Thursday, October 29, 2009

Guster anniversary show stirs old memories in Charlotte

(Ed. note: Please welcome our friend and guest blogger Carrie who brings us this review from Charlotte.)

Ten years ago I had recently graduated from Queens in Charlotte and was living in an apartment so crappy I didn’t let my mom see it until I moved out (she thanks me for that). After having purpose and direction for as much of my life as I can remember, I suddenly had neither. I was a bit adrift.

It was around this time that a friend introduced me to the band Guster via their album Lost and Gone Forever. Even though I bought their two previous albums (they had me at bongo), this album was the soundtrack of my life for the next two years.

They were two life-changing years. Each track sings a different transition in my life: my boyfriend moving to California, getting my first post-grad job, applying to grad school, moving to Milwaukee for grad school, grading papers, navigating new relationships, gazing out at the never-ending snow.

Tonight was the kick-off of Guster’s Lost and Gone Forever anniversary tour. Charlotte was lucky enough not only to open their tour at the Neighborhood Theatre but also to be their only stop in the Southeast. And we were lucky enough to get tickets to their sold out show.

We don’t really believe in arriving early to these things; we both hate the jostling and standing around. So we arrived just five minutes early, which, it turns out, was not early enough since Guster was wrapping up their second song of their first set as we settled into our spot.

The band's first set was pretty short. They played mostly newer stuff with two never-heard-before songs thrown in (at least I’m pretty sure the whale song was new, I hadn’t heard it and no one was singing along). The first new song was bongo heavy so I’m hoping that bodes well for their next album.

Being the first stop on the tour there were a lot of funny improv moments and confessions of not having rehearsed various songs. At one point a song devolved into "Don’t Fear the Reaper," complete with cowbell.

After a short break, they began their second set which was the Lost and Gone Forever album played in its entirety. At one point Ryan Miller asked the crowd if it was weird for them to know what song was coming next. To me it seemed weird for him to have a several hundred member chorus backing him up at all times. As Miller sang the last notes of a song, the audience would carry the word just a little longer leaving a bewildered look on Miller’s face.

There was not one song in that set that three-quarters of the audience didn’t sing along to.

After the set there was an encore. Do you remember being novice enough in your concert-going experiences to really believe an encore would be determined by the magnitude of your clapping and the volume of your voice? Maybe I was the only one, but when I was younger I really believed that if the band thought the audience loved them enough, was hungry enough for more of their music, then they would be persuaded to come back on stage. Ahhhh, youth.

Speaking of which, I’m old. I was 22 when this album came out. Miller asked who in the audience bought the album or saw them perform live in 1999 and a whole lot of people cheered. Either those kids had mammas who put headphones over their pregnant bellies or they’re older than they look and had a cooler older (much older) sibling who introduced them to the band.

The show ended with Guster moving to the front of the stage beyond their mics and asking for the lights to be brought up. They encouraged the audience to simmer down and began an acoustic version of Jesus on the Radio. The majority of the audience quietly sang along except, of course, for the foursome in front of us. There was a smaller dude who was either a very touchy-feely drunk or on a first date with his much larger boyfriend and a girlfriend/ boyfriend pair. The hipster boyfriend gets all uppity and begins to slur, “Look at those “faaaaans” up front! No one is singing! They don’t know the lyrics to this song! They aren’t real fans!”

Then the high-fiving commenced. For the record, none of the foursome sang either.

It was funny but maybe you had to be there. Also, have I mentioned that I’m old?

I had a good time. I’m glad we went. At one point Miller thanked the audience for coming out and acknowledged that music was important to them too and that they understood what it was like to carry an album around with you for a decade. That memories and moments begin to get attached to those songs.

Of course, he’s right. A song takes on a meaning and over the course of many years the significance changes. More memories are piled on. By listening to a song you aren’t just transported to one place but to many places and a myriad of emotions.

Ten years later and a lot of things have changed. My boyfriend is no longer in California. We have moved back to Charlotte. And I might still be a bit adrift but I like this sea a lot better than the other.

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