Monthly Archives: April 2009

04.29.09 – En route to Madison

Swine Flu Lady

I saw my first swine flu face mask today at the airport and immediately thought that I needed to get a picture so I could share it with the swine-flu-dodging followers of the Guster road journal.  I tried to “shoot from the hip” with the photo so she wouldn’t notice me, but the first picture came out dark and a little blurry because I don’t how to use my camera (I’m 35) (I use an Elph, or something)… so I went back for round two only to discover that the lady was holding a bag up over her face, well aware that she was being photographed, and not at all amused about it.  What a surprise to learn that swine flu lady was too busy avoiding a pandemic to have a sense of humor about the situation.

Then again maybe she was a hipster from Brooklyn with a poorly conceived personal brand that mocks those who suffer from a deadly global pandemic.  Oh wait, that’s me.

Just dropped my yogurt spoon on the carpet at LaGuardia airport, and actually thought twice before putting it in my mouth (but put it in my mouth anyway) (rather than getting up and getting another spoon at Au Bon Pain) (which is like 10 feet away) (if I get swine flu I blame you, Adam Gardner, and your omniscient environmental specter) (shit, what if I have swine flu).

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04.27.09 – Syracuse


After the show at Syracuse last night I put on an orange t-shirt and talked with a bunch of kids after the show by the bus.  The conversation went something like this….  Blah blah blah good show blah blah blah yeah ben folds is amazing blah blah nice campus you have here blah blah winter lasts 8 months blah blah blah party school blah blah can’t wait to get out of here blah blah blah blah hey did you notice my orange shirt in honor of the syracuse orangemen blah blah blah yeah but that’s a Texas longhorns t-shirt, Brian.

Oops.  Hook ‘em horns.

It was fun to see a Ben Folds show for the first time since 2004 when we were on tour together, when Ben would join us on “Backyard” and “All the Way Up to Heaven,” rendering the latter of those two songs unplayable for the last five years because it sounded so weak without his piano touches.  Nice to see a five piece band playing Folds’ material too, so the hi hat overdub from Zak & Sara could get its own place in the mix.   Folds should be selling out Carrier Domes all across the country.  I hope it’s not another five years before we play a show together again.

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04.23.09 – The Week In Review

Friday the 17th at UPenn — Nothing special really about this show, just your ordinary gig opening for Akon in a stadium full of drunken Ivy League kids.  We spent all day hunting down a way to put an auto-tune effect on Ryan’s voice so that he could sound like T-Pain during the part of Airport Song where we distort his microphone into the Vincent Price from Thriller voice.  While Akon (who I swear I’d never heard of prior to the show) apparently doesn’t use that effect as much, we thought it would be a nice way to hook in the more Top 40 oriented kids in the crowd.  A way of saying “we might be a homespun rock band using organic instruments and singing earnest lyrics about interpersonal relationships, but we have a foot in the hip hop world just like you do”… when no one noticed the T-Pain effect in Airport Song, Ryan tried to connect to the crowd by doing his Revenge of the Nerds rap.  Oh for two.

Thankfully we had Reverb’s environmental village set up in the quad at UPenn during the day, so I stopped by and was able to connect to the people in the afternoon.  If you visit an eco-tent on this tour, be sure to find the posters of Scooter and Joe promoting recycling, before someone steals them:

I hung out next to a giant inflatable container of Soy Milk chatting with some inebriated Ivy League kids, who were tolerant everytime I said I was accepted at UPenn but chose Tufts instead.  “Yeah, you already told us that, Brian.”

There was one close-talker of a guy who breathed his vodka-ass-breath on me in the form of “Bro, you gotta play Two Points for Honesty for me” over and over.  His eyelids were closing while he was poking me in the chest and spilling his drink … I remember at one point, after saying it wasn’t on the set list for the 7th time, feeling like I wasn’t getting out of that conversation without getting beat up, or having close-talker-bro pass out on me.  Everyone else at UPenn was super cool.

