Back in the old myspace days I remember several friends having a music video on their page.You remember those days. You had to go and find the embed codes and paste them in the middle of all this gibberish. It was a pre-youtube world. Anyways this video was incredible. So well made. Such an interesting series of images. But the song. The song was remarkable. It was this brutal cry against the fragility of life. A cry for help against death. This eagerness to feel something after life. I’d never heard such an emotional sad and yet somehow uplifting song. It was a song that made you think you could fight death, stand before it and punch it to a pulp.
Gravedigger was not my first exposure to Dave Matthews. I was familiar with his radio hits of my day. Crash Into Me was a song everyone and their mother loved. The Space Between was constantly on the radio. I had a few friends that were always talking about the music of the Dave Matthews Band.
I remember though that when I first started getting albums I wasn’t a fan of his voice. What seems like blasphemy to say today was a reality of then. I couldn’t love the music because I just wasn’t wild about his voice. Half the time I had no idea what he was saying. This was 2006. At the time I had a college aged friend who would always egg me on to his favorite band. I bought “The Best of What’s Around Vol. 1” to start things off. I remember hearing songs like American Baby and just loving to ride around on my bike to that song. ( Let me tell you there are fewer songs that are more fun to cruise on a bike to than American Baby. Something about the rhythm of it just makes you feel like you are flying.) On this compilation album there were two songs that really got me. The first was Everyday featuring an African man named Vusi Mahlasela. This song was one of the happiest things I’d ever heard in my life. Your feet were jumping. But then I heard a song. (Feel free to go ahead and click play on the video below.) I’m making a lot of big claims but I mean it when I say I had never heard a more epic song in my entire life. Maybe it had only been 14 years of life. But in that fourteen years nothing had fascinated my ears more than this song. It had this fast paced interesting build up. Then Dave came in singing this verse about the rain. The song got faster and faster and then the song just EXPLODED. I didn’t know what to think. And then it became this back and forth hip shaking foot stomping. Hand flailing. Smile lifting amazing, fantastic, wonderful tune. The song is called Two Step.
So I had a new band that I liked and all. It was just another band to add to my post Nsync days of music. Around this time the Band’s Myspace page posted a video of this acoustic performance of a new song. The song started with some strange fumbling gibberish and then for the first time ever I was really captured by the cleverness of the lyrics.
“Praise God who has many names, but the Devil has many more. And with the love that my mother gave me I’m gone drop the devil to the floor.”
I just enjoyed singing that. I remember that I was looking forward to that album coming out. It was the first cd that I was adamant about getting the day it came out. I was living in Sarasota at the time and to this day I still remember driving to that Super Target running inside and hunting for that cd. Now I was quite the spoiled kid at that time and I had a few tricks in getting certain things when we went shopping so when I saw that there was a cd and a dvd for this album I had to come up with a way to get both. I was told no but then I just had to beg. I’ll do this. I won’t do this. PLEASE! Whatever it was it worked. I ripped the plastic off the cd case and put what would be the most played album ever in to my moms two door white Toyota convertible. This was the last time I simply liked the music of Dave Matthews Band. When this album started I got chills. It was the most beautiful sounding song I had ever heard. It did something. Changed something. To this day I use this song to introduce people to the music. All the skeptical people who think DMB is just a bro band. That don’t listen to the music because they think of the “crowd” that likes his music. “I’d rather make fun of the band and the people that like him” type of feeling that unfortunately exists. When I put that cd in for what was then a twenty minute drive through the breezy Sarasota night I felt like I had discovered one of the greatest things ever. I discovered an escape.
This song at the time became my favorite song. There was something about the emotion. The passion that was put into this music that was unlike anything I’d ever heard. I fell in love with the voice. The stuff this man was doing vocally floored me. I’d never heard someone belt a scream with such sincerity, passion, and emotion. It was really powerful. A trait I would find that each musician of DMB puts into their performance.
When I got home I put the DVD on in my room. (And it would stay in my DVD player for months.) I remember watching the whole thing that night and it was during the encore that I really attribute “the moment” to. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds come back out on stage for a second encore.
