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Return of the ‘Gus’

Sarah Vabulas | Monday, April 5, 2004

As the first weekend of the new school year arrives, students grapple with how they should spend their first Friday night. Many will choose to listen and engage in the ballads of famous rock bands – The Black Eyed Peas and Guster – at the annual concert, The Show.

The Boston trio Guster met on a camping trip for Freshman Orientation at Tufts University in 1992. When Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner and Brian Rosenworcel enrolled at the school, orientation consisted of a six-day wilderness excursion. The three met on the bus, each talking about how awesome their high school bands were, and so Gus was born.

Yes, they began their band using the name “Gus” before they realized that a band with that name had already signed a contract with a record company. They changed their name to Guster, and the success of their albums and live tours helped the band overcome its initial anxiety at changing its name.

By their junior year, the guys were recording an album, and after graduation in 1995, they bought a van and hit the road. Three liberal arts majors began to tour the country, visiting college campuses and pushing their musical sounds. They’ve kept on the road ever since.

Miller, who is a vocalist and guitarist, married his college sweetheart two months ago. The other guys give him a hard time about it and joke about how he wears his wedding band proudly as he plays during the shows. All three band members reside in New York City but still love to be considered a Boston band since they can trace their roots to Tufts.

Despite all turning 30 recently, which Rosenworcel said “sucked,” the guys consider themselves young as ever and full of energy, ready for whatever wild and crazy whims arise during a show. Guster usually plays one show a week at college – their favorite venues to play. College students understand them better and try hard to please even their smallest, odd requests.

“We show up at a club and don’t get what we want, but college students don’t do that. It’s nice,” Rosenworcel said. He claimed that Guster asks for some weird things on their request list.

“We used to ask for live goldfish in a bowl, but by the time the show was over, they were dead. We decided it was cruel, so we stopped doing that,” he said. “We also usually ask for movies on DVD, but only good ones.” But most importantly, Guster requests tube socks.

“I can never have enough tube socks,” Rosenworcel said.

Ten years after they met, the band released a fourth album, taking a new step by including some new sounds unlike the typical sounds of the band so familiar to fans. Keep it Together was released June 24 and quickly made its way to the top of Apple’s iTunes music store Most Downloaded rock album list. It also has been the second most downloaded album overall in the same time period, topped by Annie Lenox.

Along with the release of an album, the band began a summer tour of sorts with a series of shows in the Northeast, culminating with a final show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Aug. 16. Rosenworcel admitted that playing at Radio City was always a dream for him and is an amazing experience for any artist.

Guster travels, for the most part, on their tour bus, which they bought after finding success and ditching their original van. They travel through the night and wake up wherever they are to play. But if they want some entertainment, they pop in a movie. The only movie currently in Guster’s old van is Tommy Boy. Rosenworcel said that when they still use that, if someone wants to watch a movie, it is their only choice. “It is the only worthwhile Chris Farley movie,” he said.

But in the bus, the guys have a much larger selection. Topping the list of favorites for all three members are Good Fellas, The Graduate, PeeWee’s Big Adventure, Fargo and The Big Lebowski.

While on tour, Guster eats at places that are within walking distance from the venue, unless a record company takes them out. But if they can help it, they eat sushi – especially Rosenworcel.

“Now that we are rock stars, we have to eat it,” he said. “I started when I was 24 and once you’re in, there’s no turning back. All I want is a big, raw hunk of fish.”

But they must eat at home, too. Rosenworcel admits that his fridge and pantry are pretty empty most of the time since he is rarely at home. But he said he did have “two hard-boiled eggs and some applesauce” in his house yesterday afternoon. He thought he might eat it for dinner and put the applesauce on top of the eggs, but he wasn’t sure quite yet.

Living life as a musician for Rosenworcel is living a normal life.

“Nobody really recognizes me, so I feel like I live a normal life,” he said. “It is cool to play drums for a living. I didn’t expect to make a career out of it when I brought my bongos to college to sit on the floor and play.”Keep it Together features some new instruments for Guster. Rosenworcel learned to play a drum set for the album, branching off from his eclectic percussion instruments from the past albums. He said “the drum set is new and exciting for me, so it’s my favorite right now. But my overall favorite is an African instrument called a Djembe. It is a hippie’s drum that plays a variety of tunes. It is circle shaped and almost looks like a mushroom.”

Miller and Rosenworcel wrote the songs from Keep it Together. Miller wrote nine of them and Rosenworcel wrote four, but it was still a group effort. Musically, Guster’s albums “come out of being a room together. We sweat out a song and it evolves over time. We all over think and change constantly,” Rosenworcel said.

The guys tend to like the more mellow songs on the album the most, but they still love how the album feels overall. For Rosenworcel, Keep it Together “feels different and good,” leaving the other albums feeling “less mature.”

“Most people like the Lost and Gone Forever album the best,” he said, which came out in 1999 when Adam, Ryan and Brian were living in an apartment together in New York.

Guster kicks off the official tour for Keep it Together at the Joyce Center Arena tonight. Paired with The Black Eyed Peas, The Show promises to be an energetic and exciting one. Rosenworcel said the two bands had played once before in New Orleans. Also at the concert was Eminem, but this was before his spurt of fame. Rosenworcel claimed that, at the time, “Eminem was this just with tons of potential.”

Guster is excited to be playing with The Black Eyed Peas again, despite the difference in the two bands’ music genres. The Black Eyed Peas song, “Where is the Love?” is currently a top ten single on the Billboard charts and can be found echoing on radio waves across the country.

For some, the band Guster is an unfamiliar one, but for many East Coasters, Guster is an old favorite, and an exciting one at that. Since Guster tends to tour most of the year, it is easy for fans to catch the band live. Rosenworcel stated that he loved being on the road all the time, and even developed a love for some venues after playing there a few times. At the top of his list is the Backyard in Austin, Texas and The Tabernacle, an intimate concert venue in Atlanta.

Sometimes being on the road all the time can begin to take a toll, and the realization that they have been on the bus for two months gets to them, but the guys enjoy every minute of it. The Show is the first of the longest tour in Guster history; they will tour straight until Christmas with a little bit of time off in November. Rosenworcel called the upcoming tour “pretty hardcore” but remained extremely enthused about where it will lead them.

Guster played at Notre Dame in the fall of 2000, and they said they were surprised at the 2,000-person strong crowd that showed up then. They hope to have more tonight but are just excited that they were invited back since they loved playing here.

The Show begins at 7:30, with doors opening at 7 p.m. The cost is $10 and tickets can be purchased at the LaFortune box office or at the door. The Show is at the Joyce Center Arena, and Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students can enter through gate 10. They must also present their student IDs at the door to be eligible to enter.

This year’s The Show expects to be a great experience and an event that should not be missed. Both Guster and The Black Eyed Peas will serve up a fun, energetic show for students of all musical tastes.

Contact Sarah Vabulas at vabu4547@saintmarys.edu