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Entering The Splash Zone: Goldfish Funeral and Jojomber Live At Heaven Can Wait

Em Hoffman (and 1 other) Mar 29, 2024

My first run-in with mortality was next to a toilet. My mom and I were packed like sardines in our tiny bathroom, watching Goldie circle the bowl enough times for me to get a little impatient through the tears. Making music under the name Goldfish Funeral, Jack Bobley flies fearlessly between the heart wrenching and the absurd. Breaking in the stage for ukelele-indie-rock band Jojomber at Heaven Can Wait in the East Village, he did just that. The show opened as any good funeral should, with the question: “What is going on?” To start the night, Maxwellbean played a DJ set that intoxicated, executing tectonic shifts from housey, to groovy, to industrial. Sometimes I swore I heard a train roll overhead. I was still swimming in Bean’s electronic foley when a rush of guitar feedback swooped in behind me. I’ll admit, I thought something had gone wrong. The velvet, candlelit lounge fell away as bodies found the front of the room. By the time I registered that Bobley was on stage, he exploded.

One song would thrash and the next would sway. A mosh pit three people big washed away as quickly as it bubbled up, but made good on its time there. One moment Bobley would be screaming raw, the next he'd be emitting a heartfelt, honeyed vibrato. During “Lightning Rod,” which cycles through one vivid lyrical stanza, Bobley works with every corner of his voice. “One day I’ll move down south / Might buy me a plot of land / Sit out on my pasture with a lightning rod in my hand.” A line that is belted, hummed, and desperately shouted, bearing a new face on every rotation. The guitar would shriek and grind, and it would flutter sweetly. The soup of emotion was electrifying, but at times the whiplash left me unresolved. I would have liked a moment longer to tear up after “Bench Song” before being snapped somewhere new, but maybe it was all part of the experience. Peppered throughout his set were pre-recorded sketches about zombified, vengeful goldfish, with a “newfound taste for human flesh.” Something about a chemical leak in Petco was announced, as well as grave doomsday warnings from an AI-generated Ronald Raegan. There is some kind of apocalyptic lore beneath the surface, but Goldfish Funeral doesn’t really ask you to understand it. He arrives, spills his heart onto the stage in the midst of something ridiculous, and in his vulnerability, possesses total command of the room. The whole time, the audience was locked in. They splashed, swelled, and swayed along, following him without question through the temperamental waves. Through all of the chaos, I got this weird feeling that Bobley knew exactly what would happen next.

Goldfish Funeral left the room a bit tender. Maxwellbean flooded back in for a brief time. And when Joe Minde-Berman (AKA Jojomber) hit the stage armed with his ukulele, he was already bouncing. He performed like the subject of the song was in the room with him; like he had been waiting to tell them exactly what he was about to say. That presence brought something soft but feral out of onlookers. At one point, he gleaned that it was a “special night,” with a crowd composed of familiar faces, and nodded to a hometown friend in the front row. But I get the sense that wholeness is the glue of any Jojomber show. During “Tool,” he channeled the sting of an unreciprocated crush – and no one hesitated to shout along. The song started with a flashing, raindrop riff on his ukulele. He can make his instrument anything. Contemplative, delicate, smashing. Later that evening he would have us all head banging to a cover of “Creep” by Radiohead; but with “Tool,” he carried something heavy while walking on air, a disco beat and a fuzzy bassline. Once the chorus hit he never stopped jumping, but that didn’t drag down his gritted, earnest belt.

The sadness tucked into “Tool” swelled from the undercurrent into the foreground. Minde-Berman dubbed “Body Underwater” his country song, and it lived up to the promise. He packed a choir of friends onto the stage to sing with him, and the room leveled, and the lights cooled to a pale blue. His voice buckled a bit as he remembered “Driving into west Virginia / I can see you crying softly on the plane.” This performance was mountainous, with verses indwelled in solitude, and harmonies that turned Heaven Can Wait into a canyon. It was familial and overwhelming, a thread that ran through his whole set. Jojomber is a master of bringing people together. Later for “Believe Me, I’ve tried,” Goldfish Funeral returned to the stage to play guitar. This tune was not as grand, but just as vast. Crackling wind, scratchy throat, and a sweet and somber melody. If the explosion of “Tool” pulled people in, the arctic quiet on “Believe Me, I’ve tried,” made them lean in closer. I felt the room melt. Jojomber, having treated the audience like an old friend, made us a hive mind.

By the end I felt total release. No amount of aquatic-theater could have made Bobley’s performance feel insincere; he tore himself to pieces onstage, and Jojomber did the same. In a room full of dancing bodies screaming along, he wasn’t the only one singing about the ache of growing apart, or longing, or loneliness. If you’re looking for catharsis, front row at the Jojomber and Goldfish Funeral show is the place to find it.

Keep up with Jojomber here, and Goldfish Funeral here.