on rock ‘n’ roll welfare.”
“I feel sorry for the new kids coming up because they don’t have that trajectory. Now you have to be ten different things: a DJ, a producer, a philanthropist, a marketing expert. No, no. Your job is to sit and perfect your craft. If ‘Stairway to Heaven’ came out today, it would probably be overlooked unless someone caught Robert Plant on a viral video, or if there was a famous rapper in the middle of it. It’s about the things surrounding the art you create, not the thing itself. But maybe I’m just saying that because I’m old.”
So, after so much time in the public eye, what do people not know about Goo Goo Dolls? “People have all kinds of assumptions of people that they see on stage. That they’re happy, that they’re rich, that their lives are better than other people’s. It’s not true.”
The new record, from which they’ll play a half-dozen songs that night alongside older material, is a reflection of the Dolls’ talent for – as Johnny terms it – ‘brutal sentiment.’ The titular ‘Miracle Pill’, the band have said, is a metaphor for the speedy gratification of the Instagram age, in which we can demand instant elation from chemicals and instant approval from the internet.
By contrast, it may take more than twenty years to build a body of work you can stand behind, but as the Roundhouse crowd will attest, it’s worth it.
This evening sees New York rockers Goo Goo Dolls conclude their UK tour in support of 2019’s ‘Miracle Pill’ LP. Roundhouse, Camden the venue. Excitement and anticipation, the atmosphere.
9pm strikes, lights fade and conversations run dry; Goo Goo Dolls have arrived. Head to toe in black attire, John Rzeznik’s silhouette like portrait contrasts the vivid, vibrant pink lighting perfectly. Aesthetically pleasing. Beautifully sounding. A mix like whiskey and coke.
‘Indestructible’ initiates proceedings on the latest ‘Miracle Pill’ LP and serves the same purpose this evening. Microphone in hand and guitar merely hanging midriff, Rzeznik makes full use of the stage covering every inch simultaneously acknowledging the exuberant crowd. He’s at home.
Speaking of home; ‘Home’ follows the set opener and in a fast four minutes encapsulates Goo Goo Dolls sound. It’s the voice. The riff. The melody. Precisely what this sold out crowd is here for.
Electric now traded for acoustic, the opening riff to ‘Slide’ achieves the most resounding response thus far. Camden’s voices are ostensibly turned up a notch. Rzeznik’s remains pitch perfect. An inevitability.
The set itself is meticulously thought through. Whilst undeniably plugging their new tracks, it refuses to neglect the band’s punk rock roots. Tracks such as ‘Fallin Down’ and ‘Another Second Time Around’ momentarily rewind us to 1993’s ‘Superstar Carwash’ LP. A personal favourite. A refreshing reminder of youth and nostalgia.
Midway through ‘Black Balloon’, hundreds seemingly fall from the sky as Rzeznik asks ‘Why did that happen?!’. Balloons appear to fall from the very same place the song fell from. Undoubtedly a classic and an essential Goo Goo Dolls track.
The set consists of twenty three tracks and incredibly, the same amount of guitar changes. Famed for his love of distinctive and abnormal tuning arrangements, Rzeznik has as many guitars as he has songs. Some feat.
Tracks such as ‘January Friend’ and the new ‘Life’s A Message’, offers Rzeznik the opportunity to rest his vocal cords. Bassist Robby Takac takes to lead vocals, offering a noticeably rougher and more punky approach.
An exquisite rendition of 1995’s beauteous ballad ‘Name’ offers the backing band a chance for a deserved drink as Rzeznik starts solo. An acoustic and a voice. The pinnacle.
The crowd are in awe and a small stumble as I rush towards a rare empty bar only confirms this further. Goo Goo Dolls are not to be missed.
Yet another guitar change and ‘Iris’ begins. An anthem which gains five thousand voices all striving to hit those chorus notes. Only one achieves. The rest are left striving. But with beaming smiles.
Rzeznik thanks the crowd and Goo Goo Dolls leave us with ‘Broadway’ which can only mean one thing. One more guitar change…
The weather may be bleak in Birmingham, but the Buffalo rock stalwarts bring a scorching show.
“It’s great to be here. Okay, I’ll cut the bullshit…it’s fucking freezing,” laughs Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik. He’s not wrong. Birmingham is recording almost Biblical levels of downpour, everything from freezing sleet to driving rain. “Forget climate change, I’m gonna go and buy a big diesel car.”
