Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why Dave Matthews Band?

I love Dave Matthews Band.  If someone were to ask me to close my eyes and describe my “happy place”, I’d be at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State, Leia at my side, listening to DMB play the first few chords of the opening song, as the sun slowly sets behind the stage, and the stars begin to light up the night sky.  I’ve had the great privilege of visiting my happy place several times now, and look forward to going back again someday soon.  There’s just something magical about being there, the feeling you get in that very moment, that despite my best efforts, cannot be described.  If you’ve been there, and experienced that moment I am referring to, then you know.

I get asked all the time by family and friends why I like DMB so much, and what it is that makes them so special.  They do not understand how a band that rarely gets their music played on the radio could have this sort of effect on me, where I am willing to tattoo one of their logos permanently into my skin.  It boggles their mind why I need to wait until the summer tour dates are announced before I can make vacation plans.  They may have heard “Crash Into Me” a few times, or the odd song here and there, but for the most part, they don’t really know who DMB is.  I used to try to explain it to people, but I don’t anymore because quite frankly, I can’t.  I once bought my brother a DMB cd (Live in Central Park), hoping that it would help him understand.  I later found out he took it back to the store and exchanged it for Johnny Cash’s Greatest Hits.  I guess DMB isn’t for everybody, and I’m okay with that.  I’m okay that you don’t get it.  I’m not here to recruit you, this isn’t a cult, but if you change your mind, just know that everyone is welcome, and the door is always open for those wanting to join us.   

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and experience DMB in many different venues throughout the United States and Canada.  Many people think this is far too extreme or borderline obsessive to spend the kind of money I do following a group of musicians around the Country.  Some people think I’m crazy.  What they don’t know is that amongst DMB fans, this type of behaviour is not the least bit uncommon.  Going to see DMB eight times in eight different venues over the course of a summer is, believe it or not, normal.  There’s nothing strange about it to a DMB fan, and trust me when I say there are many fans that have seen far more shows than I could ever dream to.  Although the cities and venues may change along the way, there are several constants regardless of where you are that you can count on at every DMB show. 

Tailgating is a DMB tradition.  The hard core fans of DMB are extremely loyal, not just to the band, but also to the DMB family of friends they have interacted with along the way.  As I mentioned earlier, since travelling to shows is very common, pre-show tailgate parties are often seen as a reunion of sorts that many fans look forward to each summer, an opportunity to not only meet old friends, but also make new ones.  Going to a DMB show is not simply something to do, it’s an experience.  The opening act takes the stage at 7:00pm, with DMB beginning their set at 8:25pm, but the experience begins much earlier than that.  Vehicles are often customized with DMB stickers, hand written lyrics and firedancers before the keys are even in the ignition.  As soon as the venue parking lot gates are opened, the fans pour in with canopies, barbeques, frisbees, footballs, an assortment of drinking games, and of course alcohol and other herbal mind enhancers.  The sounds and smells are intoxicating, and for those few hours, nothing in the outside world matters.  It’s all about the here and now.  Canadian venues don’t have tailgating worthy of mentioning, but our neighbours to the south have perfected the art of it.  If you only go to a DMB show just for the actual show itself, you’ll still have an awesome time, but that’s not the true experience.  I highly recommend arriving early, and taking the time to soak it all in.

Once inside the venue, many will take to their seats right away, or at least find a place to stand as 7:00pm approaches.  Dave Matthews always comes out at 7:00pm to say a few words and introduce the opening act.  DMB fans cannot get enough of “Davespeak”, which is the awkwardly hilarious way in which Dave often expresses himself.  After sharing a few laughs and with big smiles on our faces, Dave welcomes the opening band and the live music portion of the experience begins.  By this point barely half of the attendees are in their seats, with the remainder still walking around, listening to the opening band, chatting with friends, etc…  The opening act generally plays for roughly 45 minutes, and during this time, people in the pit (ie. general admission area just in front of the stage) jockey for position, while those in the reserved seats and lawn section are able to take a slightly more laid back approach to the evening’s festivities.  Without fail, you can count on watching a dancing girl or two bouncing around vigorously to the opening act right up front and centre in the reserved seats, taking advantage of the extra space that is afforded during this time, gaining the attention and acknowledgement from the band.

