Is it nutella, daddy?

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My four year old son Nico was sitting next me on the couch when he noticed the blood blister on my palm.  “Do you know what that is?” I asked.

“Is it nutella, daddy?”

I said no.  It was a blood blister from hitting the drums real hard and that when you popped it, blood came out.  He seemed amused but uneasy with that explanation, and followed up:

“Does it hurt, daddy?”

I said no it didn’t hurt at all, and his body language relaxed.  But there was still something not quite right about it.

“Do you want to have some nutella on a banana, Nico?”  

And all was well.

I haven’t had too many blood blisters to boast of since Nico was born.  I don’t hit the drums quite as hard as I used to, we tour half as much as we did ten years ago, and there are sticks in the mix about half the time anyway.  As we celebrate our 25th year as a band, I can actually look back at the super abusive years (1995-2003) with a slight fog, as if I can’t quite relate to the mindset of the artist who thought it was a good idea to go that hard every night.  

But at the Beacon on Friday in what was our first official 25th Anniversary show, the setlist was heavy on the percussion songs, and I slipped right back into old habits — finding joy in the way a conga can sing when you play it dynamically… using my legs to push through the outro of Fa Fa when my arms and stomach muscles had reached their limit… imagining that I’m dribbling a basketball like a Harlem Globetrotter on Manifest Destiny.

It felt like a show that everyone in the room needed.  We played some songs you might expect and some you wouldn’t expect.  Some oldies like Mona Lisa and Parachute.  The best song of the night might have been Doin’ It By Myself (from 2015’s Evermotion).  We brought out a 20 person mom-and-pop choir called “The Silver Chords” comprised mostly of 50-80 year old singers from Long Island.  They learned “Empire State” and “All The Way Up To Heaven” and it didn’t matter how well they sang it, because when everyone is a little emotional about the state of the world, “Empire State,” in New York City with twenty voices, hits the spot.

We inflated a giant Big Friend (the stuffed animal from the cover of Parachute) with some genuine Spinal Tap struggle.  We invited Nick Klepesch, who has seen over 200 Gus/Guster shows, on stage to take our encore for us.  Nicky didn’t know we were going to do that, but he had some choice words for the crowd anyway.  If you enjoy frequent updates from your Facebook friends, send a request over to Nick and I’m sure he’ll be glad to chat with you.

Ryan sang a song about his “ladypants” that was not written on the setlist.

We had Joe Pisapia join us on a couple of songs and Luke Reynolds working the cue cards on “So Long,” which proved to be a nice choice for a sing-along on a night when everyone seemed in favor of a sing-along.  We left the stage feeling nothing but grateful, and that is how I feel now.  Thank you for this show.

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Dumpster Analytics

The blizzard cancelled our Philadelphia show and sent the GusBus on a mad dash west to avoid Jonas on Saturday. After a dicey drive we landed in Pittsburgh for an unexpected day off — we love us some PGH and they only got like 5 inches of snow total. It was a nice choice.

After watching 4 hours of CNN reporters in ski goggles we got bored and decided to go play a “Dumpster Set” somewhere in town. We picked a nice blue dumpster over near the Mexican War Streets neighborhood, and at 1:15 we tweeted the location out on the socials:

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That gave people in Pittsburgh 45 minutes to learn about the show, find the dumpster, and enjoy a spontaneous random Guster concert.  The hope was that, since it was a weekend, maybe we’d get like 30 people to show up.  Eleven people did.

But we had a great time!  We planted our glockenspiel right in the snow, took a few requests, connected with some fans who were STOKED, and had a great day.  Our old friend Liz who used to work in the Guster office video’d the performance and uploaded it to Facebook Live — which is a Periscope kind of deal.  The battery on Liz’s phone ran out in the middle of This Could All Be Yours.  Afterwards we took a group photo:

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And then we went on our merry way, visiting some awesome Pittsburgh museums and getting some life lessons from Randy at Randyland (please google the man).  Great day!  We got back to the bus a few hours later and defrosted our frozen feet.  And someone said “hey, that dumpster set is up to 40,000 views.”