Tonight, Rzeznik is on form in both the tunes and the charm. Dressed like the father of a Backstreet Boy – Adidas fleece, gym shoes, sweeping blonde hair – he’s not afraid to point out the bored husbands or chuckle at his own bad experiences with Guinness. It’s this easy-going attitude that has helped to keep the Goo Goo Dolls as one of alternative rock’s most lauded acts.
That and, of course, a fistful of fantastic songs. It’s been over twenty years since Dizzy Up the Girl’s polished melancholia gripped the globe, but tonight the sold-out audience swoon in delight at the string-swathed, sentimental anthems Slide and Iris. When they break out the soaring Black Balloon, a barrage of dark inflatables descend from the O2 Institute’s ceiling.
There’s nothing like a bit of vinegar to help the gooey ballads go down, however. Bassist Robby Takac injects some wreck-the-room urgency with the rollicking January Friend and Another Second Time Around.
Indeed, it’s easy to forget that before Iris provided them eternal entry to the MTV stratosphere, the Goo Goo Dolls were Buffalo sluggers. Fallin’ Down and Naked are welcome reminders that the band spent most of the 1990s as heirs to The Replacements and Buzzcocks, mixing melody and mood with loud and fast fuzz.
In recent years, the Goo Goo Dolls have followed a more pristine path. Even with the edges buffed, the quality of the songwriting remains. So Alive has the shakedown strut of radio contemporaries Imagine Dragons. Miracle Pill and Autumn Leaves, taken from their most recent record, sparkle under lush instrumentation and lilting harmonies.
Stay With You, Big Machine and Here Is Gone shine thanks to Rzeznik’s gravelly croon, arena-sized anthemics and guitar-fuelled heroics. By the time the band close proceedings with the deadbeat wisdom of Broadway, even the slumbering hubbies are singing every word.
The Goo Goo Dolls performed in Leeds last night and what a night it was. People were literally crammed into every nook and cranny possible to see the band perform. They have just three more dates to play in the UK before heading back to the States.
To date Goo Goo Dolls’ sales have exceeded 12 million albums worldwide. Not to forget, the group have garnered four Grammy awards and seized a place in the history books by achieving 14 number one and top ten hits at Hot AC – “the most of any artist in history.” As a result they hold the all-time radio record for ‘Most Top 10 Singles’. Among a string of hits, ‘Iris’ held #1 on the Hot 100 for 18 straight weeks. Thus far, ‘A Boy Named Goo’ went double platinum, ‘Dizzy Up Girl’ went quadruple platinum and a whole host of other releases have gone Gold too.
The group were touring in support of their twelfth album, “Mirace Pill”, released in 2019 and making their first visit to the UK in a couple of years. Treating this packed room to a twenty-one song set, the Goo Goo Dolls kick the night off with a rowdy “Indestructible”. It set the tone for an evening of polished US rock full of energy and catchy as hell.
Frontman Johnny Rzeznik races around the stage pointing out to fans and looking like he’s at home on much bigger stages than this. Weighing in with four tracks from the new album, including the opener, the rest of the set was peppered with hits. Pulling from a chart-smashing back catalogue, the band head back to 1998 for “Black Balloon” and 1996 for “Naked”.
We all know that, as this is the Goo Goo Dolls, there is one song everyone is waiting for. Holding “Iris” back until almost the very end, the hit single had the packed room lifting the roof off the Academy. Following it up with the final track “Broadway”, the Goo Goo Dolls made sure that, having been four years since they were last in Leeds, their return was well worth the wait.
Hey Hey In Rockers and Happy New Year to you all ! I’m writing this column from the warmth and safety of my own living room in Buffalo, NY having finished the last show of a Christmas Radio station tour over the last month. The holiday radio shows are a custom here in the States, they are spread all over the country so we fly, drive and do whatever is needed to get to the next city and spread some holiday cheer ? in goo goo dolls style! The shows were with numerous other acts such as Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, Australia’s Dean Lewis, Maddie Poppe, Natasha Bedingfield and Hanson among others …. We spent the last few weeks with evenings full of Christmas treats, tons of DJs in ugly Christmas sweaters and lots and lots of music. In a strange twist we finished the last show of the run here in Buffalo, so I got to drive my car home from the last show and spend time with my family right away! ? Happy Holidays to ME!
Goo Goo Dolls had a pretty intense year, we did over 125 shows across the US, Southeast Asia, Canada, Mexico and South America, recorded and released our new album Miracle Pill and there’s no sign of slowing down in 2020 with dates in Asia, The UK, Europe and another Summer US tour in the works as we speak! We look forward to making our way to some places we have never been, or haven’t visited in a very long time. And, we will have some exciting news for our friends in Japan coming up soon too, so keep your eyes fixed on The Lobby for updates!
