Anyone who grew up in the Philippines in the 90’s will easily recognize The Goo Goo Dolls as the band behind the hit “And I don’t want the world to see me,” the original soundtrack to the film City of Angels.
For some 90’s kids like me, it wasn’t until I asked my older siblings that I realized the song was actually entitled Iris, and you bet I didn’t believe it at first. The era of pop stars and boy bands have pre-conditioned me into hearing catch phrases and song titles being mentioned in the chorus repeatedly, until I wake up in the morning with a terrible earworm. So what’s up with these dudes and this Iris song?
A quick Google search now will tell you that the lucky girl whose name was used in that hit movie theme song was actually Iris DeMent, a country singer-songwriter popular in the United States.
Younger fans like me didn’t seem to catch her popularity, but what stuck with us was the band who brought us that song — the band whose vocalist stumbled upon Iris’ name while browsing through the LA Weekly magazine and decided to make it a song title.
The guys hail from Buffalo, New York — more than 13,000 kilometers from where I live. Yet strangely enough, these guys: one with a blond, flyaway hair and a cleft chin, and the other one with long black hair and red highlights, seem to get me. The connection stayed and got stronger as years passed.
Everybody has had a Goo Goo Dolls song as a soundtrack of his life. There’s power in their words, which seem to say everything you want to say about a particular moment, just when you are unable to articulate your feelings. And when that moment’s over, hearing the song again would bring you nostalgia, peppered with a sense of relief or longing, whatever the case may be, for the things of the past. It baffles me how a song like Name, released four years after I was born, easily became one of my favorites, years later.
It may have taken the band more than 20 years to come to the Philippines, but it was worth the wait. For fans like me who are just starting out in their careers, that meant being able to afford a VIP ticket my college self could only ever dream of. It was the least a fan could do when her favorite band announces an upcoming performance in her country. But I didn’t wait that long to just settle for a VIP ticket.
Days before the actual concert, I joined this raffle for a Meet and Greet with the band. My personal history reminded me how unlucky I have always been when it comes to these things.
And on February 11, past eight in the morning, I was affirmed, as the producers posted a congratulatory message to the winners while my inbox remained empty. I was contented with a VIP Row 7 ticket (the best I got when the tickets started to go on sale), until I got a message from RandomMinds Production.
In a few hours I saw myself standing in line with more than fifty other strangers, all of us waiting to meet our childhood heroes.
The bunch was composed of adults well in their 30s and 40s, some with their partners, others with their concert buddies. A few millennials like me were also part of the crowd. It was only then that it struck me, when I did the math: vocalist John Rzeznik is only four years younger than my parents, while bassist Robby Takac is only two years their junior. I might as well be rocking with my aunts and uncles then—but no, these rock superstars are different, their talents and energy transcend age!
Imagine arriving in Manila at one in the morning, doing a TV guesting by lunch, and a Meet and Greet two hours before your concert — what time have you left to relax? It’s all I thought of before coming to the Meet and Greet really.
When I asked one of the organizers, she told me it wasn’t an issue since the band is used to doing tours. Heck, of course they are used to it. The band is now celebrating their 30th year in the music industry, so it’s practically a way of life for them.
I don’t think I am the best Goo Goo Dolls fan there is, without the mementos and exclusives only true-blue fans have. All I know is I love the guys and their music, and I support them in every way my yuppie resources can.
I thought I knew enough about what being a fan means, until I met the other lucky Meet and Greet winners. One of them was Jasmine, 41 years old, who wore a Goo Goo Dolls t-shirt during the Meet and Greet. It wasn’t even the shirt which was on sale during the concert, but something she bought probably in Amazon, or through the InnerMachine Official fan club, of which she has been a part of since 2006.
For a while there, I felt underserving to be lining up with hardcore fans like her. But I guess that’s how fandom works. In an instant, I felt I was part of the community, even just for a little while.
After almost an hour of waiting, two familiar faces rushed through the hall. Damn, it was Robby and Johnny, all smiles, waving at us. You can never be too prepared to for an encounter with your favorite band!
The rules for the Meet and Greet were pretty clear: no picture-taking, just a quick hi-hello, and that’s it. But I wasn’t one to complain. I guess the best moments are those left untainted by cameras rolling and smartphones aimed at taking selfies.
Upon entering the room, Robby and John warmly greeted the fans with hugs and handshakes, before quickly proceeding to take a photo with the batch of Meet and Greet winners. I purposely made myself the last in line, so the hi-hello and hugs could linger a little bit. Indeed, the feeling lasted long after the nearly two-minute encounter was over. I stood there frozen, right after the picture-taking. It was partly because I was processing the fact that I got to hug rock stars, and also partly because I was cherishing the moment, seeing them outside the screen, in all their human glory.
