Southern New Jersey’s popular four-man GoodMan Fiske Band is hell-bent on making a career out of music — any way and anywhere they can.
A combination of talent, youth, energy and willingness to travel is needed to climb the ladder of success as a fulltime professional musician, and the southern New Jersey-based GoodMan Fiske band has all of those components — fourfold.
Regulars locally at live-music venues like the Gypsy Bar at Borgata, the RiRa at The Quarter in the Trop, and along the summer nightlife hotspot scenes of Sea Isle City and Wildwood, GoodMan Fiske — comprised of drummer John Kresge, bassist Ian Lightcap, and guitarists Gene Goodman and Ryan Fiske — have taken single-night gigs involving as much as six hours driving in each direction.
“We’ll go wherever there’s work, as long as the pay makes it worth our while to go there,” says Fiske on a recent break between sets at the Gypsy Bar. “Last night [Friday, March 18] we were at a club in Harrisburg, and the farthest we’ve gone so far is Clarion [Pa., about 300 miles northwest of Philadelphia].”
The band started out as the acoustic-guitar duo of Goodman and Fiske, who began playing together as grade-schoolers in Atco (Camden County, where Fiske is from, Goodman moved to from the Kensington section of Philly, and their group is now based).
“We met in grade school and have been playing music together ever since,” says Fiske. “When we started it was just him and I playing acoustic guitars in local bars in Atco, and once word got around about us, more people wanted us to play and we formed the band [originally in 2006, but with their current four-man ensemble since 2008].”
Generally GoodMan Fiske (see goodmanfiskeband.com) plays covers during the prime-time slots (roughly 7-11pm) in the casino clubs because that’s what’s expected from management, but the band has a cache of original material that it breaks out on occasion. Their second set last Saturday night spanned an impressive gamut of artists (like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something, “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts, “American Girl” by Tom Petty and a killer medley of ZZ Top) — all performed with clean expertise. The lead vocalist, Fiske switched from a plugged in acoustic to an electric guitar during the set, while Goodman — an exceptionally good lead guitarist — played a swirled black-and-yellow Gibson Zakk Wylde electric.
“We’ll write originals in our free time and play them in some places, but during the A-shift here [the 7-10:30pm slot at Borgata], it isn’t a real kosher place to play originals because you’re basically expected to play the numbers everyone wants to hear,” says Goodman.
The foursome nailed all the covers they performed that night, and are looking to possibly add a keyboardist to the group in order to expand their song repertoire further. A couple dozen of their loyal following made the trek to A.C. from the Atco area, but when they play their back-yard haunts — as they did two nights prior on Saint Patrick’s Day — they can count on throngs of several hundred showing up to rock the house.
“We have an extensive song list, but don’t really write set lists unless it’s absolutely pertinent that we do,” says Fiske. “Last night [in Harrisburg] it was required. The manager had to look at our set list so I had to write one, but usually we try to get a feel for the crowd and handle on what they like, and in the course of the set we’ll get to know what kind of mood they’re in. If they’re dancing, we’re going to play a lot of dance music. Tonight there’s a ton of people here to see two amazing comedians [Lewis Black and Jerry Seinfeld were at the Borgata], so a lot of people were out dancing before it kind of thinned out when they went to see the shows in the second set, so we made the second set a little more laid back. We go with the flow of things and our sets are never the same.”
This Saturday night (11pm) they’ll be playing the RiRa in the Trop. The band is under the sponsorship umbrella of Bud Light, so for some gigs they get a stipend from the beer mogul for helping to promote the product.
“This is all we do,” says Goodman. “We don’t have other jobs. We wake up every single day and put our heart and soul into the band. We’re all still young [Kresge is 28, the other three are or soon will be 25] but we know that if we keep putting the effort into it we’re going to be a very successful band.”
Many different places have plenty going on this fall in Cape May County, so if you didn’t make it down during a bustling summer season, now is still a prime time to do so.
The guide is destined to soon become the place for local booking agents and promoters to check out local bands and listen to songs and watch video.
"The Local Music Guide is a great idea. I believe it’s very important for the musicians to work together and support each other, rather than just protect their own ‘piece of the pie.’ The South Jersey music scene seems to be growing stronger and stronger, and hopefully this guide will make it easier for all involved — clubs, fans and musicians alike — to continue that growth and bring back the ‘glory days’ once more.”
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