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Friday, January 29, 2016

Of Museums, Randyland and Dumpster Sets In Alleyways

Okay, so it all started with this message:

That's Brian, the drummer from the great Boston band, Guster. We became Facebook friends several years ago. Guster (comprised of Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, Luke Reynolds and Brian Rosenworcel) are touring this winter, and my girlfriend and I were planning to drive to Philadelphia on January 23rd to catch their always exuberant show because: 

A) they weren't coming to Pittsburgh this leg and 
B) the opener was none other than the lovely blue-eyed one himself, RHETT FUCKING MILLER! 


I mean, C'MON! The double bill of my fangirl dreams! 

Ahhhh, but that fuckwad monster storm, Jonas had other ideas. Poised to dump upwards of 18"- 24" of the powdery white stuff all over the mid Atlantic and Northeast (and subsequently New York City, because weather predictors have their heads up their asses at times and totally blow snow accumulations in metropolitan areas), this beast of a storm cell made travel east a fool's errand. 

jonas was so big,
you couldn't even find the U.S. under it's blanket of badassery

In the end, wiser heads prevailed, and my fangirl-fantasy, double-shot show slated for Saturday, January 23rd was cancelled. 

And there was much sadness in Pittsburgh.  

As it turned out, Pittsburgh got double the predicted snowfall, and I had one hellish drive to The Special K hours before the butt crack of dawn. As grumpy and sad as a petulant child, I finally resigned myself to the fact that this wasn't going to happen. No matter how much I held my breath, I was going to miss the rare opportunity to revel in the spirits of my two favorite performers. 

And then my Facebook Messenger dinged...

Guster made it to their show in State College Friday, but had to reach Charleston, West Virginia for a date with Mountain Stage Sunday night. They braved the elements and made the harrowing trek west to Pittsburgh for an overnighter. FYI, the band loves Pittsburgh. Like, really REALLY LOVES Pittsburgh. As if I needed anymore reasons to love them dearly.

These four bandmates are unbelievably cool. For starters, they're super accessible, social media savvy, and are known to do all sorts of wacky, creative things like acoustic dumpster sets, running errands with fans, and collecting granny afghans from their devotees to cover their instruments and wear as super stylish vests. 

awash in fan-delivered yarnwear

They embrace their public, which is what endears them forever to the hearts of their following. And they are unbelievably sweet, nice guys. 

the expertly curated dumpster stage

So anywho, back to the dumpster set. The guys decided to search for an appropriate dumpster on the North Side near our uber contemporary museum, the Mattress Factory. The other cool thing about this group is they take time to explore the cities in which they play. They ride bikes, visit attractions, eat at local dives. The idea was to hit up the museum after their brief acoustic set. 

the scene of the action

After Brian and Luke freed me from the snow mound I'd managed to lodge my trusty Vibe into, my friend, Lizzie who worked with Guster in Boston, and I packed six men and various instruments in our cars, and headed off to the still snow-covered streets of the North Side. 

Side note: Pittsburgh is notoriously slow to plow its streets, no matter who's mayor. It's just a fact. There was a point where I started to slide and all I could think of was "Don't kill Brian and Ryan. Sweet Jesus! Don't kill Brian and Ryan!" Clearly, I'm not very good in the snow. What was I thinking carting these talented men around post-winter storm?

Brian and Ryan working the interwebs

So the deal is, Bryan picks a dumpster at random. He and Ryan Instagram and Tweet the location and set time. At the designated time, they start playing for whomever shows up. We whiled away the time having lunch at a nearby hole-in-the-wall taco place named El Burro. Delicious and cheap. 

mmmm... burritos

logging the twitter activity

When we walked back from a local coffee shop, five people were waiting by the dumpster. By the time everyone was set up, a few more fans joined in. Neighbors poked their heads out, passersby stopped to listen, curious about the random happening in their alleyway. When it was all said and done, about a dozen or so adults, one baby and two dogs enjoyed the impromptu concert. 

the early birds

soundchecking of sorts

the bulk of the crowd minus the dogs in adorable booties
even the house behind them had a happy "tear" in its eye

the sun played the part of stage lighting
(check out Adam's guitar strap--granny squares!)

The debate in the car was whether to alert fans via Facebook or just post photos afterward. At the last minute, Ryan decided to live stream the event on Facebook using its version of Periscope. Lizzie recorded the pop-up performance. About 1700 watched it live from all over the country. In the time it took to break down the instruments, take photos and walk to the cars, they had amassed 20,000 views. They were blown away! It didn't stop there. In 24 hours, their video had over 135,000 views and was picked up by online newsletter, Next Pittsburgh, shared by who knows how many followers on Facebook and tweeted by a crapton of people, including our hip news anchor, Ken Rice and Mayor Peduto who in his exchange with Ryan promised to declare Guster Day the next time they play in town. This thing has some long legs! And right now, at the time of this writing, they are up to 185,000 views. Madness! 

The power of social media is real, motherfuckers!

Bryan wrote about the analytics on his road journal here. And while your at it, treat yourself to some of his past writings, especially his ongoing battle with his nemesis, the port-o-john. This gem contains a side order of past posts to compliment the hilarity. If this doesn't make you laugh-out-loud-spit-take your morning coffee, we can't be friends. Seriously. 

But I digress... 

After the 20 minute acoustic set, we gathered for a commemorative group photo. A fun time was definitely had by all. 
family photo with most of the audience
(photobombed by the happy house)

Dumpster 2016 Set list:

Doing it By Myself
Jesus on the Radio
This Could All Be Yours

Moving on...

On the drive over, Ryan had expressed a deep interest in going to Pittsburgh's most colorful landmark, Randyland. It's whimsical, chaotic, overstimulating and fantastic. Randy Gilson is the eccentric creator, with a good heart and very little filter. He was outside shoveling snow when we walked the short distance to his house. Sweet guy, but man, is he a talker. He shared his entire back story, philosophy, message in a rapid-fire 15 minute monologue. He's unique in a positive way, but he is a bit out there. You can see for yourself in this video he made with Guster, or "Gustet" as it's labeled here

the man himself

exterior during Randy's monologue

next cover?

inside Randy's garden with the addition of funky Adam panorama head

seems a little too conventional for Randyland
but then again, we don't know what's under the snow

randy and ryan
(a boy's dream come true)

After our adventure in Randyland, we headed back to the Mattress Factory for a guided tour. This museum is one of our city's best kept secrets. A powerhouse of notable contemporary works packed into a small space. The museum occupies three buildings: the main factory space and two houses on the block. Each has it's own specific feel. The curators encourage the artists to utilize their spaces however they want, which at times includes tearing out walls, closets or floors. It's a little bit of New York in the Burgh. 

a wee face in the algae exhibit

this was the eeriest exhibit in the newest building
thousands of strings enveloping ordinary
apartment settings

gives off a combo fairy tale/serial killer vibe

What an insanely great afternoon. I'm still pinching myself. Thanks for letting me tag along, men of Guster. As my niece says, I less than 3 you! It was a perfect early birthday gift. I am one lucky shithead, yo.

I've transported Francis Dunnery, John Green, Murry Hammond, Ken Bethea, and now Brian Rosenworcel and Ryan Miller in my car... I can never sell Rita now.

I can't thank Lizzie enough, first and foremost for her friendship, and for introducing me to these fine humans. 

For my every-loving Geo: 
How about those lucky bastards scraping off their cars to a live Guster soundtrack?

I heart them so. 

Brian dropping the sticks is everything. Ha Ha!