On Saturday July 8, I Died Trying returns to the local scene via The Actors Theatre in Fairborn after a multi-year absence/seclusion. Formally a three-piece, the now one man band helmed by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Tony Goff will perform two solo sets surrounded by a multi-media immersion of screens, video production and photography.
“The Encore:” The Return of I Died Trying will feature two 45 minute sets starting at 8 p.m. with intermission. The show is billed as an intimate one night only, limited engagement. one man performance and the first I Died Trying show in nearly four years. Their last show was in November, 2013 at Blind Bob’s. The show is also sold out.
The night serves multi-purpose as Goff’s first solo show, a personal and professional comeback, a CD release party and the first time he’s played two different sets.
The show itself is advertised as an old school throwback experience to the days before cell phones, social media and YouTube. When all you walked out with was a T-shirt, ticket stub, and the memories of what you saw and heard with your own eyes and ears. Goff asks everyone to put the cell phones away, sit and share the experience with him and everyone else. For the last several months he has painstakingly put together a show in terms of style, delivery and presentation that could be considered his version of Operation Mindcrime. Though the music itself will be new material and vastly different; telling several stories during the evening accompanied by visual awe and splendor.
Goff has gone through much personal tragedy, turbulence and turmoil over the last several years. Losing his former band members, his mother’s failing health and ultimate passing, problems dealing with strong social anxiety, money and being forced to step away from his favorite place, the stage. Though he released music online, without a band he was unable to perform and fell into a deep funk and depression.
He thought that nobody cared anymore until people started commenting on Facebook that they wanted him to come back and would gladly pay to see him perform again. This stunned Goff, and the wheels of productivity slowly started turning him towards an emotionally better place.
“The Encore” will be an emotional culmination of events filtered through the music and his personal purging of the pain and depression he’s endured and a celebration of his rebirth.
Goff started the band in February 2002 as a two-piece with drummer for a few years, adding a bass player in 2004. They remained a three-piece for multiple years until the drummer quit. After a little time off, a new drummer came, and they pushed forward until Goff lost both members. He’s been solo since the Blind Bob’s show, recording on his own.
Goff explains the musical inspirations of the band, “I dreamed it up in the mid ‘90s,” he says. “Growing up with death metal, I wanted to keep the heaviness and do something that was brutal, emotionally brutal and honest [while] carving out a weird corner of extreme music and experimentation [that was] progressive and digressive at the same time.”
Goff wanted a band with everything under one umbrella, without style or genre limits or preconceived boundaries. Music that was emotionally heavy with samples, electronics, clean singing and heavier vocals. Known for his stage roar, Goff is going a different direction with new material. “The sets I’m preparing for this show are leaning toward cleaner singing.”
Goff prides his music as being unclassifiable, without category. I Died Trying sounds like, I Died Trying. “I Died Trying is a lot weirder and at times way more experimental and a little more formulaic,” he says.
The set lists will be a collection of new material from the new CD How To Invent Your Encore. “It’s all solo material, and I’m releasing an album at the show with eight songs, seven of which have been released as digital singles in the last couple years.”
Goff wants his performances to be special events and has lost interest in playing ‘casual shows.’ The last few years have changed his goals and what he wants within a performance. He wants full attentive immersion at his shows, not multi-tasking audience members.
“I’m cool with new people finding I Died Trying but I’m not interested in playing for a casual crowd. Nothing against that but I want to play for people who are specifically there and engaged with an emotional connection and attachment to what I’m doing, 100%.” Goff realizes that may narrow the audience but he’s OK with that.
He has always given his all on stage, “I don’t play at 80%. When I play no matter how many people are there, it’s 110%. No matter what, and multiple times in the last couple years where I’ve played shows with the band, I’ve killed myself [in effort] and there’s people starring at their phones. Fuck that. Nothing against them, if that’s what they wanna do but I won’t perform for that anymore.” He’s not ruling out any venue, if the show makes sense, but he won’t put himself in front of an audience that’s only half-engaged.
He wants the crowd to take in and absorb the atmosphere and experience he’s delivering. He’s played music for decades and wants everyone there to live and breathe what’s happening collectively together. “I started going to shows in the ‘90s and played my first show in ’94.” Goff has played the local venues and numerous crowd sizes but wants an I Died Trying show to truly be a must see event. “I worked my ass off to make this different.” Goff has created a show that if he was going as a fan it would be a, can’t miss must see event.
He wants to bring back the old-school vibe of the early-to-mid ‘90s when things were happening for him as a kid. “Back then we might’ve had a few pictures that were developed from those shows. There ‘might’ be a VHS tape of something.”
Goff is also self-funding the show making sure it goes above and beyond the normal rock concert, “It’s gonna be different,” he assures. “It’s gonna be me and video footage synced to the set all the way through. I felt like it belonged in a theater setting.” It says no photography on the tickets and a bullet point announcement will be made preshow stating cell phone use is prohibited during the performance “I’ll take pictures with everyone after the show if they want.”
Emergencies happen but Goff is stern on his zero tolerance policy of no cell photos or videos, no nothing, asking for undivided attention and respect for his music, the performance, and the personal and professional journey he took to get there.
For those who want to relive it, Goff assures everything will be captured. “Four different people are filming the show and by the end of the year it’s going to be released as a live concert DVD.” There will also be professional photographers on hand, with local scene veteran Jebenezzer Law shooting, among others. “Forget about what’s going on outside that room. Let’s emote, connect and have an experience together, whatever that is.”