Once the opening act has ended their set, the roadies and stage crew appear from every direction in a frantic yet organized manner to switch out the instruments, and make any final adjustments to the lights and video screens.  Many from the crew have been with the band for years, so we recognize their faces, and even know some of them by name.  The crowd files in to take their seats, having loaded up on their refreshments of choice, and the traditional pre-show vacuuming of the stage notifies all that DMB will soon be entering the building.  Fans begin trading guesses about what the opening song will be based on the guitar that has been placed upon the stage.  6-string or 12-string, we go through the possibilities song by song.  Excitement continues to build, and the buzz within the venue gets increasingly louder.  The lights turn off, the house music ends, and everyone takes to their feet, with absolutely no intention of sitting back down for the next 2½ to 3 hours.  Nobody sits at a DMB concert.  Applause thunders down, getting even louder the moment the first band member is spotted walking onto the darkened stage.  One after another the band members appear, taking their usual positions.  Boyd and Tim to the left, Dave and Carter in the centre, Stefan, Rashawn and Jeff to the right.  They wave to the crowd.  The crowd roars with anticipation.

With the lights still low, the cheers of the crowd reverberating throughout the venue, the band members all turn to face Carter, for he is the pilot sitting in his cockpit of percussion.  On his mark, the band begins, and a wall of sound and light explodes over the crowd.  All it takes is one note, the crowd immediately recognizes the song, and begins dancing rhythmically to the music.  The show is not choreographed, there are no dancers, no set changes, no costumes, there are minimal bells and whistles.  Lip-syncing or backing tracks?  Pfft, I think not.  This is truly about the music, pure music, and nothing more.  There are only two rules when attending a DMB show:  1.  Have fun;  and 2.  Don’t do anything that will take away from the fun of those around you.  We’d prefer that you leave your beach balls and glow sticks at home, but if you just can’t help yourself, please do not throw them in the direction of the stage.  Everyone expresses themselves differently, but all are there for the same purpose… the love of the music.

One song after another, the band makes their way through the ever-changing setlist, while the crowd dances the night away, and that distinctive herbal scent fills the air.  No two setlists are ever the same, every show is different, each containing an element of surprise, and the rarer the songs the better.  DMB fans know all the songs, every note, and every word, even when Dave periodically forgets.  Nobody expects perfection.  Perfection isn’t real.  We want what’s real.  Boyd tearing up the stage with his violin during a killer version of “Tripping Billies” is real.  Stefan bouncing around with his bass at the beginning of “Anyone Seen the Bridge” is real.  Dave dancing in the way that only Dave can dance is real.  Jeff playing two saxophones at the same time is real.  Songs just 4 minutes long on an album are enhanced into 20 minute masterpieces, showcasing the skills of each band member along the way.  Dave Matthews may be the lead singer and namesake of the band, but this is about more than just him, and he’ll be the first to admit it.  The musicianship within this band is second to none, with each member equally important to the overall sound.  More than anything, DMB is real.

At around 10:40pm give or take, the band ends their set and takes their encore break, lasting 5 minutes or so.  The crowd cheers loudly the entire time, still on their feet, but wanting to show their appreciation to the band that has given them so much.  Sore feet will heal tomorrow, the memories will last a lifetime.  Dave often returns to the stage alone, picks up his guitar, and plays a heartfelt solo version of one of the band’s quieter songs.  The rest of the band then joins him, and depending on the particular venue, plays one or two more songs, frequently continuing past the 11:00pm curfew.  Some songs are better closers than others, and DMB rarely disappoints.  “Two Step” is a particular favourite of mine, especially when Carter takes control of the stage with a masterful drum solo which gets you thinking that maybe, just maybe, the boys will throw caution to the wind and transition into “Halloween”.  It rarely happens, but when it does, it’s a treat.  Alas as all good things must, the show comes to an end.  The house lights come on, the band waves goodbye, and one by one they leave the stage, all except for Carter, who remains for several more minutes to toss a seemingly endless supply of drumsticks to appreciative members of the crowd.  The applause slowly subsides as everyone makes their way to the exits, and the countdown begins until the next time we get to do it all over again.               

