It was early August 2004. As I drove through my hometown in Virginia one last time, I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions.
Warm sunlight was streaming in through the sunroof. I was moving back to Philly to start my first “real” job. Part of me was ecstatic.
But I was wistful. I was leaving home for the last time. This was different than going back to college for the semester. There were no mid-term breaks. No turning back.
I was listening to the one album that had been a big part of my senior year - Keep It Together by Guster.
When I first picked up Keep It Together, it wasn’t my favorite of their albums. But between all of the listens and using Amsterdam to audition for Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, it grew on me and rose to the top.
And as I was driving home to pack the remaining boxes for my new apartment, Come Downstairs and Say Hello came on:
Someone, someone could tell me
Where I belong
Be calm, be brave, it’ll be okay
No more messing around and living underground
And new year’s resolutions
By this time next year I won’t be here.
It was perfect.
I was a little late to the Guster party, introduced to them in 2000 during my freshman year at La Salle – nine years after Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller and Brian Rosenworcel first formed Guster during their freshman year at Tufts.
Guster’s music is layered with complex vocal harmonies. And in addition to guitar, bass and piano, they often mix in banjo, trumpet, harmonica, ukulele and strings. While accessible and fun, it’s a sound that rewards over multiple listenings.
And then, of course, there’s Thundergod – Guster’s percussionist Brian. In addition to a traditional drumset, he beats on bongos, congas, djembe, hand snares and cymbals with his bare hands.
It’s a fascinating fluidness to watch, complemented by the best facial expressions. You can’t help but be captivated during shows by how in the moment he is.
At Tuesday night’s concert at the Stocker Arts Center, I joked to Scott that there should be a Faces of Thundergod calendar. I’d buy it.
Guster was in Elyria this week as their latest acoustic tour winds its way home to New England.
This concert was different, though, than other Guster shows I’ve been to (I missed their other Ohio acoustic stop at Kent last Spring):
Promoting their new live acoustic album, the current tour features more intimate venues. Seated upfront and center without the usual concert lighting effects to distract us, it was much easier to connect with the music.
The show also featured the Guster String Players – April Guthrie and Charlene Huang – transforming old favorites with their cello and violin.
What wasn’t different about this show was the personality Guster brings to every performance. For a band who has a tightly layered sound, their shows have a loose, almost unraveling nature to them.
That’s the charm, though. You never know what to expect when you’re there.
Among other things, the audience was treated to Twitter song requests and a game of musician musical chairs.
While certain members of Guster may have been better than others at trying their hands at different instruments, the outcome was a hilarious rendition of Amsterdam.
A handful of fans also got to participate in an elimination-style contest to see who looked the least threatening to drive Ryan to his hotel.
The fact that the concert took place in a college theatre much like La Salle’s good ol’ Dan Rodden added a different emotional punch for me than previous Guster concerts.
It was during theatre tech on a stage just like this one where my love of Guster began (though we didn’t have fancy Eames chairs like LCCC).
Complemented by the Roy Orbinson-esque opener Yellowbirds, Tuesday’s show made it in the top 3 of my favorite Guster concerts.
And with a copy of their new live acoustic album now in hand, I can take that sound wherever I go.