Sunday the 19th at Univ of Dayton, Ohio — This was an arena show, and a fun one.  We covered a Randy Newman tune called “Dayton, Ohio 1903” for the first encore, just to say we did.  We almost did that song instead of “Memo to My Son” on the Randy Newman Tribute record.  At the end of “Come Downstairs & Say Hello” I kept a beat going and yelled “Kansas Sucks” enough times at the top of my lungs that Ryan had no choice but to adopt the chant and say it into his microphone.  I sure hope I’m right about two assumptions:

1.)  Kansas eliminated Dayton from the NCAA tournament in round 2, yes?
2.)  Guster is not playing in Lawrence on this tour.

Tuesday the 20th in Fayetteville, Arkansas — Check Arkansas off the list of states in which the Gusters have performed.  We still need to play South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Hawaii, and Alaska.  Am I forgetting anyone?  There was a cool greek-style theater in the middle of campus and we played a little bocce with Taylor from Wild Sweet Orange (our opener) before the show:

We’ve been playing extreme bocce for years now, which is sort of a combination of miniature golf, bowling, and skeet-shooting.  Missing from this photo is the fire-and-brimstone preacher-man in the gray suit going on and on to no one about how we’re all fucked because we’re sinners, right there in the middle of the Arkansas campus.  I’m sure his rhetoric had a little more apocalyptic flare because he saw three Jews chasing a set of bocce balls through a puddle right in front of him.  This is the red state portion of the Campus Consciousness tour.

Wednesday the 21st in Austin TX — This was my favorite Austin show we’ve ever played.  Stubbs is an amazing venue and we had Ben Kweller join us for “I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today” and “Say It Ain’t So” (Weezer).  We covered a Weezer song!

Dave Yonkman’s been travelling with us and filmed the Austin show from the pit in front of the stage.  At one point in Airport Song the people from the Hill Country Conservancy, who were putting on the show as an earth day benefit concert, dumped a bunch of plastic (compostable?) beach balls into the crowd.  They got lobbed around during the outro to Airport Song and Dave swears he has footage of Ryan trying to kick a ball back into the crowd but drilling a kid in the front row instead (with a beach ball, not his foot).  Footage forthcoming?  D.F.?

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04.17.09 – Ryan is a twitterer

And I wouldn’t normally promote the guy who’s competing with me for your online attention span (I’m a tumblrer, myself), but this particular tweet involves a photo of me posing like a Timberland sailor stud.  With two free pairs of baby shoes at his feet.

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04.10.09 – Uh oh. Photo collage. It can only mean one thing…

You guessed it.  Our guitar tech, Anderson Heath Bracht the 3rd, also known as Li’l Andy and The Silent Killer, is bidding the Gusbus a fond adieu and moving on to a more domestic life in Austin TX.  He got a cake on stage the other night at Northeastern that had “You’re Dead To Us” written on it in delicious squeezable chocolate. Then he was gone.

Andy, I’ll never forget the time that some shithead in Milwaukee threw a flaming ping pong ball on stage that landed on the drum riser underneath my seat and you dropped the guitar you were tuning, darted across the stage, and stomped it out, just as I was thinking “my ass is getting a little warm.”  You saved my life, Andy, or at least my ass hairs, and for that I thank you.

I’ll also never forget the time you took my entire weekly per diem when we were playing poker on the bus, or the other time you took my entire weekly per diem when we were playing poker on the bus, or the… (and so on and so on).  Andy was the “Silent Killer” in so many ways, but mostly because you never noticed him winning any Hold ‘Em hands, but there he was cashing out a huge pile of chips at the end of the night every time, like clockwork.

I’ll also never forget the time you fixed the guitar amp at my wedding, using a dime and some cake frosting, while wearing a suit, even though you weren’t on the clock.  Or maybe you just tried to fix the amp at my wedding, realized it was impossible, and we just carried on without it.  I can’t remember.  I was drunk.

We’ll miss you Andy.

Alas, please welcome Elliott, who comes to us courtesy of the Dandy Warhols.  Elliott looks a little like Andy, with the long hair and the laid back look that says “I might go for a cleansing where I fast for a week consuming nothing but brown water and toothpaste any day now.”  It’s not an easy job tuning 17 guitars, basses, ukeleles, and banjos for three guys that shuffle instruments on every song, but Elliott seems to be picking it up quite quickly.  Be nice to Elliott.


