If you've spent time in any of the various Goose- related Facebook groups, then you’ve most likely come across the following name: Tina Varner.
Her Facebook posts provide us with everything we could ever want: from show recaps, tour opener countdowns, crew member appreciation posts, and memes, to jam band news updates, holiday wishes, and thoughtful conversation starters. Her explosive expressions of love and excitement are infectious, and she has quickly become a pillar of our online community.
As a music therapist, I am constantly thinking about people in the context of their relationship with music, as that is how I learn the most about them in clinical settings. So to be given insight into the inner musical world of my fellow Goose community members is an absolute joy, and I couldn’t wait to explore the ball of love and light that is Tina Varner, and the online Goose community in general.
As the youngest of seven children, Tina didn’t spend too much time searching for what music to listen to. “There was always music playing in my house. My brother was into Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead and all of those old bands. So that’s what I listened to... And then growing up in the ’80s, my sister was all about AC/DC.” And as someone who was “all about AC/DC,” Tina’s sister wasn’t going to let babysitting get in the way of an AC/DC concert.
“That was my first concert ever. She snuck me out of the house and took me with her. I was 9 years old. Hells Bells tour baby! I cried the whole freaking time.”
Music had always been a big part of Tina’s life, but it was during her high school years that it became a lifestyle. “When I was a freshman I ended up meeting a couple of hippie girls who were older than me, and boom. Just like that, I started hanging out with all of the hippies in town! And when The Grateful Dead came to Providence in ’86, we all skipped school to go see them, and that was it. From that point on, we went to every show we could. That’s all we did. Tour.” And her college years didn’t look too different.
After finishing school, Tina followed her heart to San Francisco, where she made her way into the world of hospitality, working for Bill Graham. “It was such hard work. But man, getting to hang with Bob Weir and Phil all the time... walking in and out of the back door at the Fillmore... What a gift. I’m so happy I took the plunge and went for it.” Over the years, Tina saw and/or worked with almost every band in the scene, and then some. She became family with Max Creek, which is where she ended up putting most of her time and energy after Jerry died.
“I’ve been friends with those guys for over 30 years. They are my heart and soul!” Although Jerry’s death greatly impacted Tina, it didn’t stop her from “partying left and right, having a good old time.”
But eventually a shift began to take place, and Tina’s music life didn’t feel as colorful to her. The scene was full of amazing bands, both established and up-and-coming, and Tina’s dedication to Max Creek and the other bands she loved, remained unwavering.
“But musically, it all just got kind of boring.” And on top of that, Tina’s relationship with alcohol had gotten very complicated over the years, and it seemed to be coming to a head around the same time. It became clear to Tina that a change was needed, and knowing that she couldn’t do it alone, she reached out for support.
– She’s been sober ever since. –
“I actually found Goose alongside my sobriety. And to be honest, that’s been the best part about it!” It was just before Bingo Tour when Tina and her partner John were listening to some tunes on YouTube, and a Goose video started playing. “I remember John and I just looked at each other and were like ‘oh my god... what is this!?" And that was all it took.
“We were off to the races after that. And boy, has it changed my life. The two of us don’t shut up about it! I swear, we’ve told people in the supermarket about Goose... It’s just so exciting to have something like this, really for the first time since Jerry died. And I’m so grateful that I’m sober for it. I’m ready for this ride.”
Due to the pandemic, Tina and John were not able to see Goose live for quite a while, and they were in desperate need of a place into which they could pour all of the love, passion and energy they had for the band. That’s when they found El Goose.
The internet has played a significant role in the jam band scene for decades now. From email lists, archives, and open-source software applications, to discussion forums, social media platforms, and live audio and video streaming sites, fans have created a vast network of online communities and resources over the years and are quick to embrace new technologies. Within the Goose community alone, fans use blogs, subreddits, Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts, YouTube channels, Discord servers, video and audio archives, show and setlist tracking sites, chord and song lyric sites, prints and pin databases, podcasts, and over 15 different Facebook groups (in addition to Goose’s official sites and accounts). Goose fans engage with one another on a daily basis, across multiple forms of communication, and are constantly discovering newand different ways to learn, share, and explore the band and their music.
While the online Goose community is a great example of all the shenanigans that come with being a family, it’s also a great example of how much more a fanbase can be, than merely a group of people sharing a common love for a particular band. Several of the existing Goose-related Facebook groups seem to have transcended their original purpose, and are being utilized as spaces for discussion and solidarity that go far beyond just talking about Goose. As an admin of the Goose Chicks group, Tina (along with the other admins and group members) devotes a lot of time and energy into creating and maintaining the open, warm, supportive, fun, understanding, and safe environment that many people perceive the Goose Chicks group to be.
For Tina, it all started with her photo-of-the-day posts, which consist of a band member picture (chosen specifically for that day) and a word of love and encouragement. “I magically started having all of these cool pictures of the band, and I needed somewhere to put them! And I figured I might as well say something wonderful to the people who might see it.” It’s been almost two years now, and she hasn’t missed a single day. “There’s no way I’d be able to do anything consistent like this if I was still drinking. So it allows me to reflect on my life as well.”
She goes the extra mile to include everyone she can, and whether it’s somebody’s birthday, wedding day, first Goose show, or last round of chemo- therapy, she is sure to make the group aware of what there is to celebrate. She has organized and contributed to various events and fundraisers, and she is quick to bring the community’s attention to someone in need of support. And what’s more, Tina isn't afraid to be vulnerable. Oftentimes, her posts are full of love and excitement, and other times, her posts are filled with fear and grief, and have absolutely nothing to do with Goose. And when any admin or group member finds the courage to post so openly and authentically, it tends to set off a chain reaction. “I get a lot of messages from people asking me to post something for them so that they can receive feedback and support from the community. I also get messages from people just expressing how much the group means to them. Goose Chicks group members really value each others’ thoughts, and it’s beautiful.”
Especially in the context of heavy subject matter, the way in which Goose Chicks group members tend to interact and support each other resembles what humanistic psychologists refer to as “unconditional positive regard.” Generally speaking, unconditional positive regard is the acceptance and support of a person, regardless of what they say or do. Not that you accept or approve of every action the person takes, but that you accept who they are on a deeper level, and see them as inherently human (and in turn, inherently worthy and lovable!). In the context of client-centered therapy, this attitude promotes the development of a strong, trusting, and useful relationship between the therapist and the individual they’re working with. And in Goose Chicks, it encourages many group members to not only share more openly, but to also share about profound and personal topics that they might not typically be comfortable sharing otherwise.
Let’s not be silly though. The Goose Chicks group is definitely not shenanigan-free! It is a family after all. But as a whole, the group has grown into a truly unique and beautiful community, and Tina’s role in that does not go unnoticed. Tina and John currently live in Connecticut, where they bought a house several years ago. They’ve gotta yard, a music room, a lot of wall space for their paintings, posters, and signed pictures of Jerry, and a basement shop for their laser company, which dedicates a lot of its energy, heart, and soul to Goose merch. “It’s perfect.” But their five-year plan? “Sell everything, get an RV, and travel to go see music wherever, whenever!” We love our home, but the open road is where we belong, and we can’t wait.” Neither can we. Much love to you Tina and John! See y’all on tour.
And don’t worry El Goose, “We’ll probably bring the laser!”
Note: We are not affiliated, associated with or in any way officially connected to Goose.
We just love the band and community that much.