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The pop/rock band Goo Goo Dolls will release its 11th album Friday and Delaware fans will be among the first to hear some of the new tunes.

Goo Goo frontman Johnny Rzeznik is headlining the 96th annual Wilmington Flower Market at Rockford Park Saturday evening, armed with both radio hits ("Iris," "Slide," "Name") and new songs from "Boxes," the band's sixth album for Warner Bros. Records.

The album comes while the band is marking its 30th anniversary and navigating a way to avoid being a '90s nostalgia act in concert by delivering both the established hits and new singles like "So Alive" and "The Pin."

"This is a luxury problem, but there are 14 songs we need to play every show. We have to play those songs because if we didn't, we would look like ungrateful, pretentious a--holes," Rzeznik tells The News Journal earlier this week, previewing his solo performance in the shadow of Rockford Tower.

"It's a great problem to have. But then we get to indulge ourselves in deeper cuts that hardcore fans from way back dig, some new songs and a couple of cover tunes we like," adds Rzeznik, who has covered everyone from Tom Petty and Supertramp to The Rolling Stones and Blue Öyster Cult. "We get to go all over the place. It's fun. It's just a matter of whether you want to play for 2/1/2 hours."

Steeped in tradition, the long-running Rockwood Park festival is part Mother's Day flower sale, carnival and music festival that benefits children's charities in Delaware. It draws plenty of families and high school students, fresh out of school for the day – giddy teenagers who know that the opening of the Wilmington Flower Market means there are only a few weeks of classes left.

Last year, the Wilmington Flower Market raised about $200,000 for 68 children's charities in Delaware thanks to an army of volunteers who help run the event. Since the flower market is free with no tickets or centralized entrance, exact attendance figures are not available, but organizers estimate the event has drawn up to 15,000 people in the past.

Rzeznik's performance, like all the others, are free.

"It's really cool because you can pretty much just walk into the park and watch Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls play for free," says Nathalie Antonov, promotions director for WSTW. "You don't get to do that very often."

Rzeznik, who turned 50 last year, is not one for wistful retrospection, and that might be why the band isn't celebrating its 30th anniversary with any fanfare other than releasing a new album and touring across America this summer. (The band's local tour stop comes Aug. 19 at Philadelphia's Festival Pier.)

"I just keep going. Seriously. I work on the task in front of me and hopefully it works out," he says. "If I start thinking back too much, then I get caught in that situation. And if I start thinking too far ahead, that doesn't work either. So I just stay in the moment."

For more than 30 years, WSTW 93.7-FM has booked the flower market's entertainment, mixing local up-and-coming performers with national acts.

WSTW's "Hometown Heroes" host Mark Rogers plays a large role in curating the local line-up, which includes Delaware's own contestant on "The Voice" Nadjah Nicole, Nalani & Sarina, Sofi Tyler and more this year. When it comes to the national bands – this year brings Rzeznik, New York pop/rock duo A Great Big World and Boston pop duo Karmin – a lot depends on circumstances.

If an act's routing finds them traveling in the area between gigs, WSTW program director and DJ Mike Rossi might be able to scoop them up. The same is the case if an act has a new album or single and are in search of publicity.

Because so much of it is decided by timing, drawing the four-time Grammy Award-nominated Rzeznik the day after the Goo Goo Dolls drop a new album is quite the score.

"It's perfect. It couldn't have worked out any better for us," says Antonov of WSTW, which will have DJs like Rossi, Brian Soscia and Aaron Price broadcasting live on-site. The station will also have a prize tent with four-day Firefly Music Festival passes among the giveaways.

Past flower market headliners have included Hanson, Third Eye Blind and Matt Nathanson.

For Rzeznik, the show is an opportunity to try a stripped-down version of a new song or two, which Goo Goo Dolls fans will find quite different than the recorded versions.

Unlike past albums where Rzeznik mostly wrote on his own, he collaborated with a handful of songwriters and producers he likes, including songwriter/producer Drew Pearson (Katharine McPhee, Switchfoot) and "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips.

The result is still a familiar, radio-friendly rock/pop band sound, but updated with electronic flourishes never heard on a Goo Goo album before, giving it a more modern sound in this era of exploding popularity for electronic dance music.

"I didn't shy away from the opportunity to use a mixer with electronics and real instruments. It's a lot of fun smashing those two worlds together," says Rzeznik, who was a self-described indie rock snob as a teenager, listening to bands like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. "This record is a leap for me. We could have played things really safe and put together a record that people would expect from us. It's kind of a big transition. It's a risk."
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