And we were perplexed.  We’re not YouTube sensations by any stretch, and we can generally count on like 700 views of something we want to share with our fans.  The closest thing that we’ve ever been to viral was this video where I tried to carry my twin babies in a Moby Wrap.  Our video for “Endlessly” involved CGI whales and three drone operators.  Since we put it up in August, it’s gotten 25,000 views.

Today, as of this post, the Dumpster Set has 135,000 views, in less than 24 hours.  We are blown away.  We literally played that set to entertain ourselves and the eleven people that showed up.  We were so sad to miss our Philadelphia show on Saturday but instead it’s like we reached the number of people we’d reach by playing 3 stadium shows.  I realize this reads like “old band finally figures out that internet works” — but check this out.  Because of the video’s reach, Ryan tweeted with the Mayor of Pittsburgh this morning:

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20 people and 2 dogs!  Who knew the Mayor of Pittsburgh had such Twitter Game?

 

 

 

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Pot Luck 2015

It was an epic weekend in Portchester NY with three distinct Guster shows. We’re not Phish, but we have seven albums, and it felt good to flex our discography.  Over the course of two days, we played 57 different songs (54 Guster songs and 3 covers).  In no particular order:

  • ramona
  • architects and engineers
  • barrel of a gun
  • nothing but flowers (talking heads)
  • expectation
  • hercules
  • what you call love
  • amsterdam
  • lightning rod
  • gangway
  • lazy love
  • center of attention
  • parachute
  • ruby falls
  • homecoming king
  • that’s no way to get to heaven
  • doin’ it by myself
  • fa fa
  • long night
  • hang on
  • airport song
  • careless whipser (wham)
  • keep it together
  • either way
  • backyard
  • rise and shine
  • stay with me jesus
  • careful
  • x ray eyes
  • mona lisa
  • all the way up to heaven
  • two at a time
  • diane
  • captain
  • happier
  • endlessly
  • on the ocean
  • happy frappy
  • i spy
  • satellite
  • come downstairs and say hello
  • do you love me
  • never coming down
  • dear valentine
  • red oyster cult
  • kid dreams
  • manifest destiny
  • simple machine
  • rocketship
  • one man wrecking machine
  • this could all be yours
  • earned it (the weeknd)
  • two points for honesty
  • bad bad world
  • demons
  • jesus on the radio
  • bury me

Did I forget anything?  Granted, two of these songs (All the Way up to Heaven, Two at a Time) only got played because of Request Wiffle Ball — but we dug deep.  It felt good.  If we do this Pot Luck thing again next Thanksgiving, you should come.

 

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Northampton Nonsense

Dustin’ off the old road journal today!  A couple incidents from the Northampton show last week that are worth mentioning.  First, a guy named Greg hit me up on Facebook with a strange request:

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Now let’s take a closer look at this exchange.  In July, Greg Bell wrote me requesting that we play Dear Valentine at our free Boston Common show.  Greg received no reply.  Months later, the day before our Northampton show at the Calvin Theater, spirit unbroken, Greg tries again — this time with the more reasonable request that I strap a camera to my face during a song.  This request was granted, mid-show, and left a dent on my forehead that lasted a day and a half.  Greg might have had the percussion kit in mind for the video, but he got a pretty sweet Homecoming King in our home state of Massachusetts.  Check it out:

Later that same night, we read a Facebook message I got from James Brown asking us to surprise his 63-year old mother Bev with a vocal appearance on stage.  So we did that too.  Bev was shocked and thrilled and had a lovely voice and terrible microphone technique.  She called Ryan a “doll” as she left the stage to thunderous applause.

