Twenty-five years ago, members of the band that came to be called Guster met at Tufts University. They were three guys with a couple guitars and a set of bongos.
Even in its early days, Guster was opening for bands at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. That's the place that launched Guster as underground darlings of the region's music scene.
Seven albums and a quarter century later, the band is back at the Paradise. Thursday night Guster starts a four-day concert series at the club, which is also celebrating an anniversary — its 40th.
WBUR’s Rita Cary spoke with lead singer Ryan Miller, who explained how the band initially grew its fan base — without a manager and without the help of the internet, which didn't yet exist.
"There was kind of a street team mentality where there would be a fan in Oxford, Ohio — his name was 'Andy Johnson' — and we called these guys Guster reps. And we said, 'Here are 10 CDs and a T-shirt, and here's your Guster badge' — which is a like a baseball card with the name crossed out — 'and then book us a show at UMiami Ohio,' " Miller recalls. "And they would, and we'd stay with them. And so we really, from the very beginning, kind of got that the fans were not only our ticket to where we needed to go, but it also was really fun."
The longtime production manager of the Paradise, Tim McKenna, recalls how Guster was popular and easy to book when first starting out.
"Whenever an opening act would drop off, or we needed an opening act at the last minute, I used to call them up," McKenna says. "The thing that worked very well for me is they didn't need a lot of inputs... I even had them come in one time as just the two guitar players because Brian [Rosenworcel, the percussionist] had hurt himself and wasn't able to make the show. And they told me afterward that would be the one and only time they would ever play as a two-piece."
From sleeping on fans' floors and last-minute sets at the local club to touring in Canada and Great Britain, Guster has come a long way — but has stayed true to its indie roots and grassroots method of connecting with fans. The Guster guys have, for example, tweeted out locations for impromptu acoustic concerts. One day in Maine, they bused fans to a campsite in the woods, went paddle boarding and performed a show.
The band members are scattered from Maine to Tennessee, with families and other professional ventures, but they continue to tour and write new music.
"We're still committed to this because it feels really special, and you know, when we step out on stage, we're like, 'Oh, this is what life is like when we're not at home,' " Miller says. "And we just kind of get together whenever we can make it happen."
Hear Rita's conversation with WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins above, and hear more of what Ryan Miller told Cary below:
This segment aired on January 12, 2017.
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