(Meadowbrook Music Festival, Rochester Hills, MI – July 26th, 2006)
As my friend Raymond says: "Welcome to the musical concert!” Indeed, they were also the first words out of Ryan Miller, the lead vocals for Guster, as they took the stage. There wasn’t even a pause before they started playing 'The Captain.' Next up was the audience favorite 'Barrel Of A Gun,' which made the whole crowd get to their feet and count down with the band, “4, 3, 2, 1! When at the barrel of a gun!”. Miller took a moment to thank everyone for coming out before announcing that the next song had never been played live before. The surprise treat was 'Backyard' off of their '03 album Keep it Together.
The show was being held at Meadowbrook Music Festival in Rochester Hills, MI. It’s located on the main campus of Oakland college, and is only one of the many stops along Guster’s First Annual Campus Consciousness Tour. The weather was warm, but no one in the audience seemed to ming sitting outside for the chance to see Guster play.
After the first group of songs were played, Miller felt the need to address a group of fans near the stage. “Hey,” he said. “I feel like we should have a discussion. Just how wasted are you guys?” motioning to six people up front. The band began playing an off the cuff rendition of The Champs’ 'Tequila' while Miller continued talking to his inebriated fans. “Maybe you guys should take it easy,” he ended with before he continued on with the set.
Guster has a laid back indie rock sound. The music had me thinking of early 1960's Beach Party music ala Annette Funicello - with a kick. The image was completed with the sound of bongo’s coming from Brian Rosenworcel’s set, where he abstained from drum sticks all night. The bongo’s weren’t the only unique instrument on stage that night; We were also treated to the sound of the banjo, harmonica, trumpet, and slide guitar.
About halfway through the set Adam Gardner (guitar/vocals) shouted out “It’s Five O’Clock on a Saturday.” The whole pavilion was going wild, waiting for the next line that never came. “How many of you guys would be totally psyched if we started playing a sweet version of 'Piano Man'?,” he asked, leaving the audience to shout some more. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, I only know one song on piano and it’s this one” he finally admitted before triggering the band to start in on 'Manifest Destiny.'
The band isn't only talented but also very earth conscious. They took a pause to ask the audience to go speak to Reverb, an environmental action group, who had a booth set up at the venue. Gardner is actually the founder of this group, which will be following them through the entire tour.
All of the green talk came to an end when they played 'Ruby Falls' after which Miller congratulated Gardner on his trumpeting skills saying, “That’s the best ending of ‘Ruby Falls’ you’ve ever played man!” The enthusiasm was shared by the fans who were all shouting out “Good Job!”
“Our new record came out about a month ago,” Miller later told the audience. “I think Detroit was the first show we played. Right down the street from here. I don’t know if any of you were there, but if you were, Hello. Again. Thanks for coming to our show.”
After about an hour and fifteen minutes of good solid fun Miller announced that the show was coming to an end . . . possibly. “OK! This is the last song of our regular set, then we’re going to walk off stage and, I don’t know. If you clap, we’ll come back, if not, I don’t know.” The band then played 'Fa Fa' to wrap up the set. As the song came to an end the whole audience began to clap and shout, hoping to get an encore. The band made a huddle on the stage, seemingly in deliberation over whether or not an encore should be given. Before an entire minute had passed, the band was already throwing their guitar straps back over their heads, and positioning themselves behind drum sets. “OK. Thanks for having us back for the encore!”
The first song back for the encore was 'Lightning Rod' which was the most mellow song of the set thus far. The crowd was swaying with their arms up in the air. By this point the sun had gone down and the lighting made for a surreal atmosphere. They made a smooth transition into 'The New Underground' and stitched the whole thing up with 'I Spy.'
The crowd wasn’t ready to let them go yet, so when the band began to leave the stage there was a roar of sound that seemed to roll all the way from the back of the pavilion to the front. The wave of sound must have caught the bands attention because they decided to come back for a second encore. “That means a lot to us Detroit,” Miller admitted. “It’s true.” They then played 'Keep It Together.'
The night as a whole was all around good time. The music wasn’t oppressive or over produced. Guster is something you can kick back to at anytime to simply enjoy.
Review by Natalie Borsh