DMB is best experienced live and in person, where you can expose all five of your senses to that which is going on around you.  That is when they are at their best.  That is where the magic happens.  Why do I like DMB so much?  I don’t know, I just do.  I don’t expect you to understand.  And that’s okay.

57 comments:

  1. Awesome account of a DMB show, your blog allowed me to relive a few great shows in my mind. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, that's exactly what was going through mine while I was writing this.

      Delete
    2. OMG!! THANKS for "getting it!!"...Dave has been my absolute passion for the past 12 years and I just saw him in West Palm Fri n Sat. Itn was # 17 n 18 only for me but it is WHAT I LIVE FOR EVERY SUMMER!! I couldnt have written it better myself!! I only feel sad for those who dont understand! DAVE will touch your soul and change your life!! Feel free to friend request me...I have alot of photos from this weekend!!
      Thanks again....Justjenfff@yahoo.com

      Delete
    3. Well written! I have been seeing Dave since 1994 and you really captured the essence of it all! Dave fans are the real deal, everyone else seems not to get it..great post!!

      Delete
    4. Most excellent!!! My goal is to get to The Gorge....but truly, without being at that particular venue, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. I was a Deadhead before Dave, and while very similar in several ways, they're both still quite different. I've had the privilege of hearing 9 live shows now, 3 of them with our dearest LeRoi.

      Dave speaks to MY generation. He speaks about stuff important to me. And he is just darn funny and hangs out with a group of amazing musicians! Love them all. Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm smilin big!

      Delete
  2. wow. so well done! iave been to 82 and counting and as long as they are touring, i will be going.

    i will never get enough.

    thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I cannot possibly LoVE this more! Smiled & tearsd thru the whole read -- is my every experience, & as I try to describe to friends & family, who also dont (...wait for it...) get it. And thats ok -- they all do things Ill never get (undoubtedly nowhere near as great as our indulgences!!). Really enjoyed this. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have no idea how much your comments brought a smile to my face. Thank you!

      Delete
    2. Dave - I emailed this to my hubs who read this today while at work. Came home, we ate dinner, then ...it hit him (got a glance of my So Much To Say book in the family room) "OH MY GOD, that write-up you sent me was amazing - so spot-on! Tell whoever wrote that that I thought it was great!!"

      Also, I posted the link on my FB wall (w/credits to YOU) for anyone who didnt see your post, and all share the same reaction. Great job!

      I also sent the link via Twtr to Fonz, BT & Jeff (credits to you, writing fr our perspective of the experience), but none have replied. Hoping they saw it. ;-)

      Delete
    3. Thanks Dawn, that's awesome. I've been trying to get it in front of those guys too, but so far no luck. I'm just thrilled that the reaction from other fans like us has been so positive!

      Delete
  4. That says it all

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is amazing. I couldn't have it better myself. Now I have a better way to respond when people ask me 'Why DMB?' or 'You're going to see them AGAIN?'.

    Thanks for brightening my day with this :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure, glad you enjoyed it!

      Delete
  6. ... "for those few hours, nothing in the outside world matters" ...

    Sooooo true!!! All problems and fears fade away. It's like finding your center in a sea of thousands. There are no words to describe what I feel at DMB! It's the best 2 hours and 45 minutes of my year (multiplied by however many shows I see). I would do it every day if I could. It would never go old. I would never want it to!

    ... and for a moment this good time would never end ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone has issues they must deal with in life, I've certainly had my fair share over the past few years, it's just nice to let it all go, even just for a little while. DMB concerts provide that opportunity for me, and I'm glad to hear they have the same effect on you.