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Update:  Today in Athens Georgia, 16 gourmet cupcakes arrived in the dressing room along with a thank you note from Bev.  James, her mensch of a son who planned the whole gag warned me about the delivery:  “Hi Brian!  My mom wanted to send you guys some desserts on the road to thank you for having her sing with you guys and since hell hath no fury like a Mom trying to thank people with baked goods, Gigi’s Cupcakes will be delivering 16 cupcakes to the Georgia Theater today for you guys and the crew.”

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Pop Has Freed Us

When we were a college band at Tufts in the 1990’s we were actually a part of a thriving on-campus music scene.  There were bands playing school parties and festivals that served as major inspirations to us when we were just freshmen writing songs in our dorm room.  I recall being rejected for a slot in the Tufts Battle of the Bands because we were up against  bands like Milltex 1000, Thumper, Groove This, and Thank God For Frank, who were upperclassmen.

But by the time we were seniors, there were really two bands at Tufts that were had national profiles and planned to stick with it.  Gus (we added the “ter” in 1995) and Papas Fritas.  On the surface, two college pop bands from Tufts couldn’t have been more different.  Papas Fritas were a trio, like us, but where our brand of pop leaned shiny and happy, theirs had a lo-fi attitude that reflected record collections we still hadn’t been exposed to.  Papas Fritas was doing things we weren’t — using the studio as an actual artistic tool, embracing the sugary part of three-part harmony, and hiding their genius beneath electric guitar solos that sounded like they were plugged directly into the board.  There weren’t a lot of people on campus who liked *both* Guster and Papas Fritas.  You liked one or the other, and your identity went along with it.  There was one guy who was above that fray however, always willing to talk music and show interest in what we were doing even though he was the lead singer of Papas Fritas.  His name is Tony Goddess.  In 2002, Tony co-wrote “Amsterdam” with us.

So when I came across this article in the Boston Herald the other day as a part of “Boston 101″… a pretty random countdown that digs deeper into Boston bands than the obvious Aerosmiths and Cars’… it was no wonder that the writing was pitch perfect — the tone seems to carry the gravitas of someone who’s witnessed our band from the beginning, and the knowledge of a walking musical encyclopedia.  Thanks Tony! It’s an honor that you penned this.  Ramona’s groove was just a half-baked attempt to ripoff Papas Fritas’ “TV Movies” — always was and always will be!

Some Tufts era Papas Fritas:

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We are back on the road in Charleston SC

This is one of our favorite cities and we booked a last minute show here so we could get our act together for Friday’s Bonnaroo set.  And for the first time in like a year, Kishi Bashi isn’t opening for us.  Some guy named Michael Flynn is opening.  From where I’m sitting backstage, I was grooving along as one of his songs had a nice deep Portishead-like beat to it, so I googled him just now and clicked on his website where I read this:

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How incredibly cool.  We’ll gladly reciprocate and suggest you check out Michael’s music.  The show with Run DMC was at Boston College, wasn’t it?  I specifically remember how pissed they were to be opening for a band they’d never heard of, who couldn’t rap for shit.  Either way, Godspeed Michael Flynn.  It’s okay to be That Guy.

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Goodnight, Portland!

The last night of the tour in Maine had an energy like no other show… Adam’s hometown really stepped up and we fed off it.   The way life should be.  Playing the last Jesus On The Radio of the tour in vests made out of Grandma Afghan Blankets was a nice touch (thanks Dawn!):

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All bands should wear outfits that match their stage decor.  Are there young bands out there reading this?  To all you young bands out there reading this, don’t make the mistake we made.  Don’t let the darkness and regret seep in 23 years later.  Grandma blankets.

The kicker was arriving at the airport hotel that night to a sign on the desk announcing that Ryan Miller was the Hilton Hotel “Special Guest of the Day” — It was three in the morning, but the lady at the hotel desk made a nice attempt at showering Ryan with “lucky winner energy.”  She gave him a coupon for a free breakfast and a bottle of water.  As you can see, Ryan was ecstatic.

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