The crowd is ecstatic. The guitars get strummed. And the camera pans to the crowd and these two guys aware of what the song is high five and hug each other. As if nothing in life could be better than the moment that they were living in. That was when I knew that I had found something so very special. It was also the first time I heard what would become my favorite song. The song with the most plays. My escape for hard times. My escape for good times. My favorite combination of sounds in all of existence. The song that instantly brings chills to my skin by the mere first chord being played. The song with a funny name… #41.
It was also this year that I suffered what would be the greatest tragedy of my life. I was on a rowing team. And it was a very close community. You spend hours every day out on the water in a small boat with several teammates. One morning we arrived to practice to find out that my coach had been killed in a car accident the night prior. It was in this that I turned to my escape. I made my way through this time by listening to this music. It provided me with a comfort. A way to deal with the pain. Something about the somberness and beauty of the music allowed me to feel the pain and yet move out of it all at the same time. It gave my mind a way to sit and think it through. I was actually going to try and see the band live for the first time this year but the funeral was the day of the concert in Tampa.
In 2008 I had expanded my Itunes library by a few thousand songs. I had bought all the live albums I could find. I had found that the shows were recorded by fans and put online giving me fun insight to past powerful performances. I had discovered the 20 minute jam songs. Which I should pause to add that prior to getting in to DMB I mostly listened to movie soundtracks. I loved instrumental music. This added tremendously to falling in love with this band that would put out these fantastic tunes and then add these incredible melodies. It gave me the best of both worlds. Once I became so familiar with the music I began to listen to the lyrics. To which a whole new level of love entered the fanaticism. His lyrics of struggling with God or his reasons of doubt added a deeper interest to the man behind the music. I found his lyrics fascinating. Nobody was writing and making music like this. I would just sit and think about these lyrics all the time.
(For more on Dave Matthews and Christianity read my post “Dave Matthews, Doubts, and Christianity”)
My parents were generous enough to get me tickets to go see them play live in Atlanta. I had maybe never been more excited for an event in my life. I did every possible thing to prepare for this trip. I had my music packed and was bringing my best friend Jessica along I knew it would be so special.
This year was the first year in many that Tim Reynolds would join the band as a full time touring member. Adding a heavier rock sound and complicated wizardry to the music. People were so excited for this. A week out I received a text from the Dave Matthews Newsletter saying that Saxophonist LeRoi Moore had been injured in an ATV accident. It was so upsetting. We would later receive word that he would be okay and that a saxophonist named Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones would be sitting in till he recovered. As the saying goes the show must go on. (LeRoi would pass away months later due to complication of the accident. It united the band and fans in a most beautiful sort of way that sometimes can only come out of such a dark tragedy.)
I remember arriving to Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta to what was already a long line. We payed the unreasonable parking fee outside the venue. And made a long hike down a steep hill to the entrance to the venue. Every car I passed was blasting their favorite Dave tunes. People were jamming on the tailgate of their cars. I was giddy with joy. There is something transporting about knowing you are about to be in the same place as your favorite musicians about to hear some of your favorite songs. Like you are stepping foot in another world. I remember the stage crew coming out and setting up this huge screen that looked almost like a cage. The lights went out and this image was projected and all of a sudden you knew that the band was standing right in front of you.
Feel free to travel back with me:
They began to strum their instruments though you couldn’t see them. Tim Reynolds played this loud trippy noise and the crowd went nuts. And then the violin came in. Oh that violin…and I started to cry haha. My favorite song of the time was OPENING my first show. The song crashed in, the screen began to lift up, and there was my favorite band playing to 20,000 of my closest friends. It was an experience I will never forget and will always hold close to my heart.
On July 7th, 2008 I saw my first Dave Matthews Band concert. What was a simple trip began what would become the most exciting tradition year to year.
So Damn Lucky>>
Old Dirt Hill
You Might Die Trying
Out of My Hands
So Much To Say>>
Anyone Seen the Bridge>>
Crash Into Me>>
Before Crash Into Me the crowd participated in a special video for Leroi Moore who was still in the hospital. The crowd chanted “We Want Roi”. There was something special about this crowd. Something different than other concerts. These fans were unique.
