Acoustic trios are common enough in coffee houses around the country, but acoustic trios that play Radio City Music Hall, Austin City Limits and Chicago's House of Blues in the same year are rare. Guster managed to grab those gigs through hard work, quality tunes and amazing grass-roots support from nearly every college undergrad old enough to get into their shows.
The trio, made up of Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller and Brian Rosenworcel (known to their fans as Adam, Ryan and Brian), met at Tufts University in 1991, wrote a few songs and named the act 'Gus.' After playing around Boston for a couple of years, they recorded their first full-length CD, Parachute, in 1994. With guitar work and vocals by Adam and Ryan, reminiscent of the BoDeans, and Brian's hand percussion (no sticks, thank you), the album sold well at shows, where the tickets also flew when the college crowd learned that Gus was coming.
And then, in 1995, 'Gus' signed with Geffen Records. Unfortunately, it was some other guy named 'Gus.' As they were not signed to a major label, Boston's Gus knew they were better off fixing their name. And thus they became Guster. If your copy of Parachute says 'Gus' rather than 'Guster' on the cover, hang onto it.
At this point, they were making their way to brewpubs and bars around the country, driving audiences crazy with their original material and, hard as it is to believe, a rocking medley of Lionel Richie songs. Whether they really thought of him as an influence on their work, as they claimed, is a fact we may never discover.
After the independent release of Goldfly in 1996, it was a short step to a contract with Sire records and a visit with Conan O'Brien (on stage, rather than in the audience). Their first true Sire recording (Sire re-released Goldfly) was 1999's Lost and Gone Forever, recorded in San Francisco with the guidance of ace producer Steve Lillywhite. Soon enough they were at Woodstock 99, thirty years down the road from another trio, Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Guster are maturing in the studio, as 2003's Keep It Together proves, and they have attracted the attention of the major media without straying from their acoustic music with clever lyrics. Their fans understand them, but whether outsiders do or not, it doesn't matter. The melodies and vocal harmonies, combined with the sheer joy they produce on record and, most especially, in front of the folks who bought the tickets, are a magic sonic combination.
A good preview of their show, one not requiring tickets, is their 2004 live release, Guster on Ice. With both a CD and a DVD, you can get a feel for what to expect from Guster. It's likely, though, that you have seen them already and are after tickets to maybe your hundredth Guster show, right?
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