In early 2014 Guster holed themselves up for 3 weeks in the tiny town of Cottage Grove, Oregon just south of Portland to begin recording their first album in 4 years with producer Richard Swift (The Shins,Black Keys) at his small studio. "Evermotion" was recorded in a different manner then albums of the past. Swift pushed and pulled Guster into new and perhaps experimental territories forcing the members outside of their comfort zones. However, being pushed outside these zones is where great ideas are born from and this was no exception. Brian (drums) did a humorous studio journal during the recording process that you can follow here that documented the journey.
Valentine's Day marked the last night of the first leg of Guster's "Evermotion" tour in the U.S. The tour started with several shows beginning on the West Coast that worked it's way through the South finally ending at House of Blues Orlando. Four years removed since their last studio album "Easy Wonderful", Guster have returned to the road and to doing what they do so well playing live. In support of their latest studio effort "Evermotion" released in January, the show mixed in 25 songs of new and old material clocking in over 2 hours.
Opening for all shows on both the first and second U.S. leg is Athens, GA based violin player Kishi Bashi whose eclectic playing mixed in violin looping effects with a very solid vocal performance. Bashi's 35 minute set mesmerized the audience as he wove his way through more upbeat songs showcasing his strong singing ability as well as lush violin driven serenades that lulled the audience into submission at times. Throughout the set Bashi engaged with the crowd and was very lighthearted and comical as he brought his music to the masses. Of note was the fact that Kishi Bashi was scheduled to perform on The Late Show with David Letterman a couple days away for the very first time which generated some excitement among the crowd. Bashi follows in the same musical vein as Andrew Bird with his experimental use of looping pedal effects for his violin but with a much stronger voice to back it up. That's not to take anything away from Andrew Bird who is a genius but rather is a distinction between the two artists that sets them apart from one another. This is definately an artist to keep an eye on with Guster singer Ryan Miller quipping at one point that he was on the rise true to the Guster Reverse Curse. Various artists have opened for Guster over the years such as John Mayer and Train to go on to have careers that overshadowed their own career. You can hear more about him at his website
Guster wasted no time getting to it with crowd favorites "Demons" and "Center of Attention" opening before diving into the new "Doin' it By Myself" off of "Evermotion". The band did an excellent job of weaving the new album material in with the older songs. Speaking with Brian after the show I was told that there were some 40 songs Guster could pull a setlist from with only 25-28 songs that could be played in any given show. With that many choices you can see how several songs could be neglected and not all of the favorites played. In fact, both "Airport Song" and "Barrel of a Gun" were left out of the set much to the dismay of many fans including myself. A third of a way into the show Kishi Bashi made a guest appearance for two songs highlighted with his beautiful contribution to "Satellite". Mid set lead singer Ryan Miller announced they were going to play a rarely played song yet due to the circumstances felt it was appropriate being Valentine's Day and then went into "Dear Valentine" that was then followed by a Florida improv jam with stage chat. Guster has always had a self proclaimed awkward relationship with the state of Florida. Going all the way back many, many years where they were once booked to play a heavy metal show in South Florida with some of the hardest rock acts of the time. They then took to the stage with Violent Femmes covers only to be booed at the end of their set. Such is the history of Guster in Florida. Miller then told of his day learning to surf in Cocoa Beach and professed his love of Earl Of Sandwhich. Guster has never been a band known for taking themselves seriously and this was no different. With his own sense of self-deprecation, Miller explained to the audience his interaction with the "surfer dude" who gave them wet suits and his experience out on the water that day culminating with his catching his first wave albeit almost sitting down which found several laughs. Many songs were played and in the end you realized just how many catchy and poppy songs Guster has in their catalog to play. The show came to an end some two hours later with two faux encores where the band walked offstage for a total of 10 seconds before reappearing with the look of surprise on their faces. "Amsterdam" closed out the first encore and was followed by the beautiful and quiet "Jesus On The Radio" played acoustic in the round at the edge of the stage. No amps and no electricity. All acoustic. What a beautiful way to end another fabulous Guster show in Orlando. In all this was a very impressive showing from the band four years in the making. I can only hope that it's not another four years before they return back. Thank you Guster for sticking it out and always coming back down to Florida to play for the fans. Though they may not be as popular as they are back home in the Northeast, the fans that are here will always come out and support one of their favorite bands.
Guster will take a brief couple weeks off before heading to Europe for a run of shows and will be back in North American March 29 for the start of leg 2 that runs through to June with a stop in Manchester, TN for Bonnaroo 2015. You can see the full setlist here.
For the full gallery of images check out the slideshow below