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04.04.09 – We might as well have played “Enter Sandman” at the orphanage


Our first real show in a year and a half happened on a cruise ship last week, somewhere off the coast of Baja, California, and went swimmingly.  Everything felt fresh, even “Demons,” which was celebrating its 3,000th performance that night.  The songs came back to us, like riding a bike, and no one puked.  Overall our Mayercraft Carrier experience was a huge success, and I got to play a little cowbell during the encore of our lido deck set the last night:


Usually the “destination” on these cruises is of no significance.  You go to some token tourist trap (this ship docked in Cabo, Mexico) and you have about 4 hours to shop in a Carnival Cruise Mall and sun yourself on a roped off Carnival Cruise Beach before its time to get back on the boat and head home.  (Scooter and Andy fell asleep on this beach at around noon, without any suntan lotion on, and have been shedding skin like lizards ever since).  There’s little opportunity to actually experience or discover anything at your destination that’s not generic.  Gordon stayed on the boat.

But Adam and the folks at Reverb set up a trip to a boys’ orphanage in Cabo for our day off.  (And he saved Latin… what’d YOU ever do?)

We brought a bunch of acoustic guitars, tambourines, shakers, and bongos to donate.  We brought the magician from the boat, Mark Mitton, who had a crowd of orphan boys watching him make impossible balloon animals within minutes of our arrival.  We brought our little daughters.

We spoke no Spanish and they spoke no English, so the obvious way to connect was through music.  Through completely inappropriate music.  Joe picked up a guitar and started playing “Folsom Prison Blues” and before we knew it a crowd of kids had formed around him.  We passed out shakers and tambourines and bongos.  Joe looked at us and shrugged while singing I shot a man in Reno  — just to watch him DIE!! — but it didn’t matter.  There was a language barrier, so we just tried to keep the melodies, chord progressions, and grooves as simple and catchy as possible to cater to little boy attention spans.  We tried playing “The Captain” and lost the crowd.  Too subtle!  Kick into Louis-Louis!  The set list that we stumbled upon looked like this:

Folsom Prison Blues
The Captain (abbreviated)
Louis Louis
Twist & Shout
Bad Moon Rising
Not Fade Away / Aiko Aiko / Desire
We Will Rock You
Pour Some Sugar On Me

“I see… a bad moon a-rising… I see… trouble on the way… don’t come around tonight, it’s bound to change your life… there’s a bad moon on the rise” — after singing a thoroughly dark Creedence song, I felt like we needed something more groove-oriented in the set.  The CHA-ka-CHA-ka-CHA… ka-CHA-CHA groove of “Not Fade Away,” worked for a while.  It went into AIko Aiko (seemless) and then U2’s Desire (utterly horrible) before petering out.  I kicked into the stadium bleacher groove of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and the orphans were right with me.  BOOM BOOM CHA!  BOOM BOOM CHA!  Everyone banging on tables, communicating through an earthy, universal groove that we could all understand, thank you Freddie Mercury.  It was awesome.  We were pretty grateful for the language barrier when we came around to Blood on your face, big disgrace, kicking your can all over the place. We might as well have just showed up and played “Enter Sandman” at the orphanage.

Before we closed the set out, the head of the orphanage, Mike, who was the nicest man I’ve ever met and the man that all 22 of these boys called “Dad,” started singing “La Bamba.”

Of course.  La Bamba.  What are we, stupid?  Our collective minds came up with “Pour Some Sugar on Me” for a bunch of Mexican kids but not La Bamba!?  It was a slam dunk.  Duh.

Here are a couple of photos.  Thanks to our friend Lucas from Pictures & Sound for joining us and leading some songs.  We ended with a group photo and high fives, and left there beaming.  Mike told us they hadn’t had a day like this in a year, and that more than anything they need the kind of love and attention that we brought.  It breaks your heart while it uplifts your spirit.  Here’s the website for the orphanage, if you ever find yourself in Cabo with a few hours to kill:

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