The following year I would see Dave Matthews Band 5 times. Two shows in Atlanta three shows in South Florida. These were the first shows I went by myself with the freedom of my own schedule. In Alpharetta on the second night I got to talking to the guy sitting next to me. Finally somebody around me that shared this same love and nerdiness that I did. We both played the opener game. Where you try and guess what song will open the night. Which is what makes the concerts so great. Everything is a surprise. Any song could come out. No show is the same. Every night you hear different songs. It’s not a stapled setlist like so many other touring bands. We would be guessing and hoping for songs the whole night. We danced like crazy to the point of almost getting kicked out of the venue. No joke. We all danced our hearts out during Tripping Billies and Two Step. We just went bouncing down the grassy hill and all of a sudden over thirty people had joined us in strutting all our momma’s had given us and dancing the night away with my friends. It was a mob of groove and it is one of my best memories of going to shows. It was here in Alpharetta that I met the kindness, the community, and the family, that are the Dave Matthews Fans. Or as some like to be called, Ants.
I want to challenge you to ditch all stereotypes and preconceived judgments you have about what a fan of Dave Matthews must be like. Because I mean it when I say I have never found a more welcoming, inviting, and loving community like the fans of Dave Matthews Band. Which may be hard for some of my closer community to accept. There is a united love for this music that transcends all backgrounds, politics, beliefs, and culture. It is one of the most accepting environments I have ever been a part of. That Guy I met in Alpharetta is named Chris Lombardi and we have since been to 10 different shows together in four different states. Together we have garnered a circle of friends that crosses the entire country. Each show we find people we know and love and celebrate what are the best times of our lives. Each year we add to the list friends whom we would have never met otherwise. People are there if you need a ticket or a place to crash. They offer their tailgates as your home. They get excited when you blast your Dave tunes from your car. They honk when they see your firedancer bumper sticker on the back of your car. You eat, drink, and be merry together. For hours you can sit and not be bored of each other. Sharing stories of shows you’ve been to. Songs you’ve seen or hope to see. Guess which songs you think will come out that night. Brag about band members you’ve met.
It is a destination where all around you are bent on sharing what we all like to call LoVE.
It is family.
The best trip of my life was traveling to the bands hometown of Charlottesville, Va with my good friends Chris Lombardi and Will Hegler. Or as many like to call us….”The Plaid Guys”
It was on this trip that we all got to interact with the band and the fans in the greatest ways possible. We all made lasting friendships that hold up despite being separated by state lines. To share one of our favorite moments. 2010 in West Palm Beach. There was a song that every fan loved and yet it had been absent from shows since 2006. Not even one play. Yet at almost every concert the crowd would chant for this song to return. This was at the time the holy grail of DMB tunes and as we stood on the lawn we had no idea we would be experiencing one the most exciting moments of our entire lives. If you don’t believe it someone filmed us.
Since my first show in 2008 I have seen the band play 17 times. And trust me it is not ending there. As long as I can afford it I will travel to see this band. One of my more exciting moments was being able to meet Tim Reynolds and simply thank him for the music that helped me through that time in my life. Others include talking with Dave from the front row about bringing a song called Spoon back then getting a community on board with bringing plastic spoons to the shows and getting Dave to play it as a stood on the front row in Charlottesville. Dave wearing my sunglasses in Tampa. Meeting Boyd Tinsley after a concert in Atlanta and the amazing hugs that he gives. Catching drumsticks tossed to me by the worlds greatest drummer Carter Beauford, the numerous set-lists I have received over the years and the road trips, stories, cheap dollar meals, cheerwines, beers, cigars, scorching heat, freezing cold, dead legs, sore throats, singing songs, laughters of shock and awe, high fives, hugs goodbye, friendships, and a tremendous amount of the best feeling in the world….
This is why I love the Dave Matthews Band.
On November 13th, 2016. I finally got to meet the man who gave me all of these memories and joy. And that night…he played #41.