Frankie Rose finishes another song at Bowery Ballroom with her newest backing lineup and places her hand on the mic before speaking to the audience. “Who’s ready for the Gooooooooooooo! Teeeaaammmm?” “I am!” replies a man standing in the front off to the side. Wearing a simple white graphic T-shirt with jeans, Ian Parton, the founder of the headlining band, blends into the crowd seamlessly, nodding along to Rose’s surf drones. The fans alongside him have no idea that this man is about to unleash an audio attack on them in approximately 30 minutes.
“I wanted a band that was really dynamic and, you know, really violent,” Parton tells CMJ. “Ian’s the violent person in the band though,” adds Ninja, the band’s vocalist and tambourine player with serious skills. “He likes to hit people on stage with his guitar. He says it’s by accident, but he never looks upset afterwards.”
The energy is evident right from the start as the six members of England’s the Go! Team jog out on stage, sitting behind the two drum sets, picking up guitars and a bass, and grabbing the mic. Appropriately enough, they dive into “T.O.R.N.A.D.O.,” the lead track off of the band’s recent release, Rolling Blackouts. The Ninja we see here is far removed from the one present during sound check. That Ninja stood still, hands in pockets, spitting fiery rhymes that didn’t match her presence. With this one, you would be lucky to catch a non-blurry photo. She’s dressed in a sports bra and leggings, giving Gwen Stefani a run for her money. Ninja is constantly moving, whether she’s jumping in unison with the rest of the group, stomping like a football player moving through an agility grid, or getting low and shaking it.
The band played its first shows in the States back in 2005. “I think we came over a bit too early,” says Parton. “We were instantly thrown into this very hype-y, blog-y, hipster-y world, which we might not have been ready for.”
“People were shouting, ‘Encore!,’ and it was like, ‘We got no more!’” adds Ninja. Luckily for the sold-out show tonight, the group has three full-length albums’ worth of material, and the set list spans them all. Ninja acts as the emcee for the night, announcing most songs unless Kaori Tsuchida or Chi Fukami Taylor takes over on vocals. Tsuchida handles the lead on “Secretary Day” off of the new release, while Taylor uses mallets to play a typewriter. It’s one of the many moments during the set where you do a double take and wonder, “Are they really playing that right now?” Other ones include Parton wailing on a harmonica while bouncing around the stage, and Jamie Bell and Tsuchida playing keyboards with mouthpieces (a mouth keyboard, perhaps?).
The musical chairs instrument rotation occurs between each song. Parton shifts from guitar to drums and then to harmonica; Sam Dook also takes on the guitar and drums, and every member is not restrained to one music maker. “I think it makes it more interesting really,” Parton comments. “I like the visual part, you know? Literally everyone puts their instrument down and goes and does something else.”
“I don’t get to see that, it’s all happening behind me,” adds Ninja. “I was just thinking, I wonder what that looks like to a crowd. Like, ‘Oh, what’s next?’” The movement definitely keeps the audience enthralled with the performance. If you look away for just a second, a new lineup appears before you. The Go! Team’s songs vary just as much. While “Huddle Formation” is a huge burst of sound that gets both the band and the audience moving, “Buy Nothing Day” opts for a go-go vibe.
“I think you get an idea of who we are on stage,” says Ninja. When listening to a Go! Team track, there’s a lot going on all at once, and your ear dances around trying to pick up on all of the different parts. While the band is performing in front of you, the sound is given a face that enhances it and makes it even more playful. “You can really see how different we are as well,” adds Parton.
Ninja controls the crowd members, sneering at them with her arms across her chest before yelling, “Flashlight Fight!” Parton constantly hops around and shakes his head while playing guitar, and Dook leaps forward as if he’ll dive into the audience. “There’s a particular one or two songs that someone in the band will come to life in,” says Ninja. “I think Jamie’s song is ‘Junior Kickstart.’ I think definitely, ‘Damn, that bass player can move!’”
Though the band has played venues as big as the Glastonbury Festival, it thrives in small ones like the Bowery. There’s no escaping its sound in the contained space, where it bounces off of the intimately close walls. “I quite like the challenge of a festival though,” says Ninja. “We kind of go on and come off and be like, ‘Ha! Follow that, bitch!’ to the next band. ‘You don’t wanna follow us!’” No seriously, you don’t. Even in the encore that goes past midnight, the Go! Team is still jumping just as high, and Ninja continues to do consecutive frontal kicks with more energy than a Rockette.
“I think that’s been a constant with us. I’ve never known us not to completely go for it every single time,” says Parton. “It’s like the pledge, it’s an unwritten law.” High energy has been a rule since the band’s first shows in America, but the group sees itself as more adventurous now. “We’re certainly a lot more ballsy,” Parton says. “I had balls!” Ninja interjects. “Oh yeah, I’m not saying that we didn’t,” Parton continues. “We go for it every single night. We did then and we do now.” And after last night’s energy-driven performance, it’s clear that no other group is more deserving of a name like the Go! Team.