Guster celebrates donation with Carnegie Mellon
Carnegie Mellon students were treated to a surprise concert on the Mall Wednesday night in celebration of William Dietrich’s gift of $265 million to the university. The American rock band Guster, known for such songs as “Fa Fa,” “Amsterdam,” and “Do You Love Me,” played an energetic, 90-minute set, drawing a crowd that extended to the College of Fine Arts building by the show’s end.
The attitude for the night was set with the band’s opening song, “Barrel of a Gun.” The band played with reckless abandon and noticeable passion while the audience screamed the chorus along with lead singer Ryan Miller. After finishing the song, Miller introduced the band to the crowd of students, telling them that “we’re playing music we made when we were in college, just like you” and instantly creating a rapport that would be maintained and even strengthened as the night progressed. Miller would go on to joke about drummer Brian Rosenworcel drumming with his hands, one of the most immediately noticeable aspects of Guster’s performance, or poking fun at Will Ferrell in the movie Old School.
The show hit its first energetic peak during “What You Call Love.” While people were already receptive and engaged, their excitement grew exponentially during the horn line. This euphoric state managed to carry over into “Demons” and somehow turned a somber and heartfelt song about social insecurities into danceable music.
The high-energy performance continued until Miller performed “Come Downstairs and Say Hello.” Armed only with a ukulele, Miller confronted his audience about mustering the fortitude to change one’s life. Throughout the song, other band members gradually joined Miller, transforming the song from a heartfelt feel-good song into an energetic anthem. The band put this energy to use by following up immediately with the upbeat “Do You Love Me,” a song off of their newest album, Easy Wonderful.
While Miller’s banter was often entertaining, his tongue-in-cheek opinion of the school’s day of celebration was the most engaging and interesting by far. “We got a lot of money! Let’s throw a concert and a fireworks display!” Miller shouted before listing all of the changes he would make with $265 million. In the middle of his promises of “two dorm closets and no homework” and “gold-plated MacBooks for all freshmen,” the band began playing quietly and slowly built up in energy and volume, transforming the witty banter into a spoken word song, ending with chants of “Bill” in gratitude to the generous philanthropist.
The show came to a close in much the same way as it began — with energy and enjoyment by the band and the audience. After the band’s final three songs in their official set, all of them upbeat, engaging, and eliciting a lot of singing and dancing from the crowd, the band went on to perform “Hang On” as the encore. Much like “Come Downstairs and Say Hello,” the performance was not so much a fun crowd pleaser as a way to bring smiles to the audience’s faces.
Throughout the entire song, however, there was noticeable tension in the air. Students eagerly awaited the fireworks display that Miller had announced would happen during the encore. Once they did shoot off, coincidentally in tandem with a crescendo near the end of the song, the effect was magical. The atmosphere created by the bright and loud fireworks and the reassuring lyrics of the song caused the students to explode in cheers.
During the display, Guster seamlessly transitioned into abridged performances of “Stand By Me” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” leaving the audience enraptured by
the carefree sentiments. Miller ended the show with his desires for the Carnegie Mellon community: “I want you to live with your hearts. I want you to live with your brains. I want you to live with your balls. I want you to take every one of those $265 million and make them your own!”
Miller’s statements echoed a sensation that pervaded the night’s surprise performance: Guster would not be too out of place as students at Carnegie Mellon. Whether it was the quirky sense of humor, the odd array of instruments they played, including keytar, trumpet, two drum sets, bells, banjo, and ukulele, the odd metallic Devo-like dome that Miller donned while playing “Broken Heart,” or Miller’s parting sentiments, it was impossible not to feel a sense of kinship with the band as a member of the Carnegie Mellon community.
Ultimately, the night was a raging success. The weather was beautiful, the performance was engaging, and for once the multi-colored facade of the Hunt Library did not seem out of place. About halfway through the set Miller had introduced “One Man Wrecking Machine” as a “song about going back in time and not f***ing up where you f***ed up.” If the university had the opportunity to go back in time and do things differently, it wouldn’t have changed anything about this concert.