There are layers upon layers of music going on around Centre County.
Walk down College Avenue in State College and you might stumble into Zeno's Pub. Drift up to Beaver Avenue and you’ll find The Phyrst. Go up North Atherton Street and, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up at Otto’s Pub & Brewery. Venture out into the beautiful Bellefonte countryside and the Hublersburg Inn will welcome you.
There are tons of places and tons of players, and Chris Good and Curtis Ishler are making their mark all over the scene with a gig at P.J. Harrigan's every Saturday, a monthly gig or two at Happy Valley Brewing Company and plenty of other places.
“Currently we are playing every Saturday night at P.J. Harrigans,” Good said, “along with frequent gigs at Happy Valley Brewing Co., The (American) Ale House, the Bellefonte Moose, private parties, you name it. We are constantly working on expanding our online presence and our extensive song list.”
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I’ve experienced Good playing solo at Otto’s and HVBC a few times over the years and always enjoyed the shows, which featured Good rolling through a robust catalog of '90s favorites as well as some more eclectic selections. Aside from his solo shows, Good has also been playing with Ishler for a number of years.
“I have been playing in acoustic duos for about 10 years now,” Ishler said. “Four years ago I was looking for someone to fill in when my bandmate at the time wasn't available. I was pumped when (Chris) agreed to do it. We played about one show a month together for a year or two with great feedback from people. We decided to do it full time at the beginning of last year.”
Together, the duo has a massive playlist, and a refreshingly direct approach that emphasizes playing what the audience wants to hear. It’s an interesting concept, really, because what the audience wants to hear can, as Bob Dylan once sang to Woody Guthrie, "come with the dust and be gone with the wind." Some audiences want original songwriting while others want artistic renderings of songs that already exist, and in the music world there is a sometimes snobbish premium on writing your own music when, in truth, it can be plenty cool to have a good time playing someone else’s tunes.
“We play a good variety of everything,” Good said. “My wheelhouse has always been acoustic rock, a lot of '90s, Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind kind of stuff and Curtis has done almost any genre under the sun, but we have a large set list and can play anything from Johnny Cash to Imagine Dragons. Our goal is to play what our audience wants to hear that night."
Both Good and Ishler have a strong history of individual music making, dating back to when they were just kids, with Good getting his start on guitar when he was about 10 and Ishler cutting his teeth as a vocalist as that kid in elementary school who the teacher had to keep telling to stop singing. Their talents have evolved with Good playing guitar and using a looping machine to create additional sounds and Ishler getting into different instrumentation.
“I ended up singing in the concert choir at Juniata College,” Ishler said, “which is where my passion for music really took off. I've been singing in bands ever since I graduated. I picked up the cajon a little over five years ago to add some percussion to the duo I was playing in. Between Chris' guitar and loop pedal, my cajon and multiple vocalists, we can make a lot of noise for a duo.”
Goodish is all about making music and having fun, and that spirit is reflected in the way Good and Ishler describe their music making, balancing professionalism, chemistry and a shared vision.
“From the first time we played together, it felt really comfortable,” Good said. “Our voices meshed well and the more we explored, the more songs and styles we had in common. We feed off each other's energy really well and have a fun time with it. We definitely have a professional approach to what we bring to every gig but we like to cater to the crowd and give them a show that is unique."
For more information on Goodish and upcoming gigs, visit www.facebook.com/Goodish-397977477203470.
Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at . KevinTBriggs@gmail.com