I think, of all the bands I loved in college, Guster might have been the most significant because SO MANY of my friends loved them with equal ardor. So many summertime concerts gave us the excuse to reconvene, running full-tilt at one another from whatever seemingly far-flung places breaks sent us, and there was something absolutely magical about roving with my pack of friends in places other than campus and our favorite schoolyear haunts lining its periphery.
Guster, especially their album Keep it Together and much like Alkaline Trio’s Good Mourning, sounds like those interminable summers of college when I was just champing at the bit to go back to the first place that ever felt like home and be among the people I loved the most and who understood me the best, and just losing myself in music as a surrogate community in the meantime. AIM and LiveJournal and all of the early Facebook iterations kept us in touch, but the music we shared kept us together.
From the summertime-steamy Festival Pier of Philadelphia to the swampy claustrophobia of New York venues only college kids can withstand without batting an eye to seemingly every campus but ours and endless semesters of windows-down inadvisably packed car rides that became impromptu group singalongs, Guster was a musical mainstay among us, the linchpin of wildly varied musical tastes that seemed to be the lone constant among us. They might actually be the band I’ve seen live the most because they were the one band that consistently yielded improbable numbers of concert-going companions.
“Amsterdam,” being the album single, seemed far more accessibly omnipresent than its littermates. Having the least amount of control over where this song popped up — grocery trips, floating from somebody else’s window, the rare occurrence of being at the radio’s mercy, my summer job at Ulta — meant it tended to be a pleasant surprise when we crossed paths in the world. It was an oasis of comfortable familiarity that reminded me of the family I had unknowingly begun to choose and surround myself with. And, for being a pop-culture void, it was always a shock of recognition actually hearing a song I not only knew but also loved separate itself from the indistinguishable noise that everything else sounded like.
It is fitting, given my inability to make a lick of sense and occasional dismissal of the actual lyrics, that a song about getting lost sounds so much like coming home and knowing where you belong. Especially at a time when my relationship was falling apart for the first time all thanks to my infinite capacity for self-sabotage, it was invaluably comforting to be reminded how close my friends always were.