Gusterby Ross Scarano
At college, many people find themselves turned musicians outside their dormitories. It might be on a balmy night, rich with hormones and staggering youths. Bongos will be involved. Undoubtedly someone will brandish an acoustic guitar and it will be strummed with varying levels of competence. Someone may hum, whistle or even sing. For the very confident, or very foolish, this may seem like the early days of a band, moments to be recounted to an eager interviewer from the Rolling Stone at some unspecified future date. But let’s face it: these instrument-laden night owls will not go on to form a successful band. They probably won’t even wave to each other in the cafeteria the next day. That’s what separates everyone from Guster.
This is true: the three original members of the beloved band met during freshman wilderness orientation at Tufts University in 1991. Soon after, these three young men played their first gig together at Hotung Café, a Tufts hangout you can find listed on the university’s dining services website sandwiched between the Hodgdon Good-to-Go Take Out and the Jumbo Express Convenience Store. That night they performed as Gus (the “–ter” would come later). Humble beginnings to be sure, but it is humbleness that is Guster’s best quality – that they’re talented musicians goes without saying. Only a band with both feet firmly planted on the ground could maintain such a positive relationship with their fans.
From their liberal show-taping policy to their near-constant road journal updates on their website, Guster invites their fans to participate in the success of the band. Chilly, instrument-wielding demigods looking down their noses into the faces of their fans they are not. They tour constantly. They sign autographs. They make each show an event, complete with humorous antics and anecdotes shared onstage. For example, it’s not unheard of for each member of the band to take the stage while the theme from The Price is Right tinkles out of the speakers.
But chiefly they are music makers. Though their first album, Parachute, shines with a youthful simplicity (just two acoustic guitars, bongos and vocals), their sound has evolved into something much grander. They’ve added a drumkit. Roger Moutenot, Yo La Tengo’s producer, sometimes assists them in the studio. Still, the band’s fulcrum, their careful vocal harmonies and knack for catchy pop melodies, remains unchanged. And Brian Rosenworcel, the man on percussion, he still plays with his hands. Yes, even the drumkit. Their power pop must be hell on his palms. Buckets of ice, one can only assume, must be made available for him at each gig’s end. Let’s hope there’s some ice around when Guster plays this year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival.
7:30pm, Saturday, June 5
Dollar Bank Stage at Point State Park