A Glimpse of the Roadie Life

One of my favorite pastimes is seeing live music. I’ve often wondered what life would be like as a roadie. Different towns every night, sometimes the same songs played every night.

Well, I had a glimpse of the roadie life last month, when I saw Guster play four nights in a row.

I’ve never been to a concert four nights in a row before. By the third night, it was starting to feel like a job…but a very good job!

This was a special event, as Guster is celebrating their 25th anniversary and the venue at which they played (Paradise Rock Club) is celebrating its 40th. Guster chose this venue because they played there a lot when they were starting out, opening for bands such as Rusted Root.

Guster chose opening bands for the four-day revelry that they had a long history with, which was nice. I only knew of one: Steven Page, formerly of Barenaked Ladies. It was great to see Steven, whose voice has not aged a day. I was a big BNL fan in college but stopped following them after Steven went down the wrong path for a while. I haven’t listened to BNL in years, so I surprised myself by remembering the lyrics to the few BNL songs he played. And I lost my shit when I heard the first few chords of one of my most favorite songs ever: “Didn’t Mean to Break Your Heart.” It’s one of those songs that you play on repeat when you’re going through a breakup.

Anyhoo, on to Guster.

First Night:

I had a great spot by the stage for Steven Page’s set. But then I had to go to the bathroom and was meeting a friend who was running late, so I lost my spot. This meant that I didn’t see 95% of Guster’s set. We walked around and around but could never even see a sliver of the stage. One tall guy took pity on us for the last couple of songs and let us stand in front of him.

Guster, Steven Page

Steven Page joined Guster on stage during the encore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Night: I was determined to get a good spot for Night #2. I nabbed a perfect spot in the balcony. A band from Northampton, MA, called And the Kids opened. They rocked it.

Each night, Guster did something a little different. I can’t tell you what they did the first night…but on the second night, they invited a cellist and violinist to perform on a few songs and they were a great addition.

Guster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Night: This was my favorite night because they brought out a wheel and determined the set list from wheel spins. This meant that a few lucky fans were invited on stage to sing karaoke style, Guster played half of a song at twice the tempo, and Brian sang the theme song to Cheers. The Bogmen opened and they were fun and rowdy.

I also met Brian for the third time before this show. Everyone who bought a four-day pass was invited to a meet and greet an hour before the third or fourth night’s show. Unfortunately, we weren’t let in until 40 minutes before the start of the show, so I wasn’t sure if I would have time to talk with any of them. But I did manage to say a quick hello to Brian and give him a gift that I had brought for him and the other guys.

Guster

Brian explains how the wheel works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Night: I secured a spot in the balcony again and stood next to a lovely couple with a teenage son whom I had been chatting with in line outside. They mentioned a few other Guster concerts they’d been to, and I kept saying, “I was there, too!” I felt a sense of community with these complete strangers because of these shared experiences we had years ago.

Wesley Stace opened, and I would love to know how Guster initially crossed paths with this British bloke. His lyrics were witty and I appreciated that he shared his vinyl purchases from earlier that day with the crowd.

I could tell that Guster was a little tired that night, but the audience didn’t care. After all, the lads had been running themselves ragged for four days: on top of the shows, they did an interview at the WGBH studio at the Boston Public Library, and they invited fans to bowl with them in Somerville and ice skate with them at City Hall Plaza.

The special guests that night were some brass players who performed on a few songs. They were also a great addition.

Guster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guster ended the four-day hoopla with a fan favorite, an acoustic version of their song “Jesus on the Radio.”

There was a Guster Museum set up in the front bar all four nights. I spent a few minutes looking at the mementos on the third night as I left the show. I loved seeing the Guster Gazette, a printed newsletter that I have a few copies of somewhere, and a copy of a letter that Guster sent out to promoters when they were first starting out. AND a piece of paper with a bunch of potential band names = wow, some of them were terrible. I planned to look more closely as I left on the fourth night, but the museum was already packed up when I walked through.

Guster

Guster Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, it was an unforgettable experience and I hope that I’m a merch girl for a band in my next life.

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4, 3, 2, 1

My third favorite band is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. I discovered these guys on December 31, 2000, when they opened for Barenaked Ladies in Boston. I had been a Boston resident for a year and a half, so to me, Guster is synonymous with my entire life in Boston….i.e., my early 20s to early 40s and counting.

Guster had been a band for nine years at that point, having met each other during their freshman year at Tufts University. I dug their music because a lot of it was fun and had a great beat, yet they could also write songs that were serious and thoughtful. And I dug them as people because I found them to be great musicians, as well as being spontaneous, quirky, creative, and comical.

I got to know them well because they toured in New England A LOT, it being their home turf. This is mind-boggling, but between the years of 2001 and 2016, I have seen them at least 27 times. I say “at least” because I know I am missing a few ticket stubs.

January 2016, Boston

January 2016, Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What sealed the deal for this love affair is that during my early years of following the band, Brian, the drummer, wrote an online “road journal” about their adventures on the road. I remember laughing out loud until I cried many, many times. My love for this journal led me to send an email into the ether, to Guster’s general email address, to express my appreciation.

And Brian wrote back! We had an email correspondence for a few years. It was a special experience and I really appreciated how he took time to chat with the fans.

