Luke Awtry Photography
Ryan Miller, singer and guitarist of indie-rock veterans Guster
, is gearing up for one memorable summer. After a gig-less year-plus because of the pandemic, he's finally taking his band to a sold-out, headlining show at Colorado's famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 25. The only problem? The band hasn't even rehearsed in 2021 yet.
So the band booked a hell of a warm-up date at a venue Miller calls "the greatest in New England" — Shelburne Museum. Guster plays there this Saturday, July 10, as part of Ben and Jerry's Concerts on the Green series, with support from Burlington's Henry Jamison. And don't worry — they'll have rehearsed by then.
The two shows will essentially be Guster's summer, the Williston-based Miller explained in a phone call last weekend. But "after a year and a half of disappointment professionally," he said, booking them felt like a massive win to him.
"I mean, [the Red Rocks show] is basically the biggest show of our career," Miller said. "We've opened gigs there, but to sell it out on our own just feels amazing."
It's a nice turnaround given the setbacks of the past year, including a canceled tour with the New Pornographers and pulling the plug on their annual On The Ocean Festival
in Portland, Maine.
"We played our first show together, unofficially, in 1991," Miller said. 30 years later, he admitted,"you're constantly on guard and wondering 'is this relevant anymore? Does anyone still care?'
For Miller the Red Rocks show is validation that they do.
"It just feels good to know that this is still important to people, they still care," he said. "That's hugely encouraging to me and the band."
At Red Rocks, Guster will be joined by the Colorado Symphony, with whom they last collaborated in 2012. The band also played with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra in 2018, so it's familiar ground for the quartet.
And while they weren't playing gigs, Guster have hardly been inactive during the last year. The band has been recording its ninth studio album, a followup to 2019's Look Alive
Miller said that record is "99.9 percent done." The band recorded it in Woodstock, N.Y., with Bonny Light Horseman's Josh Kaufman producing. They were also joined by Anaïs Mitchell and Miller's friend Eric Johnson of Fruit Bats, both of whom also play in Bonny Light Horseman.
Fans hoping for a preview of the new material might have to wait until a winter tour. Miller explained that the band has never played the songs on the forthcoming album together, because it was recorded piecemeal over the quarantine.
"Coming out of COVID, I just want my meat and potatoes," Miller said with a laugh. "I don't think I'm alone on that either. And you know, bands like us, we have decades of material. So we don't feel some pressing need to hit audiences with new stuff just yet." He added, "I just want to play some songs and connect with them."
That process will begin this Saturday in Shelburne and Miller is over the moon about it. He's also excited to retrun to the stage in his adopted home.
"I've been here for 11 years nows," he said. "I was a cranky asshole when I got here, honestly. Then I started to realize how much cool shit there is here, how great the music scene is, and I fell in love. Once that happened and I started to involve myself with the community, things got very cool."
As for his return to live gigs after so long a time away, Miller said he only has the usual
amount of anxiety.
"I always get a little bit of stage fright," he revealed. "Just about 30 minutes before a show starts. But that's it. These songs are just in us, after all this time. And I'll be surrounded by friends and family, so Shelburne just feels like home court to me now."
Tickets for Guster's show at the Shelburne Museum are available at highergroundmusic.com
. See you out there!