      Delete
  7. This is such a great post! As someone that has had to try to explain the "obsession" to family and friends, I just want to print this and hand it to anyone that asks me "why?". I don;t think it is possible for it to be explained in a better way than you have done here. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, you just gave me an idea. I might print this out and include it in this year's Christmas cards :)

      Delete
  8. DMB isn't a concert, it's not a show. It's a Feeling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, and one that stays with you whether you're at a concert or not!

      Delete
  9. Well said. And thanks for putting in words my love for DMB!
    Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yes in deed! I too am a huge DMB fan. Have been since 97'. My motto... have tickets...will travel! You explained the experience to a T! I totally get it. Not a day goes by that I don't listen to the boys. Happy place you say....that my friend is exactly where they take me to. For those people who don't understand why.... I say to you: You don't know what your missing, because "the best is yet to come."

    ReplyDelete
  11. You realize, of course, that this experience isn't unique. It isn't something only a DMB concert offers. It's what every concert offers and yet DMB fans seem to believe that they have some kind of monopoly on this experience. That's what makes them so downright annoying. The band's music is average, at best, their lyrics are subpar and, hey! they even have a mediocre violin player, to boot! Ooooooo rush out to another one!

    I'm not saying it's wrong to like them. People have varying tastes. Some people find a way to like Nicolas Cage movies and some people find Russell Brand funny (ok...nobody REALLY finds Russell Brand funny but you get my point) but you're not alone in having an escape when you go see a band you love.

    So the next time someone asks you why you like them so much, don't get all high on yourself like nobody but a DMB fan can understand. Just tell them because it makes you happy or something slightly less pretentious than, say, every other fan of theirs says, like you know some secret nobody else can explore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I did have the option of not publishing your comment, that would have portrayed the false notion that everyone feels the same way towards the band I love. That's the beauty of opinions, everyone has one, and while I may not agree with much of what you said (other than the Russell Brand part), I certainly respect your right to voice yours.

      Delete
    2. I don't feel he was saying it's a feeling no one but a DMB fan can understand, I think he was just trying to explain the feeling he gets, and other do as well, at a DMB concert. Because the question was "why DMB" - and this is why. A non-DMB fan wouldn't understand the feeling he (we) have at DMB concerts, if they did, they wouldn't ask "why DMB" ...

      LoVE

      Delete
    3. Nicely put Steph, thanks!

      Delete
    4. Loved reading this. It certianly reminded me of my DMB experiences! Theres reasons Ive been to see DMB 11 times, and other bands/artist only once or twice. 1) Noone else tours consistantly like DMB does. 2) Sure, the layout of the show is basically the same as every other band, but the atmosphere is waaaay better especially when ur with DMB family! 3)The sets consistantly change over and over. U never know what ur going to hear. While other bands play the same crap to promote their new albums that BTW have ususally already been released. Not DMB. 4)DMB doesnt have to whore themselves out or get radio play to have a loyal fan base. and theres a reason for that too. They are generous to their fans in many ways. (allowing tapers,free streaming of shows,sharing their music wo focusing on making a buck) IDK of many other bands/artist who do those things. I will continue to go to DMB shows as long as they play. As for the other bands Ive seen, once or twice is enough. So to say DMB concerts are like every other show out there is just ignorant and Ahem,"downright annoying".

      Delete
  12. dMb IS a feeling, a shared feeling - it's what makes a venue full of we fans feel that OUR band is LoVIng us as we do them, in a simultaneous orgy of Joy. If you are bitten by the dMb smitten Dragonfly, then there's often no turning back! I consider myself among a lucky chosen few, who "get it"! "Some people do ... Some people don't, & that's ok!" XoX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love it! I have to admit, I find myself wishing I had included the term "orgy of joy" in this post somewhere. Good stuff!