There have been many concert highlights over the years, but here are a few:

  • Seeing them at University of New Hampshire in 2003 with a new work friend…we drove up on a weeknight and waited outside after the show and met Brian! So fun. We were giddy and goofy the entire ride home as only 20-somethings who just met a rock star could be. Years later, the same friend scored backstage passes for one of their Boston shows and we met them again.
  • Attending a show at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston on Halloween: Both Guster and the fans dressed up. I think that they also opened the show by descending from the ceiling while seated in chairs.
  • Seeing them perform at Radio City Music Hall and with the Boston Pops Orchestra.
  • Seeing them in my hometown in New York. It was my second time seeing them outside of their home turf of New England. It was sold out, and a friend and I stood around before the show trying to find her a ticket. And at the last minute, we did! It was great to see Guster being embraced in my hometown.

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Guster just announced a four-day residency at the Paradise in Boston in January. Guess who bought a four-day pass?

Rock Star Weekend

 

Thanks to Abby for helping me check off two birthday list items in the past two days. One was planned and one was not.

Chronologically, we’ll start with the unplanned one. We saw Guster on Friday night. We knew we were going to be on the guest list, but imagine our surprise when the box office person said “…and here are your after show passes.” We were going BACKSTAGE. Holy bleep. I’ve been following Guster since ’99, and Abby and I had met Brian the drummer once before in 2003. I just checked my book of concert tickets stubs and I have seen Guster at least 19 times. I say at least because I don’t see any stubs from 2000, and I must have seen them sometime that year!

So, I like the band. So, meeting them is surreal. I clam up when around celebrities, whether they be musicians, authors, actors, artists. How do you go about saying hello to a perfect stranger who has in some small way changed your life? Who in some small way has made your life more meaningful?

It was awesome to meet Brian again and meet Ryan for the first time. Dang, I feel self-conscious about using that adjective since seeing David Sedaris last weekend. He hates the word “awesome” and fines fans in the book signing line if they use it. I am so guilty of overusing it as well as “amazing.”

But I digress. The following day, Abby and I took to the open road and visited a brewery in the ‘burbs. We had tried the beer at a bar in Cambridge and liked it. And the brewery happens to have her name in it. If you like beer, there is nothing like visiting a local brewery…hanging out and tasting beers and talking with the employees (many times you’re talking to the brewers themselves). One of the brewers/owners gave us a tour of the facility. The brewery is only nine months old, but it seems to be doing really well. If you’re in the Boston area, it’s worth a visit. And look for Jack’s Abby in Boston and Cambridge bars!

Finally, although not on the birthday list, I had another fantastic experience over the weekend.  I was in the third row of a Death Cab for Cutie concert on Saturday night. I don’t even know where to begin. I love them to pieces. They make me want to move to Seattle. They invited a small orchestra to tour with them and the result was beautiful. Guster also had a violinist and a cellist on stage. I love this type of experiment—the mixing of two musical genres. It was like watching Yo-Yo Ma play bluegrass.

Now it’s time to shift focus from music to FILM. The Independent Film Festival of Boston starts in three days!

Guster 8/12/11

 

This is one of the reasons why I have been a Guster fan for 12 years.

Ryan Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the lead singer, performing a song with a makeshift disco ball entirely surrounding his head.

Another reason why:

Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, Andrew McMahon, Will Forte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They ended the show with a rendition of Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” including drummer Brian Rosenworcel on vocals, who can’t sing to save his life. And Will Forte from SNL also chimed in on vocals. And Andrew McMahon from Jack’s Mannequin, the co-headliner, joined in the fun as well. They are great entertainers, as well as great musicians.

My mom attended her first Guster concert in Rochester, the night after the Boston show. I have yet to hear the details…Mom knows how to rock!

I Saw a Symphony

 

Last night I watched The Lawrence Welk Show while eating dinner. What has my life become?

Before I went back to 1981 with Lawrence and his crew, I took a tour of Symphony Hall, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra performs.* I’ve been to numerous concerts and events there, and I’ve always been intrigued by the architecture.

The volunteer tour guide took us on a 1.5 hour tour, and it was AWESOME. He told us so many interesting tidbits about the history of the building, and of the orchestra. I learned that it was the first hall built with acoustics in mind. That’s why there are only a few rows on the sides, and why there is latticework on the balconies (so the music can go through, instead of bouncing off a solid surface). Poor Henry Higginson, the founder of the BSO, studied music in Vienna until an unfortunate bloodletting incident (he suffered from migraines, and they let blood out of his hands!!) damaged his hands. He came back to Boston and worked for his father in business. But it was his dream to start an orchestra like he had seen in Europe. So he did just that, in 1881.

It was so cool to sit in the hall when it was empty. We went backstage and saw the “tuning room” where the musicians tune up…before they tune up onstage. 🙂 I had a fun surprise moment…we walked by a cabinet with a bunch of stickers on it. The stickers were from different groups who have performed in the hall: the London Philharmonic, Paris Orchestra, etc. And there at the top of the cabinet was a GUSTER sticker. Guster did perform there, with the Boston Pops a few years ago. I went to both shows, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to the basement and saw practice rooms and huge instrument cases that are used when the musicians travel. The tour guide stopped in front of a huge wooden harp case, and told a story of how the first female musicians were harpists, and when they traveled to performances, there were no female dressing rooms. So they had to change in their harp cases!

Thank you, Henry Higginson, for establishing one of the best orchestras in the world!

View from backstage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Number 6 on birthday list. 30 to go.

 

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