We Asked Guster: What’s It Like to Play the Philly Half-Marathon?

Guster’s Ryan Miller talks about what it’s like to play for half-marathon runners on the Ben Franklin Parkway at 10:30 a.m.

Guster's Ryan Miller singing

Guster’s Ryan Miller sings at the post-Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon concert in Philadelphia on Sunday morning. | Photo: Bruce Buckley

“Do you see a space blanket on me?” Guster’s Ryan Miller says to the crowd assembled in front of the stage on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. “Then, obviously, I did not run the marathon.”

A lot of people had, though. Guster, a melodic alt-rock band from Boston that first broke in the late ’90s, played a concert after the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia. The race, once called the Philadelphia Distance Run, had about 12,000 participants finish the 13.1-mile course in August-like hot-and-muggy weather. (In response to a question about how many people went to the hospital after the race, organizers said “nothing beyond what we were prepared for.”)

The early-morning (10:30 a.m.), post-race concert was a first for Guster. Frontman Miller said he literally had no idea how the band got the gig. At this point, with his band being a quarter-century old, he didn’t even really prep.

“I honestly woke up at 9:30,” he told Philadelphia magazine in between bites of breakfast fettuccini alfredo in a backstage tent after the show. “I was like, ‘Oh shit. We’re going to play in an hour. I should drink coffee or something.’

“For me, you either spend six hours really not talking to people and chilling out and preparing for the show. And the other way is living your life as full as your normally would and step on stage and say, ‘Oh, we’re here.’ There’s no real prep at this point.”

Guster on stage at the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon

Photo | Bruce Buckley

Miller is delightfully funny on stage, and he was his usually entertaining self at Sunday’s marathon show. At one point, the band’s Luke Reynolds ran off stage to use the bathroom and the band began a song without him. When the band left stage for a moment before the encore, the sound engineer played “Gonna Fly Now” (off his phone, amusingly). “Boston just has the band Boston,” Miller said, “but you’ve got this song. That’s better!”

The highlight of the show was probably Guster’s performance of “Barrel of a Gun,” which a big Guster fan standing next to me (my girlfriend) said was about masturbation.

Miller said he always enjoys playing shows in town, mentioning recent performances at the Fillmore and Union Transfer. “Philly’s feeling as good as almost any place that we play just in terms of good vibes and stuff,” he says. “It felt very comfortable at all times.”

It was the earliest show the band had ever performed. “We definitely haven’t played at many things before noon. And then the marathon combined, it’s just a bonus weird factor. I was like, ‘Wait, 10:30 for real, is when we’re starting?’ But it was totally fine.”

Guster is booked for another Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon show in November in San Antonio. “We’re just aging into earlier and earlier gigs,” he said on stage. “We’ll tell people, ‘That’s cool, but do you have anything we can do before 10 a.m.?’”