Going forward Goff wants to do two or three similar events a year at a cool location, presale only. The Fairborn show is a testing pad to build on for future events. “It’s sold out, so people wanna see it. It’s just figuring out what I wanna do, when it’s over. He’s open to getting on national shows locally but is focused on solo events.
The last few years have been dark for him, “I lost my band in 2013. I lost my mother after being very sick. I was broke, living in a bedroom of a friend of 30+ years. He lost his job and I had to get an apartment and was really struggling for about a year and a month. I was basically watching my mom die, she was really bad off. The summer of ’14, before she passed we started making trips to and from OSU trying to get on the list for a lung transplant.”
She was one step away when she realized her health had gotten so bad that she couldn’t survive the transplant process. Goff says, she never vocalized it but she kind of accepted it, called in hospice and a week to the day later, she passed.
A lot of people knew his mother supported his music but didn’t know of her final wishes, “My mom was my biggest fan and her last wishes were to be buried in an I Died Trying hooded sweatshirt. Literally, that’s what she was buried in and what she wanted to be buried in. It’s common knowledge she was my best friend and biggest supporter. It’s very prevalent in the lyrics.”
Goff inherited his childhood home which he was grateful for then fell into a depression. His social anxiety took over causing a severe nervous breakdown. “I got in this weird funk once I moved in and the dust settled. I had like, a year of just basically sitting around, watching TV. I was still recording music but I got to the point where I thought nobody cared anymore.”
Goff was doing music while helping his mom, “I’d already started preparing songs. The last video I shot I filmed two weeks before she passed. I put the single and the video premiere out about a month after. So, dealing with all that, these songs have been sprinkled around the last couple years as far as being released and as cliché as it sounds, this record has saved my life. It’s not a slogan, bumper sticker or a T-shirt, it really, really has. It’s given me something to work towards and kept me busy and kept music in my life.”
Goff missed many opportunities due to his last lineup falling apart, “I had no band members; no way to go forward, I was fucked. I missed out on a lot of opportunities after working my ass off for 12 years on this. So, when I made the decision [to] keep trucking, I was sitting on a lot of great material from the last couple lineups and a lot of material we hadn’t worked out yet.”
Goff is excited about the new music, “This is the best stuff I’ve ever written in my fuck’n life.”
Facebook played a huge part in igniting the whole process. Earlier this year there was a post encouraging an I Died Trying reunion. Goff didn’t think he had any options with former members either not interested or involved elsewhere, with a limited number of other people who could play the material. “Someone made a comment, if you play a show, if it was just you, your guitar and a drum machine, I’d come see you every time. That floored me. I hadn’t thought about it like that.”
Goff responded, “Wait a minute, I think I commented. Are you serious? I got flooded with comments from all different people.” The local scene assured him that he still had an audience waiting for more. “That was when the wheels really started turning. A few months later, the theatre kinda fell in my lap, in a weird way. Everything kinda manifested. I expected to sell 20 or 30 tickets, maybe another 20 before the show and I’ve sold it out. It’s been sold out for a week and it’s still two weeks [at time of interview] away. It’s been a passion project.”
What the audience will see is as important as what they will hear, “The main chunk I’ve been working on is video stuff and background, just the whole experience. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a huge, huge Pink Floyd fan and I’ve always loved aspects with projection and lights. But that’s hard for a local band to do.”
Last year he invested in a computer that’s allowed him to fulfill his multi-media dreams creating an all-encompassing feeling.
Originally, the theater show concept came from Oddbody’s owner Neilson Hixson, “I wrote and told him my idea in January and he was the one that said; you need to do it in a theater. You’re more than welcome to do it here and any venue like this would love to have you but I feel that I Died Trying belongs in a theater.”
Goff worked Oddbody’s as a second job as his mother’s condition started affecting his anxiety. Every show he worked, people asked him about the band but his hands were tied. “There’s a scene in Rocky II where he can’t fight anymore but he goes and works at the gym saying I gotta be around it. I’m the opposite. If I can’t play, be on stage and do what I feel I’m made to do, I don’t wanna be around it.”
The show will be an emotional, physical purging, “Yeah, it’s been a really, really violent, up and down last few years for me,” he says. “[It’s] changed me completely, emotionally and psychologically. Its literary changed me, going out and playing these songs, just playing them period, it’s weird. I started playing shows when I was a kid and that’s all I’ve done since. For years I haven’t done it and all these things have happened. For me at least, it’ll be the most emotional performance I’ve ever done in terms of how I’ll feel going through it. Plus, I’ve never played that long in my entire life. Emotionally it’s gonna be the heaviest thing I’ve done and physically even more so. It’ll be brutal.”
Goff knows and appreciates that he’ll have a full room of supporters there to see him, “I’m scared to death but I’m ready to step on stage right now. It’s weird to see this whole thing come to fruition. Like I said, about a year ago I didn’t think anyone gave a fuck. I’m gonna make music for the rest of my life because that’s what I do. I didn’t think anyone cared and I didn’t think I’d ever do this again, in any manner. This weird thing I dreamed up, all the stars aligned and dots connected. It’s gonna happen, it’s pretty wild.”
The Actor’s Theatre Of Fairborn is located at 23 East Main Street, Fairborn, OH 45324. Doors at 7 p.m., show starts sharp at 8. The show is a no moshing event.
All photos courtesy of Tony Goff.