2006 was a monumental year for the gangly, groovy collective known as Guster. Last year saw the release of their new, extremely innovative record Ganging Up on the Sun, the debut of their online “sitcom,” Joe’s Place (hop on to to check it out) and an impressive touring schedule. Just recently, the group returned from a cruise to the Turks and Caicos joined by the Barenaked Ladies, where both played shows for legions of waterlogged fans. A little sun, a lot of drunken fun and Guster – people, it doesn’t get much better than that.

But, ladies and gentlemen of CU, get ready to be the lucky ones.

On Feb. 21, Guster is set to play at Foellinger Auditorium, which serves as a bit of a homecoming for the band’s percussionist, Urbana-born Brian Rosenworcel. He moved away when he was six months old, but hey, that still counts. The band, who originally met in the dorms of Tufts University (with the exception of Joe, who joined the group in 2003), is no stranger to the CU concert scene. Through extensive touring in support of their distinguished catalog of work, they have garnered a large Midwestern fan base, as well as multitudes of fans across the country. Besides Rosenworcel, the multi-talented band is comprised of Ryan Miller (lead vocal/guitar), Adam Gardner (background vocals/guitar/bass) and Joe Pisapia (background vocals/percussion/banjo). They are a definitive musical presence, complete with a frenetic, passionate live show that is not to be missed.

When asked to explain the Guster live show experience (in three words or less), Rosenworcel replied half-jokingly, “[It] looks really painful. Every song I’m going between two kits.”

The breakneck pace of the performance and the versatility of the band members together create an effervescent, expressive atmosphere. Over the years since their formation in 1991, the group has constantly evolved. “For a while, I didn’t even expect to become a musician; it sort of fell into my lap. I was jamming, and I just kept expanding my percussion kit,” Rosenworcel said.

During the beginning stage of Guster, he said, “We were writing different kinds of songs, playing our instruments as fast as we could. Now we’re a quartet. We’re addicted to changing it up. We’re more influenced now by ’60s and ’70s music, more classic rock.”

The Guster sound – quirky, sweetly melodic and insidiously catchy – is their trademark (that, and their out-there sense of humor). When asked to describe the group’s sound, Rosenworcel said, “We’re wimpy, in the same way the Beatles are wimpy. But, then again, they had ‘Helter Skelter’.”

The “wimpy” act has produced some decidedly not wimpy music over the course of their career that fans closely identify with. “Lost and Gone Forever is a lot of people’s favorite [album]. It captured a moment,” Rosenworcel said.

His favorite? “Ganging Up on the Sun. It’s our most ambitious. It’s opened a lot of new doors. It’s one step closer to what we’re working for.”

Through all their triumphs, Guster prides itself on the fact that, “success doesn’t effect the way we operate. It’s been a slow progression. The crowds have shown up – it’s different from when we were in our 20s, playing in empty rooms, touring in a van, staying up all night. It was exciting.” He sarcastically added, “Now we’re spoiled. We’ve developed a routine.” A routine that includes touring with diverse and eclectic artists such as Mason Jennings, Ray LaMontagne and Ben Folds, a Guster personal favorite.

Their touring schedule has allowed fans to mingle with Guster and share their appreciation. “We’re always flattered when people know our music. It’s strange that people still identify with songs we wrote in college,” Rosenworcel said.

So, the big question: what’s next? They’ve lined up a lot of tour dates and summer shows so far this year. As for where he sees the band in five years, Rosenworcel replied, “Approaching 40! We want to keep making albums, keep getting better, keep getting closer to what we’re working towards.”

With their intricate, almost hauntingly beautiful lyrics, blissful melodies and frantically entertaining live show, the talent of Guster is impossible to deny. Oh yeah, and they’re pretty damn funny, too.

Come join the fun and see Guster play with Mason Jennings at Foellinger Auditorium next Wednesday, Feb. 21. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20 for UIUC students, $22 for the public.

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