Monthly Archives: April 2006

04.21.06 – The Jammys

Last night we played the 6th Annual Jammys Awards Show at the Madison Square Garden Theater. Interesting event. They give awards to jam bands between collaborative perfomances by improvisational-leaning artists from all over the musical and generational spectrum. Chick Corea, Joe Satriani, moe. etc… We felt a little bit like we had no business being involved in the event, as a pop band, but the Jammys like to be eclectic, and it wasn’t a stretch at all to pair us with Peter Frampton, or as Ryan said into the mic as soon as we took the stage “Peter fucking Frampton!!”

We had two hours set aside for rehearsal with Mr. Frampton the day before. None of us knew what to expect and I was actually worried that he’d catch me playing the break-down hi-hat groove on “Do You Feel Like I Do” without the side stick rim shot (as a somewhat clumsy stick-drummer, I need two hands to play the hi-hat groove that his drummer played with one hand on “Frampton Comes Alive”). As it turned out Peter couldn’t have been cooler. He was gracious, open-minded, self-deprecating, a monster on guitar, and effusive about how much he loved the Guster song we were to play at the Jammys (“Hang On” — it’s on the new album). He was pure class. We rehearsed his song twice and our song twice. Anything more than that would have felt less exciting at the show.

And exciting it was. Though we reached “Best ‘Hang On’ Ever” status in soundcheck thanks to Peter’s tasty intermittent guitar work, our song was marred by technical problems at the Jammys. Ryan’s guitar wasn’t even on for the first two thirds of the song, though this is the norm for a show like this where there are 7 minute changeovers between bands with completely diverse lineups. “Do You Feel Like I Do” fared much better. We saved our best run of it for the actual real gig, and Martin Sexton joined in for an impromptu lick-trading solo before Peter brought the house down with his talk box. It was so fun.

The best part was that as we began to realize Peter was a cool dude in rehearsal, we began to feel more comfortable asking him the sort of questions we would have otherwise left on the shelf. I blame him for opening this door with his humble approachability. Ryan asked him what it was like to play on “All Things Must Pass” and I went right in with the “was that really your voice on the Homerpalooza episode of the Simpsons!?” and Scooter followed up with a question about his Family Guy cameo. After we’d picked his brain on his cartoon appearances to our satisfaction, Joe went in with the talk box and got a full on tutuorial on how the cutting-edge-in-the-mid-seventies-gadget works. I still don’t get it. But when he talks into it I want to put my hands in the air and scream.

Frampton demonstrates the talk box tube to Joe and Seth

And as we were leaving, and when I’m sure he thought we’d asked every predictable question we could muster, our tour manager Seth starting fidgeting a bit, clearly wanting to say something. He poked his head back into the rehearsal room door and let it out: “Have you ever heard Dinosaur Jr.’s cover of ‘Show Me the Way'”!!??

Indeed yes. Frampton’s heard that version, which Seth and I worshipped when we were in college. I am not sure how he feels about it. I never told him that when I was 10 years old I was over at Brian Trifari’s house and his older brother, who smoked pot, brought us into his room to listen to his vinyl copy of Frampton Comes Alive. He told us that this dude was so good at guitar, he actually made his guitar talk. He actually made his guitar say “Do You Feel Like I Do.” I listened and my jaw hit the ground. Impossible.

As for the Jammys, I didn’t really get a chance to appreciate many of the performances, except for Dweezil Zappa, who played right before us. With so many artists playing on one stage, the backstage was a clusterfuck of people and smoke — I felt like a carp stuffed into a tank in Chinatown with a bunch of crabs and lobsters. I was secretly afraid of getting my ass kicked because of our Trippin’ Balls stunt. I got the hell out of there as soon as we were done. I’m pretty sure Frampton brought down the house at the All Star Jam at the conclusion of the night.

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04.18.06 – Geneseo, NY

When we showed up at SUNY Geneseo College the other day, the student hospitatlity crew had left us two disposable cameras and this note in the dressing room:

Is there a more passive-aggressive way to ask the band to take pictures of themselves doing dick tricks than this? I mean, why not just include an itemized list in the note specifying which band member you’d like to see doing which dick trick? Please enjoy these disposable cameras as you see fit, but make sure Ryan does “the baby bird,” Adam gives us “the hamburger,” Joe tries out “the loch ness monster,” and Brian delivers his world famous “chewing gum on my seat!” — I mean, could they be more obvious? Why not just leave a toothbrush there next to the disposable cameras so we don’t have to ruin one of our own to get the picture of it stuck in our butt cheeks?

