now playing 4-7-05
When I think of goats and music, I have visions of the once-great and now-gaunt Greek god Pan tooting his flute while dancing through a forest glade. (Does the funk of Pan still exist if no one is there to smell it?) Given the ancient ties between frivolity, sexuality, and musicality wrought by the devilish adventures of the cloven-hoofed one, is it surprising to have a musical group (from Jacksonville, Ill.) that calls itself the New Goat Ensemble?
Actually, a quick Internet search proves that goats hold favored status in the music world, surpassing cattle, chicken, sheep, and pigs as the most popular livestock to be featured in band names. There are the Mountain Goats, the Holy Goats, Goats Don’t Shave, the Escape Goats, Goats in Trees, Goatskin, Goatsblood, Goatsnake, and one simply called the Goats. Then there’s the Rolling Stones’ 1973 album Goat’s Head Soup — and to top that off, every year Lewisburg, Tenn., hosts the Goats, Music, and More Festival (Ronnie Milsap is the 2005 headliner).
Our central-Illinois goat boys claim no great inspiration in their choice of the name New Goat Ensemble, just that it sounded good and seemed to fit. They harbor no hidden pagan agenda or desperate desire to please the Future Goat Lovers of America. They could have named themselves the Bald Knobs or Sally the Sodbuster or the Merry Milkmaids from Pisgah or the Dust Mite Devils — and would still be a fantastic band. With classic-sounding original songs filled with insightful lyrics, cool covers that would make Neil Young proud, and fun stuff goat-made for crowd participation, the band floats in a precious area between improvisation and preparedness that only great groups inhabit.
The New Goat Ensemble was a fixture on the Jacksonville scene through the 1990s and was quite popular in Springfield until a few years ago, when the members of the group decided to take a breather. The stories of the lead singer’s alien abduction (the extraterrestrials quickly brought him back) and the band’s banishment from the capital city by former Mayor Karen Hasara as a result of unsolicited caprine-influenced behavior performed with drunken audacity aren’t true and are simply tales of goat lore. The only truth you need is this: They’re baaaaaaaaa-ck.