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Lead singer of the band Guster, Ryan Miller sips from a paper cup of coffee and looks at the camera
Photograph: Alysse GafkjenGuster's Ryan Miller

Somerville Porchfest 2024: Guster's Ryan Miller on everything you need to know

The acclaimed alt rockers return to their roots for a special performance.

Jacqueline Cain
Written by
Jacqueline Cain

Half a lifetime ago, three friends from Tufts University formed a rock band called Guster. They lived together after college in a four-bedroom house in Somerville which doubled as band headquarters. The extra bedroom became Guster’s first official office. The place hosted accomplished producer Steve Lillywhite for a pre-production session ahead of recording the band's major-label debut, Lost and Gone Forever, released 25 years ago. Upstairs at the Aberdeen house, songwriter Ryan Miller recalls penning the wistful, explosive “Happier,” which became a Guster signature.

Guster is planning a few upcoming anniversary shows to celebrate Lost and Gone Forever, including during the band’s annual Portland, Maine, music festival, On the Ocean, in August. But nostalgia isn’t their main focus right now: Guster’s ninth record, Ohh La La, drops Friday, May 17, and the group is gearing up for a press tour that kicks off this weekend—where else? On Aberdeen Street in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The cult favorite, Gold Record-certified, Boston Music Award-winning Guster is playing Somerville Porchfest on Saturday, May 11, at 3:30pm, on Aberdeen Road near Cedar Street. The porch isn’t the exact “Guster house” where Miller, Gardner and drummer Brian Rosenworcel lived from 1996 through 1999, but it’s close. 

It’s home to Dave Rothfarb, drummer for Boston-area cover band, Mixtape Misfits, which was signed up to play the annual event put on by the Somerville Arts Council when they got an email from Guster’s management team about potentially sharing the bill. Mixtape Misfits specialize in high-energy rock covers from the ’90s and 2000s—but, Rothfarb says, has never before played Guster songs—and will play ahead of Guster’s set, beginning at 2pm. 

Guster bandmates Brian Rosenworcel, Ryan Miller, Luke Reynolds and Adam Gardner
Photograph: Alysse GafkjenGuster (from left to right) is Brian Rosenworcel, Ryan Miller, Luke Reynolds and Adam Gardner.

Miller, who lives in Vermont, has never attended Somerville Porchfest, but he says he’s familiar with the event and that Guster Inc. has long thought it would be a cool gig. “We're not doing it for the press. It’s actually kind of fun to play” low-key shows for longtime fans, Miller says. On tour, the band, which also now includes multi-instrumentalist Luke Reynolds, calls them “Dumpster sets,” dropping details on social media. “Like, 12 people will show up and a dog. I thought Porchfest was gonna be more like that,” Miller says—but after setting up a Facebook event for the gig this past Wednesday, more than 1,000 people RSVPd. 

Porchfest typically attracts upwards of 15,000 visitors descending on the city just north of Boston. Somerville Arts Council program manager Rachel Strutt told the Boston Globe she thinks Guster is the best-known band to ever join the lineup. A spokesperson for the city said Somerville is working with police “to develop a plan to make sure everyone is safe.”

Guster’s most recent local show was barely two months ago at MGM Music Hall Fenway. “Every time we play in Boston, it's hard not to have capital-F Feelings,” Miller says. “It's pretty crazy that a couple miles down the road, we were just three dudes sitting in a dorm room playing ‘Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard,’ and here we are in the third decade of being a band and selling out MGM.” Playing a true hometown show like this is “poignant,” Miller says. “I have a lot of feelings around the neighborhood” where he lived in his mid-20s. “Those are very indelible, important developmental years for a human.”

That time in Somerville paved the way for where the bandmates are now: In or approaching their 50s with long-term partners and teenage children. Ooh La La delves into themes around “adulting,” and was “written against the backdrop of a pandemic,” Miller notes. The band’s luminous harmonies and bright, acoustic sound bring warmth to the existential questions the music explores. “I know that term ‘dad rock’ has become sort of pejorative, but I like it,” Miller says. “There's a lot of authenticity around this record. A lot of sincerity and earnestness.” 

It’s the same thing with playing Porchfest. “We're doing this because it is very much who and why we are.” 

What is Somerville Porchfest?

Somerville Porchfest is a community event produced by the Somerville Arts Council where local bands share free music performances from porches and yards across the city. It’s the most popular decentralized music festival in Greater Boston and takes place annually in May.

What bands are playing Somerville Porchfest?

Local bands play Porchfest with such intriguing names like Doc Huth & The Uncouth Youth, Louder Than Milk, and Quahog Wild. Check out the full Somerville Porchfest lineup here and see a map. According to the Somerville Arts Council, Guster is the most high-profile act to ever play Porchfest.

Where and when to see Guster play Somerville Porchfest?

Guster is playing Somerville Porchfest on Saturday, May 11, from 3:30-4pm at 12 Aberdeen Rd., Somerville, MA 02144. The porch is hosted by Mixtape Misfits, a cover band which will play from 2-3:30pm.

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