Friday night, more people collectively yelled "Spiders" for Guster's Ryan Miller than at any basketball game I've been to. It was truly impressive.
As an avid fan of Guster loudly singing every lyric I knew (all of them), I was able to identify the true followers from those just enjoying the show. Regardless, it was an engaging performance for everyone, with the pseudo-mosh pit jumping, crowd surfing and, well, moshing.
The set list comprised old and new songs from the band, including a few from the new album, which is expected to be released in January 2010. Spanning more than a decade, the songs varied in style as Guster members Brian Rosenworcel, drums; Adam Gardner, vocals and guitar; Ryan Miller, lead vocals; and Joe Pisapia (everything) frequently switched instruments and added in new sounds, including harmonica, banjo, piano and even a ukulele.
"Switching of instruments makes it so interesting," Pisapia said before the show. "It makes the whole palette even bigger, with more colors."
Guster's palette did not disappoint. Whether Rosenworcel was pounding on the bongos or on drum set, Miller was accompanying on piano or Pisapia was playing an instrument unrecognizable from my spot in the crowd, their musical skill was apparent and lived up to their albums' quality.
Luke Reynolds of Pictures and Sound opened for Guster. Reynolds, a friend of Guster band members, joined the tour for the first time on Friday and will travel with Guster during their last five shows on the Campus Consciousness tour. Though I was a bit busy during his set trying to make the most of my so-called press pass (i.e., glorified mailing label), I liked what I heard from Reynolds.
The show was Guster's third Campus Consciousness tour so far. This year's tour features new events, including the clothing drive and Eco-Village, which was set up in the Robins Center during the concert. The goal of the tour is to bring awareness to environmental issues.
"A lot of colleges aren't as green as they could be," Pisapia said. "We're not perfect, but it just brings consciousness to your actions little by little."
Guster makes its own efforts to offset their environmental impact. The Guster tour bus and trucks run on B20, a bio-diesel containing 20 percent vegetable oil. The band also sells carbon-offset stickers to those who commute to the shows. A sticker costing $3 offsets 300 miles of commute.
Although Pisapia never imagined he would spend so much time on college campuses when he was older, he said it was surreal and that the band members enjoyed themselves. Whether it be impromptu extreme bocce or riding bikes (Miller and an unidentifiable companion were spotted circling the lake around 1 a.m. after the concert), Pisapia said "it was like being in a big garden every day."
They lucked out with Richmond, considering the band arrived at the peak of the sunny-and-80's day we've been waiting for since Spring Break. They definitely noticed, though. Miller's opening words to the crowd should probably be featured in our next prospective students mailing:
"You guys have the fanciest campus," he said. "Everything is made of gold or platinum ... and every girl has a sunset behind her making her glow. It's like fancy and expensive soft pornography." Well put, Ryan. Soft porn.
All in all, combined with my long-standing love of Guster and the top-notch performance, it was truly the best concert I've been to. For those familiar with Guster's musical progression, the new record should be interesting.
"I think this record is going back to the roots of [Guster's] pop craftsmanship," Pisapia said. "'Keep It Together' was Guster breaking out to the psychedelic part and 'Ganging Up on the Sun' was the first time we came together as a foursome, so we had all these things to exercise, and now it's like OK, here we are."
Contact staff writer Susie Compton at email@example.com