by Joel Voorman
Mowing the lawn was my least favorite chore as a teenager. The one thing that made it more bearable, beginning at age 14 in 1998, was the purchase of yellow earmuffed headphones that could receive an FM radio signal. I looked like the neighborhood dork, but if I cranked the volume loud enough, I could hear the sweet sounds of Top-40 singles while shredding some grass.
Seemingly, nobody spent more time on FM airwaves in 1998 (and ’99, ’00, ’01) than Goo Goo Dolls. I never made it through a lawn mow without hearing one of the Goo Goo Dolls’ plethora of hits… “Iris,” “Black Balloon,” “Broadway,” “Dizzy,” or a throwback to “Name” would certainly get some airplay, without fail.
As a young adult, some 18 years ago, Goo Goo Dolls were one of my first interviews with a major recording artist. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with them many times since, including just ahead of their upcoming August 20 concert with O.A.R. on the “Big Night Out” tour coming to Blossom Music Center.
While I’ve been busy wasting my life interviewing bands and going to concerts, many my age have produced offspring who have reached a concert-appropriate age.
As a performer, there must be few things as gratifying as watching a parent bring their teenage child to a concert that the parent also saw in concert when they were a teenager.
In a recent phone interview with CleveRock.com, founding member and bassist Robby Takac confirmed, “It’s pretty crazy. We’re even getting into the rare third generation!”
“It’s amazing that people are staying with us for this long. I’m so grateful, every day that we can go out there and do that every summer,” Takac continued. “Other than the pandemic break, which was the first time ever that we had not done that for a summer, we’ve been out here every year. It sure is great to be back in the process again here.”
Takac, who makes up 1/2 of the Goo Goo Dolls’ official members alongside frontman John Rzeznik, have been making music together since 1987. The group’s initial hit, 1995’s “Name” is still a constant on the band’s present-day setlist. Anyone who has been to a Goo Goo Doll show can attest to the fact whether the guys are performing a hit single from the 90s or a non-single from their 2022 effort, ‘Chaos in Bloom,’ they do so with a plethora of passion. Takac was asked what still inspires them to play the older tunes with such gusto every show.
“It’s just amazing to share the songs that you can see have a place in people’s hearts. When the younger people come that are there, you know, they grew up with us, and they’ve heard our songs in passing their whole lives, be it from their parents or just whatever. Now they’re to the age where they’re starting to appreciate music and a lot of the trends in social media and stuff right now help us a lot as well. A lot of the older songs kind of pop back up again and get them looking at what you’re doing and introduce them to some of the newer stuff you’re doing and all of a sudden, you get a fan! A REAL fan. It’s great,” he says. “That’s a different experience every night. You’re in front of a different group of people. Some people who’ve never seen you before; some people have been there to see you 10 times, 20 times, a hundred times in some cases. I think if you lose the ability to see the magic in those moments, then there are way better jobs out there for you.”
Perhaps part of staying fresh is adding some new songs to the setlist. In advance of the tour, GGD released a new single, “Run All Night,” which will undoubtedly be performed regularly on the upcoming trek.
“We had been working some songs off of Chaos and Bloom and had toured on that last summer. I got a call from John and he had kind of been knocking a song around, so I just went out to New York and spent a little bit of time out there with them. Before you knew it… a new single,” Takac explained. “I think, for us, it was just another opportunity, to get out there and once again have a new song.”
Goo Goo Dolls recently performed on ABC’s Good Morning America. After four decades in the biz, thousands of live shows, and countless media appearances, some might be surprised that Robby still gets butterflies before stepping in front of a live television audience.
“It’s one of the only times I still get nervous because it’s live television, you know? It’s not even about playing the song right. That’s one-tenth of it, maybe one percent even. There’s so much that can go wrong when you’re on live television. What goes out goes out, you know? It’s really nerve-wracking,” he admits. “Good Morning America is one of the few live shows that people still pay attention to, so they’re watching their TV in the morning. We take every opportunity we can to get on that one, for sure.”
While morning television broadcasts have remained constant, that’s about the only unchanged method of delivering new music to the masses. In the late 80s and early 90s, FM radio was king, the internet was in its infant stages, and Spotify was science fiction.
“When your whole life was sort of based around FM radio, you know, the whole thing was you would pull into a town, and at six o’clock in the morning and you’d get picked up by the local rep from Warner Brothers, and they would drive us around to four or five radio stations and we’d play guitar and sing and do interviews,” Takac recalls. “There were probably 35, 40 locals at Warner Brothers at that point, you know, who, who worked local markets now. It’s really not like that anymore. I’ll talk to folks here from my room in the mornings and stuff, but there’s not a lot of station visits and stuff like that anymore like there used to be. It’s changed a lot. I think they’re spending their money on other things. A lot of it’s going into getting stuff up on social media and all that; trying to keep your presence out there. Obviously, that’s how most people are experiencing things these days. It’s just about always having something to talk about. Things are so immediate right now that people seem to forget about it, two weeks later. I think you just gotta kind of keep at it and keep releasing stuff and keep being out there. I think that’s where most of that money is going rather than radio promotions and such.”
The life of a touring musician is glamorous, no doubt, but also, grueling. To be blunt, John and Robby aren’t spring chickens anymore. There’s a lot of miles on the tires. Rolling out of a tour bus bunk after a 10-hour commute to the next gig isn’t as easy as it used to be. The time rocking out onstage makes it all worth it the guys.
“I mean, that hour and a half is so easy. The rest is exhausting. It is what it is, you know? Especially as you get a little older. It’s the 22 hours that surround that, that really test your commitment to this because playing music’s fun, that’s why I got in this in the first place,” Robby said. “It’s just like, you know, just everything else, man. It’s just crazy, you know? We got a great group of people around us and we’ve been kind of doing it with a great team of people for a long time. It works out well for us. But yeah, man, it’s not hard for me to get up there and play those songs. It’s part of the magic that drew me to all this, to begin with.
When asked if the common fan understands the pains that come along with road life?
“I think if we’re doing our job right, they have no idea,” Takac said with a laugh. “They just think we have magically appeared on that day and given ’em the best rock show they ever saw, and then send ’em floating off to their car with a t-shirt. It’s amazing that when I actually take a step back, John and I talk about this when we step out of the venue and see all the trucks are lined up and you can see all the cars lined up from people leaving the show and we’re like, ‘Holy shit, man! We did this! I think if you lose complete sight of that magic that this wouldn’t be a great life.”