Guster celebrates 25th anniversary at Belly Up Aspen
If You Go …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Thursday, June 15, 9 p.m.
How much: $45-$85
Tickets: Belly Up box office; www.bellyupaspen.com
Guster isn’t big on nostalgia. But, the band must admit, making it to 25 years together as an indie rock band is a big deal.
The band formed in 1992, when Tufts University students Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller and Brian Rosenworcel were students. A quarter century later, they’re still at it and still evolving (and have a fourth member in Luke Reynolds).
The band’s anniversary celebration began with a September anniversary show at the Beacon Theater in New York, where they installed a small museum filled with memorabilia, and continued in January with a series of anniversary shows at the Boston club where they won a battle of the bands competition in 1992.
On Thursday, Guster plays Belly Up Aspen before heading to Red Rocks Ampitheatre, where they’re kicking off a summer tour with Dispatch.
“The navel-gazing part has sort of passed,” singer and guitarist Ryan Miller said from home in Vermont. “But it feel like we’re doing things moving forward where it’s less like we’re taking this long, hard look.”
The band’s longevity, Miller believes, resulted from its willingness to evolve and experiment along the way.
Guster never turned into a nostalgia act. New fans have discovered the band along the way over its seven albums and quarter century on the road. As they first broke out nationally, with 1999’s “Lost and Gone Forever” they were known for college radio staples like “Center of Attention” and for their legendary live shows featuring Rosenworcel playing bongos and drums only with his bare hands.
When “Keep It Together” came out four years later, he was playing a full drum kit. Boldly, the band threw away what had become its sonic signature in the wild barehanded drumming. This was heresy to some early fans. But, Miller said, he and his bandmates needed to break the mold.
Fast-forward to 2015’s “Evermotion” and the band is still adding new sounds, now creating lush soundscapes with less acoustic instruments and more touches of synths and subtle textures of electronic noise. Through all the experimentation, their songs somehow always sound like Guster — united by Miller’s falsetto and a sublime sense of melody.
“What’s driving it and what allows us to get in a room together is that it’s not the same thing over and over again,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of discovery happening as we’re writing.”
All four Guster members are songwriters and when they get together to compose, Miller said, the only rule is “the best idea wins.”
“It’s all about, ‘Let’s take the best idea in the room and not worry about what our fans are going to think or what it sounds like vis a vis our first or second record,’” he said.
Its members have grown up since their days on campus at Tufts, of course. Now they’re spread across four different states. They have eight children between them and many passions beyond Guster — Miller scores films and television projects, Reynolds freelances with the likes of Miranda Lambert and Gardner runs the environmental action nonprofit Reverb. But the band has never split up, and never fallen behind pop music as so many bands do.
They recently gathered in Nashville to write and record new songs. Miller said they expect to play some of that material along with songs from “Evermotion,” but overall will perform a mix of songs from the entire Guster catalog.
One constant over the life of Guster has been its intimate relationship with its fervent fans. During their early DIY days, the band signed up fans to hang posters and sell merchandise and albums wherever they were. They were early adopters of tour blogging and direct communication to fans.
“It’s just an extension of how we run our band,” said Miller. “We’re open about stuff, we’re transparent with our fans, we have a weird sense of humor, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We don’t have to.”
Last year, in an inspired meta fan tribute, the band covered a fan’s cover version of “Diane” on YouTube to viral results. For Guster, the old rock star cliche of “we couldn’t do it without the fans” is undeniably true.
“I don’t think we’d be out there just for the love of music, to play for ever-diminishing audiences,” Miller said. “The fact that we can still put on these shows and people show up and the energy feels vital and not overly nostalgic, that has everything to do with the fact that there are people who come out — our new songs aren’t just a chance to take a pee break.”
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