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Guster’s third annual ‘On The Ocean Weekend’ begins Friday

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Guster’s third annual ‘On The Ocean Weekend’ begins Friday (photo by Alysse Gafkjen)

PORTLAND - Thousands of Guster fans will converge on Maine this weekend for the band’s third annual destination “On The Ocean Weekend” event, scheduled to include a broad palette of music, food, special activities and public service.

For Guster guitarist and Portland resident Adam Gardner, it’s another opportunity to connect the band’s fans with the community he calls home.

“From the beginning, the idea was to make this a destination weekend in Maine at its August prime,” Gardner said during a phone interview. “It’s a great way to introduce fans who aren’t from Maine to some of the cool things Maine has to offer.”

Guster’s 2019 “On The Ocean Weekend” will begin Friday evening with a sold-out acoustic concert from the band at Portland’s First Parish Church.

On Saturday, the focus will shift to Thompson’s Point for a full day of music and activities headlined by two sets from Guster and supporting performances from Brooklyn, New York’s Rubblebucket, Burlington, Vermont’s Kat Wright and her eight-piece Indomitable Soul Band, Tall Heights – an electro-folk duo from Boston – and Portland-based band Weakened Friends.

Former Guster member Joe Pisapia will host an intimate “Joe’s Place” stage with music from Joe and friends, a Q&A with Guster and a hot sauce eating contest in partnership with Burlington’s Butterfly Bakery.

“We’re excited to have them all involved this year,” Gardner said. “Part of the plan with our ‘On The Ocean Weekend’ is to continue to expand and have more artists join us to have it feel more festival-like and not just a special invitational weekend from Guster.”

According to Gardner, it’s important to Guster that the state of Maine remains the primary character to their “On The Ocean Weekend,” and says the band works very hard to strike a balance that includes planned events for fans with time for people to explore the area on their own.

“We tap into all of the fun things to do around here but we don’t want people to think we’re programming everything for everyone. We see this as an expanding, annual event.”

On Sunday, August 11, fans will have an opportunity to attend a series of events around Portland hosted by members of Guster. Activities are scheduled to include a pair of service projects along 70-plus miles of trails with Adam Gardner, a Moth-style storytelling event at Longfellow Square with drummer Brian “Thundergod” Rosenworcel and a bike ride on Pike Island with guitarist Luke Reynolds.

Guster plans to honor the 20th anniversary of their major label debut “Lost and Gone Forever” by playing the album in its entirety during their two-set show at Thompson’s Point on Saturday.

As Gardner looks back on that 1999 record and its place in Guster history, he vividly recalls the buzz the band felt as they lived and breathed the album with legendary producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Peter Gabriel, Phish, XTC).

He says the recording of “Lost and Gone Forever” marked the first time Guster had everything they could possibly have hoped for. Early sessions were recorded in Sausolito (where the band lived on a houseboat) before moving to Bearsville Studios near Woodstock, New York for additional recording and mixing. At each location, band and producer were ensconced as the songs came to life.

“We were in our twenties then and it was a perfect situation for us,” recalled Gardner. “We lived, breathed and ate the record during those months, which was definitely the way Lillywhite liked to produce. It would not be a perfect situation today, now that we’re in our 40s and have children, but it was ideal at the time.”

“Lost and Gone Forever” contains songs that have become Guster standards, including “Barrel of a Gun,” “Happier,” “Fa Fa” and “I Spy.”

“There are some songs on that album that we don’t play,” Gardner said. “It will be fun to play them again when we do the full album – the same way that it’s fun to pull out an old photo album.”

Earlier this year, Guster released their eighth studio record “Look Alive” to mostly glowing acclaim. I asked Gardner if new songs are usually the most fun for the band to play.

“Anything fresh and new is exciting to us, plus we legitimately believe that our writing and our playing is only maturing. That’s why we’re still a band some 20-odd years later. The music, and the desire to create, to push and to evolve is what fuel’s this band’s longevity.”

Guster will celebrate its 30th anniversary as a band in 2021. I asked Gardner if the four members of the band had spoken privately about how they might mark that milestone.

“No,” he said, after a laugh. “I think we’re still in denial that we’ve been around that long and we’re that old, but I’m sure we’ll do something to acknowledge it.”

Non-profit environmental organization Reverb will play a significant role in this weekend’s “On The Ocean Weekend” event. Reverb is a 501c3 non-profit entity dedicated to educating and engaging musicians and fans to promote environmental sustainability. The organization was founded 15 years ago by Gardner with his wife, Lauren.

“Reverb has a program at Thompson’s Point all season,” Gardner said. “We’re reducing single-use plastic water bottles by offering custom Nalgene bottles (a type of reusable plastic products originally designed for laboratory use) and free filtered water our water station.”

Reusable custom “On The Ocean Weekend” bottles will be available this weekend with proceeds supporting Reverb and a local organization placing rooftop solar panels on a high school.

Earlier this year, Reverb was recognized by the United Nations Environmental Programme as its official music and public engagement partner.

As a band, Guster began working closely with Reverb in 2006.

“With Reverb, we started with these little bands like Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5 and Jack Johnson and then finally worked our way to Guster,” Gardner said, tongue firmly in cheek.

For the second year, Guster has partnered with Portland’s Mast Landing Brewing Co. to create a special “On the Ocean Weekend” brew. On The Ocean 2019 Pale Ale will be available while supplies last in select Portland bars and restaurants including Bayside Bowl, The Great Lost Bear, The Thirsty Pig and Central Provisions.

(Tickets for Saturday’s “On The Ocean Weekend” concert at Thompson’s Point are available at www.Guster.com.)

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