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Dave! Minds of a Little Red Bird's Feather ... Rawk together! XoxOxoX ~

      Delete
  13. Thank you for voicing what I have not been able to!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sending this IMMEDIATELY out to all the people in my life that JUST DON'T GET IT....but yet feel the need to judge it...! Ty ..Ty...!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Perfect description! Thank you for these words!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. everything in your article is spot on! i LoVE LoVE meeting fans who i don't need explain anything as they feel in their heart and soul just as i do :) whenever the house lights go down, my stomach STILL gets butterflies (even after almost 60 shows) when you see them all take their places on stage; you just know for the next 2.5 hours there will be worries and everything will be alright with the world.....when the first song begins to play and the crowd goes wild and everyone sings along, every time i say 'this is home'.....that is exactly how i feel too :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm 32..approaching 60 shows..6 this year already and just booked our cross country airfare to the gorge yesterday(my second time)..I have a great life and a new wonderful wife I introduced to DMB a few years ago (she didn't get it either back then)..after all tht I still felt the need to forward this to my parents and all my friends tht have been calling me crazy for the past decade in hopes they will maybe understand why my summers revolve around what shows i can make it to...if they don't get it now then I will just have to resend it to them after i hit 100 shows.....great article man...see
    u all at the gorge!!!!"""""

    ReplyDelete
  18. What an amazing description...everything you said is exactly how I feel. The only exception is I would insert "Lying in Our Graves" instead of "Two Step" :) Otherwise...perfection. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meant to write Lie...not Lying..ugh

      Delete
    2. Haha, that's okay, we knew what you meant ;)

      Delete
  19. well done, sir.

    I am going to send this to my Dad to maybe help him understand..

    For example, this is a recent convo..

    Me wearing my DMB shirt.. ' you are obsessed with them.. how many times have you seen them now? '

    me : about 12..
    dad: geeeze, will you ever get enough?
    me : haha, not possible dad.
    dad: okay, anyway what are you doing tonight?
    me: doing to see dave...
    dad: 'insert meme face' oye..

    LOL- he just doesn't get it, when he did the same for the The Who and Crosby ...

    you were really able to capture the essence of being in the show "Sore feet will heal tomorrow, the memories will last a lifetime" -- ever so true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always get " why do you need to go to 6,7,8 concerts every year? Isnt it the same?"

      Delete
  20. P.S. my code to be able to publish was '34' -- hope its a sign! :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Love this :) goosebumps during the "dMB is real" section. It actually even brought tears to me. As a writer myself, I appreciate fine writing and you my friend have nailed it!! <3

    ReplyDelete
  22. I was so happy to read this the other day and again today. I am known as the "Dave freak" by co-workers and other folks, but that's ok. I'll take it. I just politely smile and say yes, my pendant is a firedancer, a symbol for DMB and yes that's also a firedancer tattooed on my back with lyrics from one of their songs. Whereas I have only seen 12 shows, I was lucky enough to take all of my daughters to see him this summer. They are 9, 11 & 16. The 11 year old wanted to hear The Stone or Gravedigger, where my 9 year old wanted Cornbread. They knew almost all of the songs played. I was so proud that they got to experience what they've seen on our tv when I'm watching their DVDs. Of course, the younger girls still love the Beibs, but they also "get it". That's more than I can say for a lot of adults. They had an open mind and that's all I could ask for. When I started dating again, loving DMB wasn't an option. I asked him if he liked Dave and he replied yeah, Ive heard a few songs on the radio. I said, ok so you don't know who I'm talking about then. Lol. I started off with the Dave and Tim at Radio City Music Hall DVD. I then introduced the Central Park, Piedmont Park and Folsom Field DVDs. Needless to say, he has accompanied me to 5 out of 12 shows and we are still together years later. (He also now that a firedancer tattooed on him too.) I just wanted to tell you that I'm glad I'm not alone and think you did a great job on describing a true fan!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. This!! DMB is something that my sister and I have shared together since 1995, when I bought a pair of lawn tickets from a family friend who won them from the local radio station. The only songs we knew at the time was What Would You Say and Ants Marching, but on the way home we were singing at the top of our lungs to every song on Under the Table and Dreaming! We have shared this experience with our Mom once, and her husband a few times, but they just don't understand. It's hard for me to fathom that someone else in our immediate family (cousins, aunts, uncles) is a fan as much as we are, because they don't go to DMB concerts. This sums it up nicely. I know the first thing I say to someone when they say "Didn't you see them in concert last year?" is, it's never the same show. We once saw them 4 different times one summer (before kids that is :-)), with the highlight being front row center tickets in Detroit! (Thanks Warehouse ticket lottery!) My first tattoo was a firedancer! "WHY?" was the question I heard the most. My response: "Why did you get that tattoo of Yoda on your shoulder?" WHY NOT? is wat I say now! (I even considered naming my son Matthew David!)Anyway, thanks for being spot on! (And my favorite closer is Ants!)

