Q&A: Goose's Peter Anspach talks about playing Bonnaroo and what makes CT a great place for jam bands

Anyone following Goose’s trajectory over the past few years will likely have strained neck muscles at this point: it’s all been up, up and up.

In December, the Norwalk band streamed a three-hour concert from Rockefeller Center in New York City for its annual Goosemas holiday event. And earlier this year, Vampire Weekend tapped Goose to reinvent “2021,” a song from its 2019 album Father of the Bride.

This summer, Goose — Peter Anspach, Rick Mitarotonda (vocals, guitar), Trevor Weekz (bass), Ben Atkind (drums) and Jeff Arevalo (percussion) —will release Shenanigans Nite Club, a new studio LP inspired by the Norwalk venue of the same name.

But the band’s biggest leap forward to date, perhaps, will come in September, when the band performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., alongside Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, Lana Del Rey, Foo Fighters, Tyler, the Creator and others.

“There’s lots of different colors to be seen throughout the [Goose] catalog,” said Anspach, who joined Goose in 2017. “With any festival set, you want to paint a good picture.”

Anspach spoke with Hearst CT Media about returning to live performance in a post-Covid world, getting booked at Bonnaroo and other shenanigans.

Will Bonnaroo be the biggest event you’ve played so far as a band?

I feel like it is, in a lot of ways. It’s definitely the biggest festival we’ve played. We did do the stream on top of the Rock [Rockefeller Center in New York City, where the band staged its virtual Goosemas 2020]. That was really big in a different kind of way, but this is really big.

Bonnaroo is a legendary festival. The diversity of music at the festival is what makes it so unique, and its size. It feels really cool to be part of that. I think it was one of the first festivals, besides Phish doing their thing in the ’90s and the Woodstock things. So it feels good to be a part of it for the first time.

When you joined Goose in 2017, could you have imagined playing at Bonnaroo?

Personally, in 2016, I volunteered at Bonnaroo with a few of my friends, and we played music in the volunteer camping area the night before the festival started. It was kind of a renegade set, where we just plugged into this generator that was there.

I think we played to the biggest crowd we had seen until that point, which is really funny, because we had small amps and barely a P.A. But we just set up in the camping area. That was the first time I played Bonnaroo, but it wasn’t on stage.

It’s exciting to go back and actually be on the stages where we saw some incredible acts that year. I mean, the lineup was just stacked, so it’s really cool to be a part of that. I can’t wait to see what it’s like on the other side.

How do you prepare for a show like Bonnaroo? What discussions have you had internally so far?

We’re definitely going to have some new music at that time and some fresh releases. [Shenanigans Nite Club] is coming out in June, so that’s exciting. That definitely goes into like any show that’s happening after that. It also depends on the time slot of the set. If it’s an afternoon set or late night, we can concoct a different strategy based upon the circumstances. We’re pretty prepared for anything. We’re just going to keep it diverse and give everybody a good look at what we can do.

Do you have any lingering reservations about playing in public at this point?

I feel like everything we book from now until the end of time will be with the sense of, “Well, we’re lucky if it happens.” I think that’s what Covid did for live music. It made you really, really appreciate the fact that it’s there.

Regardless of whether or not Covid is around, the risk of getting sick at a live show is probably pretty high. You’re packed in with a whole bunch of people, and you don’t know where anyone’s been. So, there’s definitely somewhat of a risk involved in booking any show, I think, at this point. We’re just going to be hopeful and see how things turn out.

Your new LP, Shenanigans Nite Club, comes out this summer. Tell me about the role the Norwalk venue plays in the band’s folklore.

It’s an actual place, for sure. It’s a building. It’s kind of like a bar setup, and it’s gone through a few different names. We played in the actual room that used to be Shenanigans for Goosemas V. It was called Cantiki at the time, and it kind of had tiki bar vibes.

[Guitarist] Rick [Mitarotonda] played there a few times with various projects, but I think it mainly goes back to Shenanigans Nite Club being a spot to hang out in the ’80s. Rick’s uncle worked there. I had some family who used to go there and hang out. It was just kind of like the local spot, so it’s an homage to that in a lot of ways.

What makes Connecticut such a great place for improvisational rock bands?

I don’t know exactly how it all began, but I can remember our high school specifically was very jam-influenced. And talking to other people my age who grew up around the country, they had nothing of the sort at their high school. So we may have been an anomaly, but it definitely helps get us aware of what other music is out there, improvisational stuff and experiences that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. I can only imagine.

michael.hamad@hearstmediact.com