A Buffalo bar band made good, Goo Goo Dolls have been around a lot longer than some folks probably realize, especially if their main exposure to the band is their monster hits from the mid-'90s, "Name" and "Iris," or their big albums from that era, "A Boy Named Goo" and "Dizzy Up the Girl."
Frontman/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik and singer/bassist Robby Takac have actually been making music together as Goo Goo Dolls since 1986, when they formed the band with then drummer George Tutuska — and since then, they've never really stopped; they've kept on recording and touring and making their music. To put it in perspective, the Beatles lasted for around a decade; other bands have had long fallow (and sometimes acrimonious) periods between intermittent reunions — we're looking at you, Mick and Keith.
Goo Goo Dolls is releasing their 12th studio album, "Miracle Pill," next month; the title track came out as the first single earlier this summer. And they're touring this summer with Train, San Fran rockers whose big hits have included "Drops of Jupiter" and "Calling All Angels." The tour brings them to Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC), 3355 Marvin Sands Drive in Hopewell, this Friday, Aug. 2, for a 7 p.m. show. (Gates open at 5:30 p.m.; also on the bill is Allen Stone; access tickets through cmacevents.com or visit the on-site box office, open starting at noon the day of the show.)
So what's kept Takac and Rzeznik — the band's founders and core — together all these years?
"Well, I guess number one is just the desire to see it happen another day," Takac said in a phone conversation Tuesday. "'Chemistry' is an overused word, but there has to be a sort of chemistry and cooperation between the people who are in the band, to do the right things. I think John knows me pretty well, I know him pretty well — we just try to do what we need to do" to get the music across.
"The long and short of it is, you have to have great songs — Johnny's managed to come up with great songs — and make records that fans seem to come along with us on, which is what you want every time you make a record," he added.
Getting together in Buffalo — Takac grew up in the West Seneca suburb and graduated from Medaille College, and Rzeznik grew up on the city's East Side — they were a part of the city's underground, punk and alternative scene (before "alternative" was really a thing) and playing both locally and around the country opening for such punk heavy-hitters as Motörhead, Bad Religion and the Dead Milkmen, making several albums and creating increasing buzz. Their sound evolved into a melodic rock sound, Rzeznik's vocals and lyrics characterized by an earnest sense of yearning. Indeed, if there's an underlying theme to Goo Goo Dolls songs, it's an attempt to make, and maintain, the human connection in a world that fights that attempt, one where "everything's made to be broken," to quote "Iris," the big hit recorded for the "City of Angels" soundtrack.
Sometimes a monster hit like "Iris" can be a double-edged sword for a band, becoming what it's defined by. But then, Goo Goo Dolls have had other popular tracks, and it's a good song. Takac's surely not complaining: "'Iris' casts a big shadow — but that shadow helps us do a lot of things, leeps us out of the sun when it gets too hot. To look at it any other way except with gratitude would be wrong."
The latest single, "Miracle Pill," addresses how people increasingly seek quick fixes or instant gratification, or intimacy-lite through social media, in lieu of the hard work of maintaining human connections or improving themselves. It uses the metaphor of quick-fix pharmaceuticals — the "miracle pill" of the title: "What I need is to feel incredible/What I need is a real love chemical/Wanna beat like a heart that's painted in gold/...Baby would you be my miracle pill?/And I could be somebody else ..."
"I guess we sing a lot about relationships — not necessarily men-and-women — I think we sing a lot about connection," Takac said — especially as they've gotten older and have more commitments. (Both men are in their 50s.)
Takac and his family are back in Buffalo these days, where he has founded a record label and an annual celebration of Western New York's creative spirit, the Music is Art Festival (the seventh one, set for Sept. 7 at Buffalo RiverWorks, is to feature some 150 bands plus exhibiting artists, DJs, performance artists, dancers, and more). Since this particular tour with Train isn't passing through the Queen City, playing CMAC will be "like a hometown show for us," Takac said — with a lot of the hometown crowd coming out.
"It'll be a lot of fun to get back," he said. "It's hectic, but it's always a lot of fun."
Cheap Trick at Farmington
"Surrender." "Need Your Love." "The Flame." And, of course, "I Want You to Want Me." We've all heard them, the big hits from a certain Rockford, Illnois band that emerged in the 1970s to moderate success in the States but became huge in Japan — finding mainstream U.S. acclaim after the 1978 album "Cheap Trick at Budokan," recorded at a Japanese venue, was released. Cheap Trick has been mainstays of the rock universe, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016 and still recording, still touring to this day.
The road brings them to Ontario County this week, as they'll play the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, 5857 Route 96, Farmington, on Friday, Aug. 2, for an outdoor concert that's part of WCMF 96.5's 50th-anniversary celebration. Doors open at 6 p.m. and music starts at 7 p.m., with special guest Talas also set to play. A pre-show barbecue from 3:30 to 6 p.m. will feature the music of White Knuckle Ride, featuring former members of Rochester band Duke Jupiter.
General admission is $29.99; $44.99 also gets you into the pre-show barbecue. For details, visit www.fingerlakesgaming.com or wcmfradio.com.
Went down to the Crossroads
The crossroads looms large in blues lore, ever since Robert Johnson penned the immortal Delta-blues song "Cross Road Blues" — covered by just about everybody, notably Eric Clapton — and probably before.
Well, the Livingston County village of Lima has its own crossroads, where Route 15A and Routes 5 and 20 meet — so what better place to have a celebration of perhaps that most cathartic form of music, the blues? Fanatics Pub, 7281 W. Main St., Lima, has been putting on the Lima Crossroads Blues Festival for a handful of years now, bringing music, food (including a rib competition) and other features to Lima for a summer weekend. This weekend it's back, with a full slate of music, as follows:
Friday — Dirty Bourbon Blues Band and Growlers Blues Band, 8 p.m.; Saturday — Owen Eichensehr, 1 p.m., John Bolger Band, 2 p.m., Hanna and the Blue Hearts, 3 p.m., Jon Dretto Band, 4 p.m., The Lustre Kings, 5 p.m., Michael Charles, 6 p.m., Poison Whiskey, 8 p.m.; Sunday — Nate Coffey and Mary Monroe, 12:30 p.m., The Rhythm Dogs, 1 p.m., Steve Grills & The Roadmasters and Mike "Cotton Toe" Scrivens, 2 p.m., Freight Train, 3 p.m., Heather Gillis Band, 4 p.m. The music is on two stages at Fanatics, except for "Cotton Toe," who's playing at the American Hotel.
There's plenty to take in besides the music: a waterball tourney from 6-9 p.m. Friday in the Sav-a-Lot parking lot; activities for kids (and kids at heart) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; bed races at 1 p.m. Saturday; a euchre tournament 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Lima Family Restaurant; a poker run 2-6 p.m. Saturday starting at The Upper Deck; and an "Anything Old" parade (antique vehicles, tractors, etc.) at noon Sunday on Routes 5 and 20; wine tastings, food trucks and more, including the rib cook-off competition on Sunday. Details: https://limabluesfest.com.