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The Goo Goo Dolls will take Philly by storm as the headliners of Wawa Welcome America’s free Fourth of July concert on the Ben Franklin Parkway. The rock band—known for such smash hits as “Iris,” “Name” and “Slide”—will release their long-awaited ninth studio album, “Something for the Rest of Us,” on Aug. 31. Singer, guitarist and principal songwriter Johnny Rzeznik talked music and Philly memories with Where Editor Karen Gross; for more info, visit googoodolls.com and welcomeamerica.com.

WHERE: Any thoughts about playing in the birthplace of the nation on Independence Day? JOHNNY RZEZNIK: I think it’s really cool. What better place to be on the Fourth of July?

WHERE: Have you spent any time here? Any favorite spots?
JR: My favorite part is down on South Street. There was this awesome pizza place, but they turned it into a Starbucks and I was crestfallen. And down the street there was this great furniture store; I bought a hand-carved table by a company called Sticks [sticks. com]. It’s painted crazy colors and really beautiful. I have a friend who just moved to Philadelphia and he writes me all the time saying, “You should move down here.”

WHERE: Did you try a Philly cheesesteak?
JR: No, I don’t eat cheese. But I did go to the Melrose Diner [1501 Snyder Ave., 215-467-6644]. That was classic. A friend of mine grew up in Philadelphia, and she said, “We gotta go to this place.” So we did, and it was fantastic.

WHERE: Any other memories?
JR: My biggest recollection is of Philly just being a very old city ... the roots of our nation are there, and there’s something so solid about it. And I love the people in Philly. You pretty much know where you stand with anybody you run into.

WHERE: In 2004, you performed a rainy Fourth of July concert in your hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.—captured in the DVD “Live in Buffalo.” Any other memorable Fourth of July shows?
JR: Hopefully this year, we won’t get a repeat of the weather in Buffalo! There was one we played—I think it was in Tampa, Fla.—that kind of turned into small riot during one of the bands before us. Someone lit a flare and threw it into the drummer’s bass drum and started his drum set on fire.

WHERE: Can you give me a preview of your new album “Something for the Rest of Us”?
JR: I like to write lyrics that you can leave open to interpretation, but on this album everything got a little more topical. The album turned out to be a commentary on the emotional state of where our country is, because we’re dealing with hard times. We’re fighting two wars and people are having a lot of difficulties. I have friends who have lost their homes and jobs.

WHERE: You’ve had a lot of success as a songwriter. How does your unique guitar style figure into the songwriting process?
JR: I wish I had a clever answer for that [laughs] ... I don’t know. I start to play and you start to just get a vibe for what you’re playing. It depends on what mood you wake up in. There’s so many variables. I like to look at writing songs the same way as building a cabinet or something. You sit there and you work with it and you screw it up and then you go back and pound it out a little bit more and walk away from it and come back.

WHERE: Are you self-taught?
JR: Yeah, I never took any lessons. I wrote a lot of the songs on this record on a piano. It made my brain think in a different way.

WHERE: I read that the Goo Goo Dolls formed in 1986.
JR: We started messing around in 1986 and played local clubs. And then we did our first tour in 1988, but we had to go back to our day jobs until 1995. We’ve been supporting ourselves as musicians since 1995; that’s a long life.

WHERE: Where did the name “Goo Goo Dolls” come from?
JR: It was an ad for a toy in the back of this really old detective magazine that we found. I’ve always regretted the name, but I’m not good at naming things. I’m terrible at naming songs.

WHERE: Actually, your hit song “Iris” doesn’t actually mention that name in the lyrics at all.
JR: It’s really funny. A few days before I actually had to come up with the name of the song, I was listening to a Smashing Pumpkins record and there was a song called “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” I thought, “I have to come up with a clever, pretentious name.” And I was reading concert listings and there was a singer-songwriter named Iris Dement that was playing. I thought, “Iris: that’s such a pretty name.” And then I got the phone call asking the name of the song and I said “Iris.”

WHERE: Any advice for aspiring musicians?
JR: When I started out I wanted to be like the Replacements exactly, but you have to give yourself the chance to grow beyond your influences. Do your best to find your own voice.

Source: http://www.wheretraveler.com/classic/us/pa/philadelphia/tp/
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