The Hippo


Feb 27, 2020








Guster. Courtesy photo.

City Year New Hampshire 

Presents Guster
When: Friday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester 
Tickets: $34.50 at

Activist beat
Guster celebrates City Year anniversary with Palace concert

By Michael Witthaus

More than one interview with a musician about a benefit concert has turned murky when the subject shifts to a performer’s motivations for playing the show. Are they fans of the organization or charity?
Often the response is a stammered, “Our manager set it up; I’m sure it’s a good cause.”
There was no chance of that happening as Adam Gardner discussed the Sept. 12 appearance of his band Guster to mark City Year New Hampshire’s 15th anniversary. The synergy between Gardner and the campus-based volunteer organization spans nearly a decade; a better fit for City Year’s annual Red Jacket Weekend would be tough to find. 
In 2006, Guster launched its first Campus Consciousness tour, stopping at colleges across the country to perform, and promote green activism. City Year was a key sponsor, and provided scores of volunteers. Matt Wilhelm of Manchester traveled with the band and helped organize City Year’s role, which included outreach, service events and coordinated campus workshops.
“I got to know Matt really well because we were sleeping on the same tour bus,” said Gardner in a recent phone interview.
The effort was guided by Reverb, a non-profit begun by Gardner and his environmentalist wife in 2004 to promote greener touring. 
“I think I came home one too many times complaining about what a mess it was on tour,” Gardner recalled. “Lauren [Sullivan, his wife] said, ‘Why don’t we start an organization that helps bands be more sustainable?’”
Dave Matthews, Alanis Morissette and others got involved — “a lot of acts bigger than us,” Gardner said. But in 2006, Guster remained conspicuously absent. “I thought, I started this to help my own band … the question was how do bands at Guster’s level start working with Reverb in a meaningful way?” 
Campus Consciousness is now in its eighth year, with O.A.R., Capital Cities and fun. among the artists who’ve participated in the biannual tours.  
For Wilhelm, getting bit by the music bug had long term effects. After his second City Year term ended in 2007, he helped launch the grassroots activist organization Calling All Crows with fellow City Year alumna Sybil Gallagher, and her musician husband Chad Stokes (State Radio, Dispatch). 
“I spent five years on the road, touring with Chad’s bands, traveling across the U.S. and Europe, helping to organize hands-on service projects, teach-ins, and  grassroots fundraisers, and then … Sybil asked me to try my hand at  running lights,” wrote Wilhelm in a recent email. “It’s been a fun learning opportunity ever since [that’s allowed me] to light up some of my favorite musicians on stage.”
Wilhelm is the event coordinator for the upcoming Red Jacket weekend, which serves as a reunion for past City Year volunteers. 
“It’s an opportunity to reconnect with and support the organization that first gave me the chance to connect two of my passions: live music and community service,” he wrote. “We couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the weekend than by inviting Guster to help blow the roof off Manchester’s historic Palace Theatre.” 
Guster will roll out new material at the show from an album due for release early next year. “I don’t know why it took us 20 years to figure this out, but it’s definitely the most fun we’ve ever had making a record,” said Gardner. “We’re all fathers now and making the record wasn’t hiding in a cave for three months [but instead] touching base every few weeks. We had a lot of time and perspective.”
The band spent only three weeks in the studio, an edict of producer Richard Swift (Shins, Stereolab). Accustomed to using that much time just in preproduction, “we thought he was crazy, but felt it was worth the experiment; we really wanted to work with him,” said Gardner, adding, “It was amazing — super empowering.” 


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