When I was having my Goose discovery moments during the coronavirus lockdown, I found myself mostly obsessing over Moon Cabin. I had initially heard the band through one of Phish lyricist Tom Marshall’s podcasts where he heralded their lyrics in “Arcadia,” and that was the first time I heard “Time to Flee.” Soon after, I listened to Night Lights a few times all the way through, and then eventually found the Moon Cabin album. This felt as close to the Origin Story for the group as I could get from here in Asheville, at that point far removed from a live show recording or knowledge of the song catalog, etc. And of course, “Turned Clouds” is the first song there on the most old school record of them all. I remember how the lyric “I don’t need no pills to calm down” struck me as the inverse of one of the first Phish songs that had hooked me long ago, “Fluffhead”: I sure got some powerful pills!
And so here we were again, singing about pills, whether we’ve got ‘em, or we don’t need ‘em. Or at least we don’t need ‘em anymore? Or do we? And then of course the other big theme: Going Home. Or trying to Get Away From Home and Get on the Road. Phish had been singing to me (us) for over 30 years “We’ve gotta get on the road / Destiny Unbound” and once we’re there we’re just keeping it rolling (in our Fuego?) with our trusty Runaway Jim (or Harpua?) as our sidekick. And so this improvisational rock journey is at the very least about our relationship with our “pills” and whether or not we are trying to get on the road or trying to get back home. Which way does that train lead that we’re trying to get on? Over and over again this same imagery and thematic focus pervades The Grateful Dead as well. So here was Goose, following in the footsteps of giants in a way that I found very inviting, very familiar, and oh so easy to just collapse in behind on this march.
I remember thinking the songwriting on Moon Cabin seemed kinda emo and confessional for a typical jamband. Man, this guy Mitarotonda sure seemed to “emote at a high level” as my college Education professor once gently chided me, identifying what may be somewhat of a weakness for a middle school teacher. Yeah, I had my fun during my twenties and thirties, but surely now in my late forties, as Rick sings, it was time for me just to go on home. No more wanderlust adventuring for me. Instead it’s the ever-creeping Bill Murray in Groundhog Day of being 20 years deep in my gig, happy with big time life choices leading to a wife and kid, a mortgage, a plan to retire, and the whole nine. And so here comes this Goose dude waxing poetic, and I think it was easy for me at first to feel like “Yeah, easy for you to say! Go ahead out there, Rambler, we’ll see if you ever come home again or not!” It’s like I was angry at Rick for daring to invoke a muse to Tune In, Turn Off, and Get On the Road. At the very least I was cynical: Yeah, you go ahead young whippersnapper. Been there, done that.
And yet, the guitar parts came barreling out of the breaks in the song in a way that was alluring to my soul on a whole ‘nother level. These themes would get turned over and looked at differently as the album moved on. “You almost had me fooled!” is a line that bored deep down into me, and of course “Just a little bit goes a long way.” Ah yes, these sneaky allusions somewhat lost lifestyle made me grin, but they also became a little of a siren song. The lyrics of “Turned Clouds” became more than ironic, a straight up mockery of me in my Feeling Like It’s Too Late, Grown Up, Schoolteacher Brain: “Look around this city, you must be out of your mind! It’s only time now ‘till before it all comes down, right back to the ground.” I felt like somehow this young kid Rick knew something I had failed to learn, or maybe more accurately that I used to know and had forgotten: You’ve got to get after it! It’s all going to come crashing down relatively soon, and so, no, I don’t think I’ll ever come home again like in “Rockdale.” I wanna sell my soul for Rock and Roll and keep on going like in “Turbulence and the Night Rays.” I won’t really be too far from home like in “726.” The nighttime is and always will be my home like in “Factory Fiction!” Goose was throwing me a lifeline out of the mundane and into something larger than life.
I don’t think any of us is truly ready to say we’ve had our fun, and we’re ready to just fold up our tents and go on home. Hopefully it’s not too much to the chagrin of our families, co-workers, and friends. Maybe this journey will keep on having us brushing up against angels and flowing down this river straight on into the sea? It sure has been amazing and fun to watch the band’s momentum explode and indeed intertwine with other legends from improvisational rock. I got to be there for Slow Ready > Hot Tea in Charlotte and then the Sweetwater festival in Atlanta so far. Really it’s Goose’s songwriting that has them in this spot now, along with their chops, cohesion, and charisma. Now that they have basically made it over the hump in terms of exposure, they are literally playing with Gold and not Lead! I imagine we want their legs to stay a little thorny, though, if that means being willing to stray off the already beaten path into something new, even when it alludes to other things we love!
We’ve launched off together, far up off the ground in those turning clouds rather than groveling in those pesky thorns. Yeah, we know we’re bound to crash right back down, but ain’t nobody telling us when (or if) to come home! It’s a triumphant declaration as the very first studio track on the first record, and the music takes you on a journey showcased by Rick’s psychedelic cowboy blues riffs that come soaring out of the “Look around this city” breakdown. Ultimately, it’s these poems, their imagery, and their intersections with some lovely chord progressions adorned with hot melted gold and silver melodies, copper and bronze harmonies shimmering along, gushing in rivulets down across those reverberating colors like the Turned Clouds.