Guster’s stage on Tuesday night won’t be a pulpit – at least according to Ryan Miller, vocalist and guitarist for the eternal college band Guster. Despite the fact that the band’s Ann Arbor stop falls on Election Day, Miller said the band’s relationship with fans and politics is a specific one.
“You know, we’re not Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down or even Barbara Streisand for that matter,” Miller said.
Whatever the occasional political undertones on Ganging Up On The Sun, Guster’s most recent album, Miller doesn’t want the band to become political commentators. While he’s willing to encourage fans to get interested in band member Adam Gardner’s environmentalist group, Reverb, he avoids polarizing fans by preaching partisan beliefs during a performance.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t take a public stance on pertinent political issues. He laughed about overfishing being the greatest problem facing the United States, but then quickly talked about his distaste for the current “administration and … extreme religious right that’s dictating our social system.” He admitted the accusations against Reverend Ted Haggard were enough to get him fired up for the day.
Instead of spouting political ideals from the stage, Guster encourages fans to relate to the group’s music any way they can. Since the band’s days as Tufts University undergrads and their first album Parachute (1994), Guster has maintained a strong tie to their fan base. The band relies heavily upon word-of-mouth advertisement. And even though Miller said red states have recently “picked up the slack” and become a better crowd, he and the rest of the bandmembers still love their blue-state audiences.
With such a strong devotion to entertainment, Guster keeps its performances structured around what the fans loves.
“Guster may play songs (the band doesn’t) necessarily like, but people like hearing,” Miller said. He even admitted that the band’s ever-evolving sound may divide fans, especially with the range between Parachute’s coffee-house acoustic ballads to the instrumental experimentation on Ganging Up On The Sun. But Guster will continue catering to listeners in concert as long as their fans continue to support them.
“We’re a different band from Parachute … And I know we’re gonna drive some fans away with our newer sound. But hopefully our music has evolved with our fans. All bands have to grow and change. Hopefully, we’ve evolved together,” Miller said.
Guster’s sense of humor helps keep their public politics at a non-partisan level and their fans coming back for more. Miller joked about preferring to get drunk with Bob Dole over Dan Quayle: “I can’t imagine Dan Quayle being any fun!” He also said, strongly, that he would avoid being Mark Foley’s intern at all costs. Even, he added, if that meant being an intern for Bill Clinton.
Regardless of whether the audience prefers the bongo and djembe-heavy croons of “Rocketship” on Goldfly (1996) or the ’80s retro-pop beat in “Diane” off of Keep It Together (2003), Guster will surely provide ample onstage entertainment tonight. With hijinks ranging from a mid-performance break to piss in a Nantucket Nectars bottle at Princeton to opening for themselves under the disguise of jam-band “Trippin’ Balls,” Guster’s previous concert antics guarantee a strong show for Hill Auditorium.
After playing to a packed house at The Michigan Theater last year, Guster is now taking on the Hill. The auditorium’s singular acoustics should be a powerful supplement to Guster’s harmonic vocals and eclectic drum beats. Politics and differences aside, Guster’s Election Day concert promises to be an entertaining combination of humor and non-mainstream pop music.
Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium