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New York City, Underwater: Geese's Anniversary Tape Lives Up to the Live Standard

Updated: Jul 7

In 2015, the Houston Press' Corey Deiterman, likened a live album to being "about as relevant as a CD single," suggesting that unless you do something "absolutely unprecedented with the art form," a live record does little to enhance the listening experience; suggesting that artists should "instead focus on crafting better studio recordings."


I don’t like to get contrarian here (yes, I do, and rather frequently at that), but one of my favorite albums of all time is a live album, B.B. King’s “Now Appearing” at Ole Miss. It was thrust upon me by my Dad's CD collection as a kid, stashed in between Earth, Wind & Fire's The Eternal Dance box set and a funk compilation album that my sisters and I almost never took out of our CD player. It's the Chairman of the Board making to happen, the King of Blues at his prime. His '79 double-LP quakes with the hootin’ and hollerin’ of unruly and easily excitable Oxford Rebels, their thunderous applause and searing whistling fighting through from the outer reaches of every song as if you were hearing them from the other side of the audience. It’s master class, B.B. seizes the crowd from the moment he and his band swing in, like they’d been cueing in on the crowd’s tempo for decades, playing on into the night like they already knew young impressionable music junkies would be gushing over it for decades to come.



That is how powerful a live recording can be and rock history has proven this to be true time and time again. Frampton Comes Alive!, Peter Frampton's mythic 1975 live album, rocketed the now legend from a middling Humble Pie branch solo project into the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts, and has since defined his legacy as a quintessential soft rock standard. "The intensity of the playing and the way the audience was reacting was just spectacular," legendary studio engineer Eddie Kramer told Billboard. Kramer was responsible for recording the Commack concert in Long Island, NY, tracking the transcendent additional tracks "Show Me the Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way." "It seemed as if the band could hardly put a foot wrong or play a note wrong, and even if they did, so what?"


In the same year, KISS would also release a live record of their own, Alive! Similar to Frampton, KISS had a developed a cult following for their outlandish, satanic live performances, but had yet to land any commercial success. Amidst a breach of contract lawsuit against their current label, Casablanca Records, KISS would embark on the Dressed to Kill Tour to record a live album, a last ditch scheme devised by label founder Neil Bogart to solve his financial troubles and rescue Casablanca from bankruptcy. While the original release was met with mixed critical reviews, either being hailed as "a de facto best-of" or some hotter than hell garbage, but it has withstood the test of time. KISS' Alive! is now considered the kabuki-clad hard rockers' breakout hit and the standard for live recordings.


We could sit here for days gabbing about artists and bands that have recorded sensational live sessions and shows (we didn't even get to any of James Brown's trailblazing Live at the Apollo series, Jonny Cash At Folsom Prison, or Cheap Trick at Budokan; hell, we'd have to come back tomorrow if we want time to talk concert documentaries). As music listeners, we're naturally drawn to the live show. We want to feel the excitement of standing shoulder to shoulder in a sweaty, crowded room waiting for the lights to dim and the band to walk out, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we want that experience to last forever.


The live album bridges that gap between the stage and the cage and lets us bring the show back with us. It's an intimate experience for both musician and listener, letting the audience peak back in time at concerts they loved and concerts past, and freeing the band from the confines of the rigid studio recording, putting forth a version of the song that can exist nowhere else but within the confines of that moment. Unfortunately, we’ve been lacking in good live material because, as Deiterman also pointed out, it doesn’t make sense financially for a lot of bands, or their live performance sounds too similar to the studio recording, “[rendering] the live album experience dead.” But a brave few, the flighty and mighty Geese are on the path to change that.



To celebrate the first birthday of 3D Country, the band's second album, Geese released Alive & In Person on Friday, June 28, a live set previously recorded atThe Diamond Mine Recording Studio in 2023 in collaboration with TIDAL. The tape originally premiered on their YouTube channel and featured a few basement-jam style versions of some flock favorites with some behind the scenes footage of the recording process squeezed between takes, and even featuring a delightful few words from the star of the "I See Myself" music video, Howard Heller. "I think it's got a very nice, unique sound, I really am enjoying it," he said, joining drummer Max Bassin, bassist Dom DiGesu and keyboardist Sam Revaz on the studio rooftop for a smoke 'n' toke. "In spite of fact you got to smoke that to make sure you understand what I'm saying."


Both the tape and the film of Alive & In Person are wonderful, and rumor has it, the video was edited on iMovie on drummer Max Bassin's phone, so that take as you will. It's a silly performance, brimming with signature Geese personality and quirks (not many bands would include a 20-second clip of their lead singer shaving to jazz piano), defined more by the band's antsy tapping, strumming and plucking between songs.


Staged in a cramped studio, with the sunlight and overhead strobes dousing the room in a steel blue hue, it feels less like a TIDAL partnership and more like a college basement show. It's professionally unprofessionally; there are no theatrics, no hyperactive fans screeching through the monitor, just the five of them in a soundproof booth with all the lights turned off and the amps plugged in, taking frequent breaks in between recording to pack a quick bowl and eat a few donuts (lead guitarist Emily Green even solves a Rubik's Cube in the time it takes Bassin to pack and rip his bong). While the record leaves out much of the mid-recording narration from Heller, it captures the magic of the moment present in the film just as well. You can hear the equipment feeding back into the microphones, you can hear the shuffling and readjusting and reaching for sleigh bells-- you can hear the humanity, like someone tossed their phone into the middle of the room and hit record.


Alive & In Person is the antithesis of the traditional live record; no crowd, no applause, no showtime perfection. They ask each other for notes and chat and check in between takes, they blow on their coffee in the middle of the song (you can really hear lead singer Cameron Winter remove the lid and blow into the microphone during the pause in "2122"). It's closer to watching them practice than seeing them on stage, and that's what makes it so perfect. Alive & In Person opts instead for the beauty in the music and the unpredictability of the rehearsal space, laying down the songs we know as if they were playing the demos for the first time right in your living room. It's an endearing, almost secretive experience that tears away the sparkling adhesive, allowing listeners to feel like they're part of the backing band and giving the album a warmth and authenticity that traditional live recordings can be deficient in. Heller said it best, narrating as he gazed out over the grey-scaled New York skyline, "I can tell you now that [Geese] is outrageous."




Rob Lucchesi


Geese

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