Alas, to give them what they wanted would have been too easy. They received no pictures of our genitalia twisted about to take on the shape of a “cornish game hen.” They received no “didgeridoos.” After all, we’re a family band, and this a family road journal. We did give them some photos of Ryan removing the staples from Adam’s head though:

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04.14.06 – Canton, NY

I am about to break the cardinal rule of road journaling — never post two entries with references to “walleye” in them within one year. (see April 29th, 2005 for the first one) (or don’t, who wants to scroll that much, trust me it’s in there). But it’s April, and this is the month that we generally tour colleges, dip twice, and otherwise do outlandish things, so here goes:

This is Roger, our truck driver. He has a southern drawl but lives in Ohio. Which means he knows a thing or two about lake fishing. And with a day off between Chicago and upstate NY, he and his son Roger Jr caught their walleye limit at a lake in Ohio on Wednesday. And here’s the best part — Roger filleted the fish, breaded them, picked up a jug of peanut oil, and set up his deep fryer on the sidewalk outside the show yesterday at St Lawrence University. It was like our own little Passover Seder, except with walleye. And bread crumbs. And Roger, our truck driver.
I took a lot of pictures, so you’re going to have to look at them.

Roger setting up the deep fryer

Breaded walleye

Delicious fried walleye

Having succeeded with the fish, we started looking around for other things to deep fry, and Seth broke out a frozen veggie riblet — or as Scooter calls them “Veggie McRiblets.” We dumped that in the peanut oil and it came out nice and crispy.

Veggie Riblet (before)

Veggie Riblet (during)

And since the Campus Consciousness side of the tour is sponsored by CLIF bar, and those little turdlike delicacies have been ubiquitous the last few weeks, I decided to throw a Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF bar in the deep fryer too.

Insert Caddyshack pool joke HERE

Insert another Caddyshack pool joke HERE

Roger Jr (on the right) asking the first of the four questions: “Dad, did the Thunderman just break our deep fryer?”

I would tell you how it tasted, but this whole journal is beginning to feel like a piss-poor imitation of my friend Steve’s famous website “The Sneeze” where he eats much more disgusting things than fried CLIF bars, and writes much funnier commentary than I do. I implore you to visit “Steve Don’t Eat It”, even if it means copying this link into your browser:

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04.12.06 – Loyola University

Dave Yonkman (above, jowling) is on tour with us this week, helping to set up and run the Campus Consciousness Pavilion for Adam’s non-profit group, Reverb. We told him he could leave his camera at home. A six-foot-five fly-on-the-wall throughout the recording of Ganging Up on the Sun, Dave emailed our website to see if we wanted to go tubing with him in Indiana about five years ago. Now he’s our official documentarian, D.F. Yonkman to you, and a valuable source of insider information to Vinny, a five-year-old who went to our show at Loyola University last night…

Vinny came to the concert at the Gentile Center (do I even need to make the joke) with his mother, and liked every song except The New Underground, which was too loud. Fortunately, Allyson our merchandise-lady gave him a set of earplugs and he stuck out the rest of the show in the back by the merch booth with Allyson and Dave. Allyson hooked him up with a backstage pass too so he could meet his favorite member of Guster. Me.

Most of my interactions with little kids after shows are awkward. My hands are big. I am tall. My voice still cracks. But my conversation with Vinny was awkward in a whole new way. The entire time he was talking to me he was pinching his nose with his fingers. Even when he wasn’t talking he was clutching his nose as if his life depended on it. I wanted to know why but didn’t want to call attention to something embarrassing like a nosebleed or a horrible nose-elephantitis or something. I signed his aftershow pass, did my best to put out a disarming vibe, and kneeled down to pose for a picture with him. I held my nose too, just for the sake of camaraderie.

Later that night on the bus we were talking about Vinny, the kid who held his nose the whole time he was backstage, and Dave said, “oh yeah, that kid really wanted to meet you but I told him that the Thundergod smells really bad and he should cover his nose anytime he got near you.” True story.

