Saturday, May 15, 2010

Guster - August 18, 2006

Guster was the band that penned my wedding song. My wife and I chose I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today from their exceptional album Keep It Together as our song. The song means a lot to us and reminds us of how happy we are when we’re together. We cherish the moments we have with each other and hope that tomorrow will be just like today.

When the opportunity came to see the band perform at the PNC Bank Arts Center during their Ganging Up On The Sun tour, we jumped at the chance. They were performing with Ray Lamontagne and Yonder Mountain String Band, two acts that I did not know. As always, I kept an open mind and was interested in hearing their live performances.

As it was a Friday in the summertime, Cathy and I got to the venue in the mid-afternoon to tailgate and relax before the show. We had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary a month earlier, and being able to see Guster perform so close to that was fantastic. We were very hopeful to hear our wedding song played live, but also realized that Guster does not play that song very often. Our chances of hearing it live were slim.

As the sun started its slow westward descent, we went inside the venue to make sure that we were on time for the first act, Yonder Mountain String Band. Our seats for this show were fantastic, 15 rows from the stage. This was probably the closest I’ve ever sat at the Arts Center. I was very happy to be that close to the stage.

Yonder Mountain String Band, A bluegrass band gaining in notoriety, was the first band of the night. I enjoyed watching them perform. They were a hard rocking bluegrass group supporting a brand new album. They did an excellent cover of The Beatles It’s Only A Northern Song and they rocked it hard. Bluegrass meets classic rock via heavy metal. It was wild.

Yonder Mountain String Band also had their very own groupie (or die-hard fan). For their set, one gentleman couldn’t stop rocking out to the band. He stood in the aisle as close to the stage as he could get and sang every word back to the band, all the while with his fist in the air. I think I saw him headbang a few times too. Cathy and I enjoyed the extra entertainment that the fan provided.

After YMS, Ray Lamontagne took the stage. The only thing I knew about him were the songs I had heard on his website which I researched a week before the show. He was a mellow acoustic act and I was hopeful to have a new artist to become a fan of.

The crowd apparently knew him very well, because when Lamontagne took the stage, the place went nuts. By then, most of the seats in the amphitheater had filled up. The lawn, however, was empty. I would come to find out later that they let the people on the lawn move into seats and then closed the lawn. That meant not a lot of people came to the concert, which was disappointing.

Ray Lamontagne was a strong performer. I obviously knew none of his songs, but the ones he performed were solid and enjoyable. He was a little too mellow for my tastes, but an enjoyable artist nonetheless. I told myself that I would have to check out his work more closely and perhaps pick up one of his CDs. I never did, but maybe that just means I’m overdue.

After Lamontagne’s set was over (I believe he played for about 50 minutes) it was time for the main event. Guster. The reason we were all there. I was excited as it was my first time seeing Guster live and they were a band that I had really gotten into over the previous two years.

They came out to Barrel of a Gun and the night was off. “4…3…2…1, we’re at the barrel of a gun! Keep my head way down!” Oh what an opening number. It sounded incredible and I was grinning from ear to ear. I was seeing Guster live. Captain, one of my favorite songs from the (then) new album Ganging Up On The Sun, was performed next. It sounded incredible. After just those two songs I felt I had gotten my money’s worth.

Guster is a comical band. Their musical style is completely different from anything I’ve ever heard. Their percussion is centered around a bongo player. Guster is extremely unique. During the concert Ryan Miller (no relation to the hockey goalie) talked about walking around the parking lot prior to the show, which drew a huge reaction from the crowd. He said he was walking around wondering what all the people in the parking lot were doing. Then he realized they were tailgating. He had never witnessed fans tailgating for a Guster concert before. He was amazed at this.

He said that he walked around some more and came across a couple of guys who stopped them. The one guy said “Dude… you’re like… the guy in the band,” to which Ryan replied yes. They stared at each other for a moment and then the fan offered him a combo from his bag. Ryan declared that tailgating was strange and not for him.

Guster went on to rock the night away. What You Wish For, Airport Song, Hang On, Happier and much more were performed with enthusiasm. Both my wife and I were so impressed with Guster’s live act that they moved up the list of favorite artists that night. I’ve since gone out and purchased every Guster album (except their first one). Both Cathy and I were amazed by the band. They gave an incredible performance and if they ever come back to New Jersey (I don’t believe they’ve been here since), we would go see them without question. Cathy said it was one of the best concerts she’s ever been to. For me, it was high on the list, and one day when I finally sit down and rate them all, I think this show may finish in the top 10.

Barrel of a Gun
Red Oyster Cult
What You Wish For
Airport Song
One Man Wrecking Machine
Keep It Together
Manifest Destiny
Center of Attention
Hang On
Come Downstairs And Say Hello
Ruby Falls
Great Escape
I Spy

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