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is perfect...I also refer to a DMB show as my "happy place" , and have a fire dancer tattooed on my back. I've been touring since 1996, over 100 shows and it never gets old even though I do. My husband and I play name that opener the morning of a show. I too plan my vacation (first time to gorge this year!) when summer tour is announced. DMB is addicting, one show is never enough, they always leave me wanting more. And you're completely right, there are those who just don't understand and then there are those of us who just get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. side note...this blog was shared with me by a fellow DMBer I met this year at Virginia Beach...LOVE DMB fans

      Delete
  25. I'll mimic everyone else and confirm how close to home this post hits. Thanks and well done!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Replies
    1. That was my reaction too

      Delete
  27. As a fellow Canadian an DMB lover, I could have written this as it describes absolutely perfectly how I feel when I am in my Happy Place! I've been to about 60 shows now and can't wait to keep adding more. Yes, people think that we are "weird" or worse, but unless you go to these shows and feel these feelings you'll never understand just how amazing it is to be "weird" and in love with the experience this band give us. It took me a while to get comfortable with people thinking this of me but now I just don't care. I'm proud to have had the experiences that I've had and I'll always look forward to adding more!!

    ReplyDelete
  28. This was great! As a girlfriend of a long time DMB lover....who actually got the chance to meet Dave himself, I never "got it" until I went to my first show a few years ago...

    ...and I GOT IT...I 1million percent got it. You described it to a T! And it gave me goosebumps!

    "for those few hours, nothing in the outside world matters"

    I'm so glad for a boyfriend that has really SHOWED me the great things about DMB, what to watch for when we're sitting close enough to see...and we can always listen and LOVE!

    I've even created some DMB art....and have it hanging proudly in our house!

    After seeing the last show we went to (Alpine Valley, East Troy Wi) July 6-7, I said to him....I've been to concerts, but this was PURE ENTERTAINMENT, from beginning to end!

    ReplyDelete
  29. wow i have been to 203 shows and could not have said that any better .......you have brought tears to my eyes i thank you for that and please seek me out at a show i always have the same sign that says "mr. carter beauford on the drums!! which you may have seen before i will be at the gorge this year and lookin fwd to meetin you and sharing my stories and having a new dmb friend that gets it!!!!! bravo!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Perfectly written. I could not have said it any better myself. And I love knowing that I am not alone in my wonderful obsession with this band and its music. Dave is always my happy place :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Dave,

    This is by far the best writeup I've seen about Why DMB and finally gave me that satisfied feeling, knowing that someone else in the world had the same feeling and could describe it. That is surely something I've never been able to do. Like yourself and many here, I've been asked this quite a bit over the years. I've seen them 31 times over a 16 year period and I will never stop going to see them. The feeling is just out of this world. It's almost like watching magic right in front of you! The people who have been with me before to experience this get it to some degree now.

    I've also just posted a link here on my FB, so that might drive some more traffic to you! :)

    Have a great show, whenever that next one may be!

    ReplyDelete
  32. So much like the DMB experience...thanks for helping me through the Winter! DMB at the Gorge is a 4 day 3 night experience! September s so far away...

    ReplyDelete
  33. Great stuff! I'm heading back to the Gorge for Round 4 this fall, first time was 2002 with a bunch o'Nancies, this time with another large crowd of great friends. 'Til we dance away!

    ReplyDelete