Guster started as a band with a shtick: two guitars and bongos. They began to abandon their signature acoustic style with the release of their fourth album Keep It Together, which also included the impossibly catchy “Amsterdam.” But for the current tour, Guster is returning to its roots. The rare acoustic tour kicked off in Denver last month and heads to sold-out shows in Chicago and Minneapolis before landing at the Pabst Theater Saturday night. Comedian Jeff Garlin from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” makes his debut on April 5 in Chicago.
The band’s drummer, Brian Rosenworcel (also known as Thundergod), phoned in – with appropriate 20 minute rockstar lateness – from Brooklyn for an interview.
Why an acoustic tour?
That’s a good question. We did this one show at the Met Museum of Art in New York which was kind of a different show. We had the artist, Jon Sarkin, he was going to be part of the show with us. We were supposed to do it unplugged – our shows are usually more of a rock-and-roll variety. We really enjoyed sitting down and going a little deeper in the set list. It was such a success that we decided to bring this deal here on the road. It’s a very different Guster experience than what people might be used to.
Because it’s acoustic, does the tour pull heavier from any specific albums?
No. We’ve gotten to a point in our career where we’re really aware of how much old and how much new we should play. I think it ends up being a real mix of new and old, but it’s been tending toward the more older stuff. “Satellite” has been played. “Do You Love Me.” “Rocketship.” “Rise and Shine.” “Long Way Down,” which is way at the end of Keep It Together. “Rainy Day” we’ve been playing. It’s going to be a surprise with the set list. We’re also taking requests. There’s a lot of back and forth with the audience.
What have people asked for?
In Portland, someone said, “You guys should play X-Ray Eyes and let Adam sing it.” That’s a strange thing to ask for. I ended up singing that one, and I’m not supposed to sing. Ever. Some people are asking us to play cover songs. People just like that they have a voice in the show.
You’re also adding a comedian.
It’s another thing that we’ve been discussing. We were big fans of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Back in 2004, we were playing a show in Central Park, and our tour manager spotted Jeff Garlin in the crowd kind of singing along to a Guster song. He asked him, “Do you want to meet the band?” Jeff was like, “Sure.” It was the beginning of a friendship, which has resulted in us hanging out and doing a podcast together. It all just kind of came together [for the tour].
So, is Jeff Garlin going to get up on stage, do his thing and leave, or will there be some collaboration?
There’s really no chance that it’ll be just him doing his set and just us doing our set. We haven’t done it yet. We’ve just been doing the acoustic show, which has been going very well. We’re just going to kind of wing it. That’s how comedians like to do things, and that’s how we like to do things.
Recently, you’ve been telling people if they bring weird items to the show – lamps in Seattle, houseplants in Utah – they can meet the band. Any idea what you’ll request in Milwaukee?
It kind of depends on what we need aesthetically. The first show, it really came out of necessity. We needed plants, and we needed lamps. We might ask for rugs. At some point, we’re going to be pretty stocked on stage. Ryan already asked for taxidermy in L.A.
Do people participate?
A handful. It’s only people who have subscribed to our Twitter and have the time an hour before the show to accommodate our requests.
How is playing a smaller venue different from playing Summerfest?
You’re talking to someone who thinks Summerfest is the coolest festival there is. We enjoy playing it, but I really enjoy Summerfest as a fan of music. But we’ve also played at the Eagles Ballroom, and we thought the Pabst would be a great place to try. So we’re going to give it a try. I’m really looking forward to it. Our fans are really mixed in age. Some older people like that they can sit down; young people like that they can yell out songs.
You’ve been to MKE a few times, any favorite places?
Every time I’m there, I get the Mac ‘n’ Cheese pizza from Ian’s. It sounds really strange, but when you eat it, it’s the greatest thing in the world.