Monthly Archives: May 2005

05.16.05 – England

Leaving for the UK, we watched the airline people load a shrink-wrapped cluster of Guster road cases onto the plane. Last time we flew overseas to play we attempted to rent the various elements of my percussion kit in England and construct an imposter kit as best we could. This time we discovered ‘cargo fees’ — who knew every plane could take on thousands of pounds of excess weight and still make it all the way over the Atlantic?

Like most of the public transportation busses over here, tour busses in the UK are double deckers. For the drive to Liverpool and back, we rented a tour bus this time around — having two floors at your disposal gives you a lot more space, but when you’re 6 foot 2 you end up walking around like you’re on Floor 7 1/2 in Being John Malkovich (hunched over). Not quite realizing that in England the driver sleeps on the bus along with you, we got a bit rowdy after the Liverpool show and woke our driver up. After apologizing for our naivete, he made us feel better/worse by saying “don’t worry, it happens with every American band on the first night.”

The show in Liverpool was an opening slot, first of three before an Icelandic band and a British band, both of which run in indier circles than we do. It was a small club, and with the enormous amount of gear between all three bands, there wasn’t much room on stage for Guster. We scrapped the trap kit, the keyboards, and the lap steel, leaving ourselves a set list that pretty much wrote itself… Wish, Barrel, Careful, Ramona, Captain, Happier, Fa. It felt like 1998 at T.T. the Bear’s in Cambridge again. When we walked on stage there were twenty people in the club and it was dead silent. Like, not one person applauded our entrance. That was one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had on stage — like we were breaking into someone’s living room to play a show or something. Anyway, even though nobody could swing their guitar neck an inch in any direction without striking someone else, we played a good set and won over the 20 people watching us. We played hard, too, like we had something to prove. Had half the crowd gotten up and gone to the bar after our first song it would have been disastrous for our egos.

Our hotel is in the Camden area of London, which is wicked active on Sundays. Somehow it was sunny and 70 degrees on our day off too (that hardly ever happens over here). Deep in the stables behind Chalk Farm Road there are street markets as far as the eye can see, and chinese food huts with identical menus lined up one after the other. Competition is fierce, and the little Chinese ladies behind the counter are loud and aggressive. This is the story of one woman and her quest to give people free chicken samples from her fork…

“free chicky three pound you can mix”

a slow moment

exasperation… losing hope


the joy of victory!

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05.09.05 – Univ of MD

Somehow every outdoor show on this tour has coincided with some “totally strange for this time of year” cold front where it’s 48 degrees when Guster has to go on stage, and Ryan always makes the announcement that the crazy hand-drummer man has heroically chosen not to invoke the “if-it’s-under-55-degrees-we-don’t-have-to-play-but-you-still-have-to-pay-us” clause in our contract. It’s not like I’d ever be that guy, sitting there on the bus watching ESPN News highlights on a 30-minute loop, dipping my Fritos into my Fritos Bean Dip, shrugging my shoulders, pointing to a thermometer and blowing the ink dry on our check while the crowd dejectedly shuffled home. The clause is mostly there to scare the school into having an alternate indoor site, but it never happens. I always go out there and play through the numbness of the first few songs, ending up with raw, cracked fingers at the end of the night. I am truly a martyr for the cause of Jewcussion.

photograph recycled from may 4th, 2001

Friday night was the second time we headlined the Terrapin Stadium at the University of Maryland. Capacity is probably about 100,000 if you pack people in tight. This year we filled up 3% of the place, which is better than the 1% we did back in 2001. And like many of these college Spring Fest Bonanza shows, there was an eclectic (but not eclectic enough to satisfy the student body — see Univ of MD pissy student editorials from the last few weeks) line-up of bands designed to appease as many Terrapins as possible. So the Gin Blossoms went on first, followed by Chevelle, followed by Guster.

It’s the same student activities logic which has landed us on stage with Ludacris at UMass and Nelly at UConn in the past. It’s kind of fun, but generally there’s a wholesale turnover of fans between the bands. Not the most fluid concert ever designed, but no one ever said Spring Fest had to flow. Clearly, heavy metal muppet rockers “Chevelle” had never heard of Guster before. Guster had never heard of Chevelle either, but we went out to the soundboard and watched thirty seconds of their show for the sake of curiosity anyway. It was cold, and they were loud, and I wish I’d watched maybe ten seconds less than I did. Granted, the kind of music Chevelle play is not my cup of tea, but I like Metallica and Dinosaur Jr and other bands who rock hard. I’m just wishing I had those thirty seconds back is all.

Apparently, Chevelle were very impressed with their own set. After they landed their last note, the singer was so inspired by his own performance that he actually went up to the mic and yelled “Guster WHO!!??” before leaving the stage. One-sixth of the crowd went wild!

I am sure “Chevelle” have sold more records than us. Most bands at this level have (the Gin Blossoms have probably sold 8 milliion more records than us). But to pick a fight on stage with a wuss-rock band like Guster, presumably because you feel like you should have been headlining the University of Maryland Spring Concert Day is… well…. too amusing for words. When reports of the incident reached us in the dressing room we called an emergency meeting where we decided what action to take on stage:

OPTION 1: At the end of the night say thanks to “the Gin Blossoms and the Shirelles” for playing with us. This one is good for a laugh, but you come across as self-consciously addressing the situation. We would rather go for something that made us seem aloof, even though we clearly knew the band was “Chevelle” — afterall, they had a huge banner behind them with their band name on it while they were playing.

OPTION 2: At the end of the night say thanks to “the Gin Blossoms and Chevette.” This one is a believable option. Supposedly the trio of brothers from Chicago based their band name on the old Chevrolet Chevelle they used to drive. But something tells me many a heavy metal marquis has made the Chevette miscue before. We needed something more original.

OPTION 3: Thanks to “the Gin Blossoms and Chanel.” As in Chanel No. 5 — isn’t that a kind of perfume? Wouldn’t a mistake like that really make their testosterone boil, if only they hadn’t already packed up and left the venue by the time we said it?

Ultimately we went with Option 3, but Ryan kind of mumbled it. Poor Guster, after all these years we’re still afraid of getting our asses kicked by people with tattoos.

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05.04.05 – North Dakota

This is what Joe looks like sitting at the airport at 5am. Disheveled but distinguished, awake but sleeping. The comatose glare could be due to many things, among them trying to stay up all night playing poker on the ride from Grand Forks, North Dakota to the airport in Minneapolis. It took us a while, but we’re finally onboard the nationwide Texas Hold ‘Em bandwagon. It’s fun to take each other’s per diems.

It was useless to try and sleep. We were off stage in North Dakota by 11pm and our crew had packed our gear onto the truck and boarded the bus by midnight so we could make the five hour, 85 mph drive to the airport. Many thanks to our fearless bus driver John Harper for getting us there on time. Just as we were celebrating the heroics and pulling into the Sun Country Air terminal, we scraped the top of the bus against a (mismarked?) bridge clearance in the terminal. Made an ugly noise, but all we lost was a CB antenna. Party on!

As far as our first ever show in North Dakota is concerned, they put us in the 20,000 seat football arena, though we probably would have been better off in a coffee house. Apparently they have “Larry the Cable Man” coming next week — a comic I’ve never heard of who sells thousands of tickets to North Dakotoids — and they didn’t want to build two stages in two venues, so Guster headlines the arena.

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