Band Gooding attempts 50 states in 5 months to promote new CD

It's been two years since Gooding left Wichita for Los Angeles, hoping to crack the national music scene. The effort is still under way — one Web site recently named Gooding one of America's "top unsigned 100 acts."

Never one to wait for somebody else to make something happen, Gooding has embarked on what may be the ultimate indie band quest — play 50 states in five months to promote a new CD, "The Return."

He's back in Wichita with his two longtime bandmates in Gooding for shows at Rock Island Live and two more venues over the next four days.

"Without a big corporate backer, the only way to stay alive is to be working as hard as you can," said Gooding, leader of the trio that bears his name. "There's nothing negative about it. I'm very fortunate in doing what I set out to do."

And just in case fans here were wondering, a couple of years in the California sun hasn't mellowed Gooding's all-out, "heart-on-the-sleeve" approach to performing. Gooding's music has been described as a mix of everything from Prince and Jimi Hendrix to Kiss and Radiohead.

"We put on a big show," Gooding said. "We want people to laugh and smile and really get into the music. We're a rock and roll outfit, that's what we're always going to be."

Gooding formed in 1999, but its roots go back even further, to the seventh-grade talent show at Marshall Middle School where Gooding and bassist Billy Driver first performed together. ("I think my first girl talked to me after that show," Gooding remembers.) They added drummer Jessie Rich while attending the University of Kansas, played more than 600 shows and recorded several CDs.

For a while, the band was known as Angel/Devil.

The band relocated to Los Angeles in 2008, played a bunch of gigs and then took a break while its leader finished up the new CD and dove into other facets of the music business, specifically, recording and selling original music for use in TV shows and commercials.

The work, though anonymous, has helped pay the bills, and he'd love to score, say, the soundtrack for the next Robert De Niro movie. He's taking orchestration classes at night.

But rock and roll remains Gooding's first love, and he's using every form of media he can to promote it. You can download the band's new CD from its Web site (goodingmusic.com) for free, though they'd prefer you buy it; the band is also posting videos from each state on the site, to let fans follow their progress. Gooding promotes each tour stop on Facebook and Twitter.

The tour started at Camp Pendleton in California on March 5 and will take them everywhere from Spearfish, S.D., to Cranston, R.I., before returning to the West Coast in September.

One highlight so far was two appearances at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

As of this week, the band's Web site listed gigs in 43 states and the District of Columbia; given its leader's energy level, it's hard to imagine he won't land gigs in the remaining seven.

In addition to the gigs at Rock Island Live tonight and Saturday, the band will perform acoustic shows Monday at Borders bookstore on Rock Road and Tuesday at College Hill Coffeehouse in Winfield. They'll also squeeze in appearances on local radio and TV, and were scheduled to film a segment in the "Wichita Sessions" series being shown on public television.