Van GoGo Connects With New Audiences At Triumphant Live Return

Live Review

Van GoGo. Photo by Chyrisse.

By Vlad T, Rock At Night Detroit and Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Live Review: Van GoGo with Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters and Visitor-The Magic Bag, Ferndale, Michigan – May 20, 2022

Jason Schaller of Van GoGo. Photo by Chyrisse.

For readers of Rock At Night, Van GoGo will be no strangers. We’ve covered and followed the band since it rolled the dice and reformed in 2020 following more than a decade apart. 

The first part of the group’s master plan was to release its first album and re-assert itself in the public eye. With the group’s debut album and ensuing singles now international radio and streaming mainstays, that mission was accomplished.

VanGoGo presenting a check on behalf of the Ukrainian American Crisis Response of Michigan. Photo by Chyrisse.

The natural continuation of that plan is to re-connect with fans live and in-person. After all, the group at heart is a rock ‘n roll band that engages the mind, spirit, and ears. Co-founders Nate Mackinder and Jason Schaller have a history of being a compelling, crowd-pleasing live act in their previous group South Normal, and the mission of Van GoGo is to take that legacy to a broader audience.

Cut to the group’s anticipated live debut at the Magic Bag in Metro Detroit on May 20th.

After well-received sets by openers Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters (up-tempo Americana) and Visitor (straight-ahead modern rock), Van GoGo opened with a multimedia précis of their path to this point and a benzene-doused “Watch It Burn.” It was evident that the pilot light was alight and bright with MacKinder, sassy and expressive guitarist Schaller, drummer Jonah Brockman, and bassist Paxton Olney, and they were laser focused on declaring they are here and staking claim to their territory.

Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters. Photo by Chyrisse.

What ensued was an entertaining balance of rollicking energy from Schaller, Brockman, and Olney on one hand and Mackinder’s whiskeyed/honeyed voice and deft sense of delivery and phrasing on the other. 

The band swung from originals like “Both Of Us,” “Big Mistake,” and “Why Ask Why” to classics recast in a different theme like “Go Your Own Way,” the willowy “Avalanche” with guest Carrie Wiesinger on flute, and Schaller’s hat tip to Hendrix’s “Star-Spangled Banner.” Throughout was a sense of storytelling and subtle theater as a complement to the arena-worthy rock showmanship. 

Visitor. Photo by Chyrisse.

The rock-reimagined originals along with Mackinder’s observations between songs echoed a persistent underlying theme on the debut album of mixed feelings about the road to personal and rock ‘n roll dreams—all delivered without dragging down the momentum and pace of the night.

The evening revealed the band is more than ready to take the leap from releasing clever, well-produced recorded output to leaving live audiences with indelible memories.

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