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04.06.06 – East Lansing, MI

About a half hour before our scheduled National Biodiesel Fuel Press Conference today in East Lansing, Adam hit his head on a tampon dispenser in the bathroom while getting up from taking a crap, requiring a trip to the Michigan State Infirmary and four staples in his head.

There are two tragedies here.

1) We lost our one articulate spokesman at the press conference. Ryan stepped up to the podium and did his best to talk about renewable energy, alternative fuels, and making a difference in your community, but the one guy who actually knows what he’s talking about was getting his bloody scalp stiched up.

2) I’m like a pig in shit today. All I could think about during the press conference was writing this road journal. I know it’s wrong, but I feel the way Jon Stewart must have felt the day he walked into the office and learned that Dick Cheney had shot his 78-year old hunting buddy — no one died, and it’s just good clean fun. Lots of it. If I had Ed Helms standing by I’d ask him “did Adam Gardner really take a crap and then cut his head open on a tampon dispenser today” and Ed would take on a grave tone with his wonderfully redundant response — “Indeed yes, Brian, I’m here on the scene in East Lansing where Guster guitarist Adam Gardner has apparently sliced his head open on a tampon dispenser in a bizarre bathroom accident, all a mere half hour before he was scheduled to speak at the band’s big press conference on biodiesel fuels.”

We have so many angles to explore. This is the scene of the crime:

And this is the blood on edge of the tampon dispenser:

While scouting out the bathroom for a possible Road Journal Video Re-enactment of the incident, Ryan and I had a hard time even reaching the tampon dispenser with our heads. Curious. Very curious. And what was Adam doing in the women’s bathroom to begin with? And if he reached up and held his head after the contact was made, did he even get a chance to pull his pants up from his ankles, or was he waddling around, bottoms down, covering his head and checking for blood while tripping over himself and cursing the tampon dispenser?

So while Adam was getting his head stapled at the Michigan State Infirmary, the tension was building outside at the press conference where Ryan was brushing up on his knowledge of biodiesel while the local East Lansing media readied their cameras and notebooks.

Ryan hangs with the mayor of East Lansing before the press conference.

The gentleman on the right is a soybean scientist.

In case you’re wondering, Ryan opened with “Our other singer, who set this up, couldn’t be here today because he cut his head open on a tampon dispenser a little while ago.”

Adam’s Frankenstein head. Bring him purple hearts (or throw tampons at him) this week at the shows in the midwest, not just because he’s playing through pain but because his band didn’t sound so intelligent today at the press conference he set up. My one line was: “The message that’s sent when a band like Guster switches to biodiesel fuel is that alternative energy is realistic, available, and affordable. You don’t have to be a very big band to use biodiesel… you don’t even have to be a GOOD band.”

When taking token photos for press, it is best for your shirt to match the color of your fuel-pumping gloves.

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04.01.06 – Tacoma, WA

you know, when we started touring we were the same age as our fans. we never had to worry about being The Old Guys At The College Party.

we started playing off campus our senior year at tufts, on weekends. we’d travel to nearby schools like middlebury college and worcester polytechnic institute in my chevy nova, packing our own PA system sometimes, even if it meant driving with a pair of bongos on my lap. we were scooter’s age. the people whose floors we crashed on were scooter’s age. there was nothing weird about it.

fast forward to 2006. we’ve adopted a fourth band member who brings the mean guster age up into the solid mid-thirties. most of us are married or engaged and if our tour bus doesn’t have “star trek doors” we give our tour manager hell. we don’t play “bury me” anymore. it makes me tired. and yet we still like to be the band that will make an appearance at the campus party, keep it real, mingle with the locals, pretend we’ve never played “beirut” before, and then find our way back to the bus before it leaves for the next city. it’s one of the perks of being your spring fling band, and no one’s gonna take it away from us, no matter how old we look.

so after the show at the university of puget sound in tacoma the other night we stopped by a house kegger thrown by the student activities people. they seemed like good people. stand up people! it was a simple backyard party with a keg, a bonfire, and chill company… the perfect situation to blend into without anyone calling us out on being the creepy old guys at a college party.

this is me and joe leaving the party wrapped in u.s. postal service packaging tape:

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