The Meet and Greet was just a warm-up for what would be a night that’s one for the books.
As the lights dimmed, fans started cheering and screaming, in anticipation of a collective dream that was about to come true.
“It’s just so strange that we could’ve come here twenty years ago but we never did. But here we are in this beautiful place tonight with everybody here so it’s worth it.” – John Rzeznik
There was no opening act to the concert, and there wasn’t a need for one, really. The mood was set as soon as the band played Over and Over, one of the tracks in their latest album, Boxes. Fans sing and sway to the tunes with such enthusiasm, one would think the band is a new pop sensation like many others who recently visited the country.
Nostalgia started kicking in when the band started to play Long Way Down off their 1995 album A Boy Named Goo. It was the album that catapulted them to fame and made their music mainstream.
Just like other bands, The Goo Goo Dolls experimented with their music while they were starting out, dabbling into punk rock and some angsty teenager grunge. I’m not sure if this makes me lucky, having been introduced to them at a time when they finally settled for alternative rock.
The Goo Goo Dolls, or at least the Goo Goo Dolls I became familiar with, were music men who care about meaning, far from the one-hit wonder others would like to think of them. In fact, vocalist John Rzeznik would often say in interviews how much he wants to be remembered as a songwriter more than as a vocalist. That is exactly how I remember him every time I hear their songs.
But what ultimately lead to the band’s stardom was the song John penned out of pressure from her then wife, former model Laurie Farinacci. The song Name became the band’s first hit, which got them played on national radio in the United States.
“This song, is really the song, we were gonna, I was gonna quit playing music because we couldn’t make any money doing it and I was married and my wife wanted to have a real life, which to me, sounded f-ing horrible. And so I had the ultimatum put to me, and uh, so I immediately went, sat on the sofa and I was like, ‘I gotta write a f-ing song, I gotta write a f-ing song. And I wrote a song, and this is what came out…” – John Rzeznik on how “Name” was created
At the end of the song a delighted John remarked, “I’m glad you remembered,” in awe at the sight of the huge crowd who sang along.
Old hits like Slide, Big Machine and Here is Gone got more fans rushing closer to the stage, singing along with John and Robby. These are classic 90s playlist music that still get played across local radio stations from time to time.
There was a short pause before the intro to Black Balloon, and as soon as the audience recognized it, everyone started cheering. It’s one of those songs that grow on you. Much like the evolution of the band, the meaning of their songs change depending on the context when one is listening to them.
Bassist Robby Takac who also does lead vocals for some Goo Goo Dolls songs, performed Smash and Bringing On The Light, the latter, from their 10th studio album, Magnetic. Other Magnetic hits like Rebel Beat and Come To Me were also played, both a testament of the band’s evolution, as they venture into more upbeat and experimental music. Anthemic hits Before It’s Too Late and Better Days were played back to back.
John introduced Sympathy as a song about his drug abuse, and my friends and I all wondered if he had any idea how hot the drug issue is in the Philippines. It’s probably as hot as his pants while they were burning in the dressing room, hours before the concert— a story he shared to the audience in between performances.
A special moment was dedicated to the song Iris, the hit that brought them stardom. My friend later explained at length how the special tuning of the guitars added to the grandness of Iris, but I guess it doesn’t take an expert to appreciate the melody that goes well with the poetic lyrics.
Encore performances of Give A Little Bit and their new single Long Way Home punctuated their concert in Manila. It was their first concert in Manila, but definitely not their last, as the grateful duo promised to return soon.
“For the first time in Manila, my sometimes roommate and all-time bandmate, Mr. John Rzeznik, y’all!” – Robby Takac introducing John Rzeznik
“My partner for the last ten million years, Robby!” -John Rzeznik introducing Roby Takac
As John and Robby said their final thank you’s, confetti and white (not black) balloons fell from the ceiling.
I went home with some of those confetti and one white balloon. It sure was a night that felt like the movies, but with my heart still pounding with excitement hours later, I knew, that night, I was alive.
[Entry 206, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
Dawnavie Dadis is a Segment Producer for DocuCentral, the special projects arm of ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs. Doing the laundry is her form of mediation. The shower is her territory for musings. She is a story and a story-teller. She previously worked for GMA News as a Segment Producer for News TV Quick Response Team (QRT) with Jiggy Manicad and as a News Producer for the morning newscasts Unang Hirit and Kape’t Balita. Journalism 2012, UP Diliman. Read more of her articles here.