Beloved rockers Guster take the stage
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 04:09
Over 1,200 people crowded into Shapiro Gymnasium in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center Saturday night. The stage was set for opener Jukebox the Ghost and headlining band Guster. A mix of Brandeis students and concertgoers from off campus slowly filled the gym leading up to the start of the show. Many longtime Guster fans were in the audience, which gave Jukebox the Ghost a good opportunity to impress the crowd.
Jukebox the Ghost, an act that has been rising in popularity for the past several years, is a three-piece indie rock outfit based in Philadelphia composed of vocalist and pianist Ben Thornewill, vocalist and guitarist Tommy Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin.
The band opened their set with "Schizophrenia," the first track off their last album, Everything Under the Sun (2010). The song was a strong opener, highlighting the band's tight vocal harmonies over highly danceable drumbeats. "Schizophrenia" also exemplified the ways that Jukebox the Ghost often uses instrumental melodies that lock in with each other: the vocal, synthesizer and guitar lines were often sung and played in unison as well as in harmony. The band continued with "Summer Sun," another danceable tune with catchy guitar and synth riffs. The next tune, "Somebody," showed the band's quieter, lighter side.
Other highlights of Jukebox the Ghost's set were "Say When" and "Hold It In," during which Thornewill's charismatic hand and arm gesticulations drew in and entertained the audience. Siegel made good use of his Gibson SG Classic, playing full rhythmic chords in addition to melodic leads and distorted solos. Thornewill's two synthesizers were used creatively as well: His full-size keyboard was used for its piano voice while a smaller synth set up above the keyboard was used for bouncier, wavier synth sounds.
Overall, the band's playful stage presence created an infectious performance. Their cover of Huey Lewis and the News' "The Power of Love" demonstrated that the band was not afraid to have fun. While Jukebox the Ghost put on an enjoyable show, their poppy brand of piano-and-guitar indie rock only goes so far. Their music is well-crafted, but it does not break any new ground. Their energy and attitude added a great deal to their live show, however. As Jukebox the Ghost promised earlier in its set, Guster would shortly come onstage to "completely melt our faces."
The crowd's excitement was palpable as Guster took the stage around 9:15 p.m. Members Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner and Brian Rosenworcel came onstage in the dark while booming music played. The stage setup had already given a preview of the high-energy, multifaceted performance the audience was about to experience. Lights were hanging above the stage and small lighting towers lined the rear of the stage. A hand percussion setup, complete with a kick drum, sat at the center of the stage between a keyboard and a full drum kit.
The band opened with "What You Wish For," a loud, upbeat song, replete with tight, pleasant vocal harmonies and acoustic and electric guitar parts. The next song, "Satellite," kept the energy high with its famously eerie yet enjoyable high synth line.
From song to song, the band proved its musical ability and versatility, with members constantly switching from guitar to bass to keyboard to banjo and more. Drummer Rosenworcel switched back and forth between his standing hand percussion setup and his full drum kit. Rosenworcel amazed the audience with his extraordinarily fast and powerful hand percussion, hitting congas, snares and even lower-tuned drums with his hands. Miller used a ukulele and harmonica on a few songs, such as "Come Downstairs and Say Hello." The band's vocal talents were impressive as well; they often used three-part vocal harmonies, which created a thick wall-of-vocal sound effect.
The variety didn't end there, though: The 12th song in its set was a jam over which Ryan Miller freestyle rapped about Silk soymilk, avocados, cereal and more, in order to be "more hip-hop" à la the music played at the fraternity party that members of the band attended the night before. The band's good sense of humor about music—their own and others'—was evident in this song and throughout the entire performance.
Guster played many of their hits, including "Barrel of a Gun," "Demon," "Ramona," "Happier" and more. The band closed with "Hang On," interspersed with parts of Billy Joel's "My Life," during which Miller came down from the stage into the audience, wearing a bra that had been thrown onstage from the audience around his neck.
The lighting, which changed from red, orange and yellow to blue and turquoise through the entire set, matched the mood of each song perfectly, creating a well-orchestrated, enjoyable performance. Many of the audience members sang along. The entire crowd was constantly dancing, clapping, cheering and simply enjoying the concert.
Just as with Jukebox the Ghost, Guster's music does not break new ground. Despite this, Guster's vocal and instrumental talents, which translate well on its catchy records, were complemented well by their live energy, resulting in a strong performance.
Jukebox the Ghost was a solid opener for Guster, with its indie pop rock synth and guitar parts and sweet vocal melodies and harmonies, while Guster raised the bar with its long, high-energy and fun performance, replete with brassieres and ping-pong balls (thrown at the stage after "Airport Song,") as Guster fan tradition dictates.
Though the Guster fans were certainly out in force, the concert was also a great deal of fun for newcomers to both bands. Student Events brought two fun bands to Brandeis on Saturday night, and those who were not in attendance missed a great show and a great time.