Now that my daughter is getting older and is starting to recognize music, I’ve been making a point to introduce new and different music to her. Her tastes have started to change as she has grown, though Queen remains her number one choice, as it has been since about 3 months of age. She now loves Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, but doesn’t like the Aladdin soundtrack or anything by Bruce Springsteen. She currently favors Tchaikovsky over Mozart.
Much to my dismay, she does not seem to like New Kids on the Block—however, we’ve got lots of time to change that. Most recently, while driving around in my “Grocery getter”, as my husband refers to my SUV, during a fun errand-filled day with my toddler in the backseat, (as a brief aside—I sometimes think it’s easier to defend those charged with murder than be a full-time mother, wife, housekeeper and errand runner—but that’s a different story for a different day), for some reason, still unknown to me, I decided it was finally time to introduce the little one to Guster.
I plugged my trusty hot-pink iPod nano (which I received for my birthday in 2006 7 ½ years ago and it STILL works—not sure what the deal is with my older brother and his iPod problems!) into the “Aux” cord and let the sounds of Guster fill the car. I was very pleased to see how my mini-me reacted. She clapped her hands and relaxed into her carseat and a very content smile spread over her face, and she sat remaining in that state, calm and happy, as we continued to drive around town. I mentioned to my brother the elder J that his niece is a fan of Guster and he encouraged me to write about this and to inspire him to finally write about Guster!
From the fall of 1997 until 2004 or so, I lived, loved and breathed Guster. I had never even heard of Guster until my brother went to college and was introduced to them by his roommate, Another J. My brother then told me about Guster. The first Guster song I ever heard was “Demons.” I was instantly mesmerized and dare I say, in love. The harmonies were beautiful. The voices made my knees weak. The sound of the percussion solely by hands was one of the most unique noises I’d ever heard. I wanted to marry all 3 members of the band.
I decided right then and there that Guster would be my new favorite band. At the time, they’d only released 2 albums—Parachute and Goldfly. I bought them both and much to my delight, I realized I liked every single song on both album. Never before had I felt that way about any music, band or any album and so of course, those realizations certainly sealed the deal that Guster was the “one”! I fell in love with all 3 members of the band and became somewhat of an obsessed fan.
I saw Guster 7 times, the most times I’ve seen a band live. (Only my 4 times seeing New Kids on the Block comes close to my number of Guster concerts. )The first time I ever saw them I was with both of my brothers (the younger one couldn’t have been more than 12!) and the elder J’s roommate, and I think it was the fall of 1997, maybe the spring of 1998. The show was at a brewery in Portland, Maine and we ate dinner there. And guess what? So did the band!
The roommate J pointed them out and we were brave enough to go over and talk to them. I convinced them to dedicate “Demons” to me if they played it during the show, and sure enough, they did! I was amazed by their live performance. They sounded a million times better than they did on the album, which I didn’t think was possible. One of my proudest moments during that show was acquiring a set list that contained the lyrics to a yet-to-be-released song, “Either Way.” I think that sheet of paper ended up being framed and lived somewhere in my brother’s campus housing, because I never saw it again after that night! But after that show, it was inevitable. I was a Guster addict!
During the next several years, I saw Guster 3 more times in Maine, twice in Vermont and once in New Hampshire, at a variety of colleges and small local theatres. My best experience at a Guster show was at Bates College in Maine. I attended the show again with both of my brothers, and the percussionist for my brother’s band, who had modeled himself after the percussionist of Guster. The reason why this show was so great for me is because I got to sing on the stage with the band! They sang the song “Parachute” from their first album of the same name. To this day, that song is in my top 3 favorite songs of all time, and not only because I got to sing it live with an amazing trio of musicians. I was in heaven singing that song with them and is a memory I have that is worth more than I can ever express.
The last time I saw Guster in Maine was with my high school boyfriend, in December of 1999. That was my senior year of high school. I remember that show very well because I was very out of it during the show, having been rear-ended in my car right outside of my school just a few hours prior to the concert. My car was totaled and my neck was killing me but nothing kept me from going to see Guster. I took a power nap, downed a coffee and I was ready to go. Their album “Lost and Gone Forever” had been released recently and I’d been listening to it nonstop. I couldn’t wait to hear the songs from the new album live and nothing would prevent me from doing so. The shows that followed in Vermont and New Hampshire were all wonderful experiences but to be honest I can’t remember anything in particular about them worth writing about right now.
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you what happened to make Guster fall out of my life. While writing this, I find it very sad. For years whenever anyone asked me the name of my favorite band, I answered within half a second, “GUSTER!” For a long time, no one who asked me that had ever even heard of them. Almost a decade after I considered them my favorite band, and after many years of not obsessively listening to them, for some reason I recently decided to play them for my little girl, without knowing myself the reason why I stopped listening to them after I graduated from college.
Maybe it’s that they added a 4th member? Maybe it was because poor Brian’s hands started to really hurt him so he started using drumsticks more frequently? All I know is that the last album I bought by Guster was “Keep it Together”, their 4th, that was released in 2003. I liked it—a lot. But I just didn’t feel the same way about Keep it Together that I felt about the prior 3 albums. I wasn’t in love. I didn’t love every single song on the album like I had previously.
I can’t believe the girl who was so obsessed with Guster to the point where her parents bought her bongos for Christmas in the late 90s is the same girl who still hasn’t heard a single song from their albums released in 2006 and 2010. Maybe to me, Guster had reached the point of their best work with their album “Lost and Gone Forever”. Maybe I just moved on to different types of music. But I am grateful my rambunctious toddler can be soothed by the same harmonies that soothed me and moved me to tears for so many years. Perhaps the early Guster albums will live on in my life through her, and that will be how they’ll be part of me. I am relieved, thanks to my daughter’s new love for Guster, that they are not, in fact, lost and gone forever.