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A friend and I joined the crowd after the gates had already been swung open. We walked passed vendors and free samples to sneak around the side to find a good spot of shade. Of course, even that was to no avail. So we grabbed a beer and stood, waiting for the show to begin as beads of sweat rolled down our faces and plummeted, hydrating the ground with salt.
When Kishi Bashi came on, it was like a huge gust of wind had circled around where we were and pushed itself into our faces.
Refreshing, is the word I’m looking for.
Now, before I continue, let me preface this with a single truth: this was the most unpleasant performance I have ever seen Kishi Bashi play. He was without his close friend and banjo player, Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees, and his sound, though still large and impactful, doesn’t translate well enough to a large audience like the one at Central Park. But nonetheless, he stormed the stage like he always does, with an untied bow tie and a hop in his step. His random improvisations that are usually little nuggets of gold in his show, came off as more strange than anything else. But this is not to his fault. After all, a crowd coming to see a scripted act like Guster would not appreciate the musical genius of an improvisational mouth solo. But still, when Kishi finished you could hear his fans, the ones that came to the show for him, expressing their love to him, roaring at his performance, chanting for him to play one more.
When he got off stage, again, the crowd shuffled, shifting their weight as they cursed the sweltering heat under their breath and complained that Guster couldn’t come on soon enough. But on the contrary, I stood their, second beer in hand, depressed that Kishi ended and even more upset that Guster was about to go on. Let me explain:
Guster is a band, quite like your fascination for gymnastics or cup stacking, that you’ve probably realized isn’t cool enough to mention to anyone but your parents.
They’re a band you could’ve been listening to while still dealing with the unsettling feeling of puberty, and your first crush kissing you in the school hallway–the first time you waited on the tennis court passed 11:30 to see the stars but no one showed up except the girl you made fun of last year– later on, you fall in love with that girl from the tennis court and use terribly simplistic and adolescent analogies to explicate your love to her—She’s your satellite and you’re her one-man wrecking machine, or something like that.
It’s all well and good, but there’s no true poeticism. Their performances have way more weight than they do brilliance, and unless I was standing in an acoustical dead spot in Central Park, which I don’t think I was, their sound lacked the normal precision and buoyancy that remain as expected qualities in live music. Which is unfortunate, considering how long they’ve been around, you’d think they’d have gotten most of their technical difficulties panned out back in 2003, but I guess not.
Still, they play into a seventeen year old’s heart like a Michael Bay film. And that, in some ways, is fine. After all, Bay helps us understand that movies with expensive production aren’t always good. In fact, sometimes they’re just terrible. Such is the unfortunate case with Guster’s overall performance.
They’re a band I can safely say have overstayed their welcome in the music industry. But not because they’re a bad band, cause truthfully they’re not. It’s just the lack of innovation that I find most troubling. And especially when standing next to an artist like Kishi Bashi, who, on all accounts, is a God of innovation. I mean, they’re a band that’s trying to withstand the test of time like they’re They Might Be Giants, but they just do not have the nerdiness, funny bone, or overall talent to do so. But oh god, they’re trying!
Still, Guster has managed, like Michael Bay, to play directly into the feels of a demographic known for simplistic pleasures. Which is fine. Cause that would elude to my poor perception of the show being of small effect of the fact that I’ve just outgrown them. And hey, everyone grows up eventually. Which also means that everyone at some point will out grow Guster like they’ve outgrown bad dialogue and high production action sequences. But If at any point I thought to myself, yeah maybe I should give Guster another try, last nights show does not have me running to do so. In fact, Id say I think I’ve had my fix for quite some time.