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get up with 'goh'

by jessica bennett, news staff

as the lights in the room dim, people fill in and jay hagenbuch takes to the stage to play his acoustic guitar. meanwhile, the other member of this two-man band called goh, chris harris, wanders around the room greeting the audience and handing out shakers. some members of the audience gladly grab for the noise-making cans, eager to join in the fun, while others take them with some apprehension, seemingly surprised at the band’s attempt to include them in the music.

hagenbuch takes the next few minutes to introduce the band and play while he waits for his sociable partner to join him on-stage. after a few moments, harris is seated beside him, preparing to add the sound of his drum and cymbals to the simple guitar chords. the pair is confident that it will be a great show as they break into their first song, "gi joe." the excitement they feel about performing is completely evident, and it radiates into the audience.

the two are no longer as nervous as they once were when they formed goh (pronounced "go") a year and a half ago. now, they have fun putting on shows; they aren’t extremely unnerved by performing.

"playing in front of people is not the problem. we get more nervous about how many people will show up," said hagenbuch. "every band wants to fill the house."

harris and hagenbuch met while they were undergraduates at northeastern, both engineering majors. "i had a guitar at home and always wanted to learn to play," remembered hagenbuch.

"and I played trumpet and wanted to move onto other instruments, too," added harris. the two created a college band to play at parties and other functions.

when they graduated in 1992, hagenbuch decided to move to ft. lauderdale, fla., while harris completed his master’s degree at NU. they both played with other bands in the four years that hagenbuch was gone, and it wasn’t until 1997 that the two came back together to form goh.

"we started performing at open mic nights. we were really nervous. we weren’t sure what people would think of us," said hagenbuch. their performances were not only accepted but encouraged by their audience.

"at one open mic night, we met a girl who asked us to play for her party. we did and at the party, we met a man who owned a coffee shop and wanted us to play there," said harris. the open mics were the perfect place for the band to get started. they gave the pair opportunities to try out their songs and to get comfortable in front of an audience.

goh hit the studio last summer and recently released its debut album, "matt." the disc features six of their 18 original songs and is representative of the band’s abilities. "we wanted the album to give an idea of what our live show is like. but we also wanted to leave the doors open and not give everything away," said harris.

hagenbuch and harris are both extremely energetic and love to perform for those around them. they are determined to show the crowd a wonderful time by getting them involved and interested in more than just the music. goh tries to connect with every person in the audience, not only through the music and lyrics, but also through their encouragement and conversation.

harris fully encourages every person in the room to join in each song by shaking along with his or her noise-maker. "the shakers are our attempt at getting people involved. we want the show to be as interactive as possible," said harris.

the band members continue to play their set, but after a few more songs, goh decides that it is "the story portion of the evening." hagenbuch keeps playing the melody of the song, while harris begins his tale. often, when the size of the club permits, they will invite an audience member to share a story of his or her own.

another song they play, "satellite," begins with harris pulling out the trumpet he played in high school band. goh also adds the sound of instruments such as spoons, harmonica and maracas to some songs.

"since it is just the two of us, it can be difficult to fill in the entire song with music," harris said. "we always welcome the audience participation because we think it only adds to our music."

not only is there a story time during the set, but the band often takes a short break to have a quiz with prizes. the questions come from harris’ goh pocket game and includes questions like, "how many times does a cow go to the bathroom in one day?" hagenbuch then gives outrageous prizes to whomever answers correctly.

finally, the last special section of the set is a sing-along. harris convinces the audience to join in his background song, while hagenbuch continues with the main vocals.

goh is currently playing a residency at the lansdowne street music hall (formerly known as mama kin). they’re going on every sunday night in january at 9:30 p.m., followed by another band at 10:30.

"the residency is great. we get to know the people here, make friends and know what to expect," said hagenbuch.