Concert Review: Guster at 9:30 Club, 1/20

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The District was under a pre-blizzard weather siege Thursday night after an unexpected inch of snow fell and froze to untreated roads just as doors were opening at the 9:30 Club for Guster and opener David Wax Museum.  Many were stranded and couldn’t make it into the show, as was my co-host Claire Kostorhyz, but those who braved the slick streets were glad they did as soon as Guster took their crochet-decorated stage and started their set with the upbeat title song of their 2003 album Keep It Together.  

The theme of the night’s show for many was celebrating and collectively reminiscing with the 1990s’ favorite band of New England college friends.  Guster has a loyal following of fans that span generations: the crowd was a mix of adults still in business casual and fresh-out/current college students.  Yet, every song from their 20 year repertoire was met with head-bops of affirmation, singing along, and dancing from the crowd. Their set was heavily familiar, as they played mostly songs off of records prior to their most recent 2015 release Evermotion, which was seen as quite the departure for Guster’s trademark indie rock guitar sound.  We heard crowd favorites like Manifest Destiny, Stay With Me Jesus, and Airport Song mixed in with the few singles off Evermotion.  We were reminded of the band’s earliest days of Parachute and Goldfly with a story of their first gig outside of the Boston area at the late Georgetown venue The Bayou in 1997.  

Most importantly, however, we were reminded that while their sound or daily lives may have evolved, they are the same Guster that perfected the combination of bongos, strong acoustic guitar, and earnest, storytelling lyrics in the indie rock genre.  2016 Guster’s members have seven kids among them, have “day jobs,” and relate to their audience through candid discussion on paying babysitters (at one point lead vocalist Ryan Miller joking, “Welcome to your forties, Ryan…”).  But they kept us enthralled and reminded of why we braved the snow to be there with banjo riffs, an improv song about Ryan’s AirBnB host, and dueling trumpet & trombone performances between guitarist Adam Gardner and drummer Brian Rosenworcel during Never Coming Down.  By the end of the set, the crowd, noticeably absent of the usual surplus of held-up cellphones, was fulfilled. Guster finished strong after their established set by sending Adam onto the balcony for an “environmental victory lap,” which ended in his taking the drum set with Brian for an energetic near-finale.  

Purposefully knocking the microphone to the ground to stand front and center, the talented band of four reinforced the emotion-laced simplicity of Guster’s appeal with a completely acoustic and un-amplified encore finale of Jesus On The Radio.  The crowd, all very familiar with the banjo ballad, hummed along lightly so as to not drown out the band’s collective vocals.  It was the perfect end to a night of old favorites with our old friends Guster.


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