Since I’ve been back I’ve been splitting my days between hanging out with my daughter Hana, doing some snow sledding, crafting, ice skating, seeing some cool “kid” movies and stuff, and being in the studio with Buffalo based band Mom Said No working on their second album for release later this year. Funny thing about this band is, I recorded the 18-year-old singer/guitarist’s father’s band many years ago and here I find myself in with my friend’s kid making a record with the next generation of that family. It’s pretty wild being in a room with your buddie’s kid’s band, sitting back, watching them make great songs and helping them along to carry the torch of the future of Buffalo rock!
In a short break between our fall and Christmas tours we headed to Los Angeles to do a new music video for the next single from the Miracle Pill album, a moody, yet uplifting song John wrote called Autumn Leaves. The video was directed by our new friend Matt Mahurin who is known for his work with the likes of U2, Peter Gabriel, Disturbed, Tom Waits, Sting and so many others. We shot the video right at his property in California, he and his wife invited us into their home and we spent a full day shooting our parts of the video in some isolated bungalows located in a ravine on their property. It really was a pleasure to meet someone with a creative mind like Matt’s and we’re really looking forward to doing some more work with him in the future.
We soar proudly into 2020 together and I look forward to seeing what adventures and emotions come with this new year, and I also look forward to sharing these adventures and goings on with my friends in In Rock. It’s crazy, for well over a decade now we’ve been getting togethers in these pages, and here we go again, another new year to share … please be safe, be happy and I’ll see you next month here in The Lobby!
Hey Hey In Rockers and Welcome once again to The Lobby here in the pages of the mighty, mighty In Rock! Last time we spoke we were in Texas readying the band for the first leg of our latest “Miracle Pill” Tour and since then we’ve completed 22 shows in a month! The shows are in theatres all over the US, some of them newer performing arts centers and many being historic old movie/vaudeville houses built in the early 1900s. They really are beautiful rooms and have such rich history connected to them; it’s really an honor to be part of those legacies by making music in these celebrated rooms.
We’ve been hiding a “miracle pill” in a bunch of cities on the day of the show, the miracle pill (which is about the size of an iPhone) opens up, containing meet and greet passes for the show in the city that evening. It’s been a lot of fun walking around the cities in the morning and finding spots to hide the pill, we’d seek out well known landmarks, statues, notable public art pieces and recognizable places like that and find a good hiding place. Once we hid the pill we’d take a picture of the area and then we’d post an announcement and the photos to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. A couple of days I got to sit in the area and watch people searching the area for the pill, it’s kind of fun and they all surely appreciated the passes when we saw them later in the day at the meet and greet!
The tour’s gone out with2 opening bands, the fist half done by the band “The Unlikely Candidates” from Texas and the last half of the dates with Philadelphia’s “Beach Slang”. We even had some time to visit Mt Rushmore and a few other sights along the way during some short breaks in the tour! This initial fall leg of the Miracle Pill tour will be finished in a couple of days, ending in Toronto, Canada at The Queen Elizabeth Theater. I took my daughter to see her favorite Japanese band PERFUME there a while back so I’m excited to play a show in that same venue. We have a short break for the Thanksgiving holiday and then we’ll be going out to do 2 more weeks of dates featuring a bunch of radio station “Holiday Shows” around the US. When we are finished with those dates in mid December I’ll be headed home to Buffalo for the last show of 2019. I’ll get to spend some time at home for the start of the holidays, and then just like that I’m off to Japan to spend the remainder of the year in Tokyo with our friends and family in Japan!
We tend to do some adventuring while in Japan when we visit, so I’ll try to bring you along for the fun and keep you up to date on the going on in the New Year for the band as well. I hope you all have a great 2020, I’m super excited for the future and look forward to sharing further little glimpses of my life and my love of Japan with all of the readers of Robby’s Lobby as we have been doing for the past 12+ years!
Ok, off to soundcheck and a show in Atlantic City, NJ tonight … we have a video shoot coming up next week, i’ll fill u in on that and more soon …. have a great New Year and I look forward to sharing 2020 with all of you!
As we wait for Barbara Walters to announce “This … is 2020”, Gen and Annie talk about the upcoming Festivus contest, review the holiday shows and say hi to our 30 actual listeners (you know who you are). Check out the merch you can win below!