Improv For All

GUSTER/Jeff Garland

by: Zak Winters

A Tuesday night show can be a difficult event to sell to a public that has work, school, and a laundry list of other responsibilities that can keep ticket buyers second guessing a purchase for such said weekday nighttime events. With this in mind, the acoustic pop trio Guster split a bill with Jeff Garland from the HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in a night that was billed as half stand-up comedy and half acoustic music from Guster. Walking up to The Paramount Tuesday night I was pleasantly surprised to see the line was full and moving steady even 45 minutes after the doors had opened. Inside the general admission had been set up with chairs that had been full since minutes of the 7 o’clock opening.

Jeff Garland took the stage at 8pm sharp as the ticket had promised, and the Curb Your Enthusiasm star took great pleasure in improvising on the crowd, often calling cracking jokes on the audience, press members and Paramount staff alike. If you could judge a comedian’s performance by their own level of amusement, then Garland showed Long Island stellar performance. Some of his biggest success were in having the venue turn off it’s gigantic monitors which segwayed into the observation of America’s obsession with electronics, Facebook, iPhone’s, and twitter. On a roll with his successful monitor black outs, he began a campaign to turn off the smart phones and “Live in The Moment.” The moment was exaggerated when a member of Guster sat in a elaborate arm chair on stage tweeting on his phone and making a quick and clean get away before Garland noticed.

After the comedic musings of Jeff Garland, there was no interlude as the members of Guster accompanied by two female string orchestra players took the stage. As the band started in with the first song, many general admission seats were abandoned in favor for standing front in center. At this point it was clear that Guster’s fan based was made up of many cross sections of what music industry executives refer to has demographics. Everything from teenage girls to middle aged men seem to have come out to see this lush performance made up of strings, acoustic guitars, percussion that were stripped down by the use of hands and not drum sticks. By the 2nd song the band had already felt confident enough to try an “experimental” number that would typically be to slow and dreamy even for an intimate theater as The Paramount, but they pulled it off, wowing the crowd with it’s lush string spotlighted sound. The rest of the set was a mix of Guster favorites and the humor that has come to mark this band.

Since Guster is known to play practical jokes on their audience, for instance acting out “the Price Is Right” game show, by sitting in the audience and being called up as enthusiastic contestants. This type of humor made sense of why this jam band, with their intense vocal harmonies and mix bag of detailed stories, would tour with a stand-up comedian.

Guster is known to play close to 250 shows a year, and are currently on tour, so if you happen to be in a region of the country unreached by them, don’t debate, go get your tickets now. Both Guster and Jeff Garland will treat you to improv and hits that make a great show for all.

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