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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: August 8, 2017

Guster goes big in guitarist’s home

Written by: Ray Routhier
Adam Gardner, singer and guitar player for alt rock band Guster, has lived in Greater Portland for more than a decade. Photo courtesy of Guster

Adam Gardner, singer and guitar player for alt rock band Guster, has lived in Greater Portland for more than a decade. Photo courtesy of Guster

Adam Gardner is pretty psyched about this coming weekend.

Gardner, of the alt-rock band Guster, is hosting a weekend-long 25th anniversary party for the band and its fans Friday through Sunday in Portland.

Here’s “Airport Song,” one of Guster’s most well known songs recorded at Woodstock back in 1999.

The weekend involves so many things important to him, including his adopted home state, the ocean and associated activities, conservation, music and Guster’s fans. The band’s first performance of the weekend will be Friday during a concert cruise on Casco Bay for 200 fans. On Saturday, there’s a concert for up to 5,000 or so on Thompson’s Point in Portland. On Sunday, there’s a kayak trip into Casco Bay for some 50 fans that ends with an acoustic show on Little Diamond Island, using solar-powered amplifiers.

The event is being billed as Guster on the Ocean, and Gardner hopes it might become an annual event.

“Yeah, I’m into it. I get to the beach as often as I can, I surf all year long, I love kayaking, so I wanted to involve all those things,” said Gardner, 44, the band’s singer and guitar player. “My goal would be to get our fans here, to enjoy a beautiful Maine summer with us every year.”

Gardner, a New Jersey native, moved with his wife and children to Greater Portland more than a decade ago. His wife is from here. He travels the world with Guster, a band that has built up a large and loyal fan base over the years with its energetic live shows. The band has gotten consistent airplay on alternative and adult rock radio.

Guster will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a concert Saturday on Thompson's Point in Portland. The concert will be sandwiched between two special events for a few lucky fans - a concert cruise on Casco Bay Friday and a kayak trip for fans on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Guster

Guster will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a concert Saturday on Thompson’s Point in Portland. The concert will be sandwiched between two special events for a few lucky fans – a concert cruise on Casco Bay Friday and a kayak trip for fans on Sunday.
Photo courtesy of Guster

The Thompson’s Point show will feature several local performers as well: Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, The Ghost of Paul Revere and Spencer Albee.

The special events, including the cruise concert and the kayak excursion, sold out quickly.

Gardner has a special interest in recycling and conservation and helped start a nonprofit group in 2004 called Reverb. The Portland-based organization works to make bands and tour sites greener, while educating fans at shows with handout information. The group has worked with more than 150 tours, including ones featuring Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.

At the Thompson’s Point show Saturday, Reverb will have an “eco-village” set up with water-themed environmental groups. There will also be free water available and a solar phone-charging station. Ben & Jerry’s will be giving free ice cream to people who sign up with or volunteer for the nonprofits.

“I like to think we’re using the power of music to shift attitudes about protecting the planet,” said Gardner.

Guster plays for Longfellow Elementary School pupils in Portland in 2010. The band will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a concert Saturday on Thompson's Point in Portland. Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski

Guster plays for Longfellow Elementary School pupils in Portland in 2010. The band will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a concert Saturday on Thompson’s Point in Portland.
Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski

Gardner founded Guster with Ryan Miller and Brian Rosenworcel when they were all at Tufts University, outside of Boston, in the early 1990s. The band had an underground vibe and little commercial success until the album “Lost and Gone Forever” in 1999, featuring the radio hit “Fa Fa.” Since then, the band has gained a large following. Besides their original songs, often upbeat with jangly guitars, they’ve been known to do covers where they don’t take themselves very seriously, including Bonnie Tyler’s melodramatic 1980s pop smash “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

The band’s 25th-anniversary celebration this year actually spans several states. It started with a run of shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York City and four nights at the Paradise in Boston, before coming to Portland.

Gardner said he hopes the weekend of events in Portland “showcases what makes Portland in its prime of summer so ridiculously awesome.”

Gardner says the band has been able to stay together so long partly because the members enjoy each other’s company. Often band members take their wives and children on tour. Recently, the band and all their kids crammed onto buses for a concert tour through the upper Midwest.

And when they create music, they feel no pressure to do what they did before or meet some standard of “mainstream” success.

“We’re making music for ourselves and the fans. After 25 years of having a band, we know that we can keep doing this,” said Gardner. “And that’s freeing.”

GUSTER ON THE OCEAN

With Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, The Ghost of Paul Revere and Spencer Albee

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Thompson’s Point, Portland
HOW MUCH: $41 in advance, $46 day of the show.
INFO: Ontheoceanfest.com
WHAT ELSE: The alt-rock band is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a weekend of events in Maine, where guitarist and singer Adam Gardner has lived for more than decade. There is a boat cruise concert on Casco Bay for 200 fans Friday and a kayak adventure for about 50 fans Sunday. Both are sold out, but tickets may become available at ontheoceanfest.com.

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