If the following sentence connects with you then keep reading; if it doesn't, then you should keep reading anyway because a history lesson could do you some good. "I was in college or about to go into college in the early 90s."
If that sentence does apply to you then you were hopefully in tune to the music of that era. Yes, we can call the 90s an era now [Ed. Note: I turned one year old in February of 1990 and even I get nostalgic for that era]. The 70s were the last pure form of music development. Bands recorded an album, went on tour, promoted their music and did it all over again - for years. Record labels invested money into the development and promotion of music. If you grew up listening to music in the 70s, you had a great time. The 80s came along and ruined all of that with their cheesy keyboard inspired music, weird outfits, and some unreal hair ( Yes the sirius 80s channel is a preset in my car - sorry). Then the 90s happened...thank goodness for the 90s and the ascendancy of alternative music. Bands were bands again, albums were made, and live shows were prominent. Music Labels put money into developing music again. It was the 70s again with a modern twist.
One such band to rise out of the 90s was the Dave Matthews Band. If the 70s had Led Zepplin, the Who and the Grateful Dead, then the 90s had Pearl jam, Nirvana, and Dave Matthews. If you were in college, especially a college in the southeast, then you no doubt knew their music. I witnessed my first DMB concert when I was working for a nightclub called Trax, where DMB played at every Tuesday for I think $5. I remember the first time I saw one of his concerts. I had no idea what the songs were, but it did not matter. I had to go because that was the thing to do. Plus it got me partying in Charlottesville. The last I looked the girls are very pretty at UVA. Anyway, I connected with his music, and I remember saying to myself, the guy on the drums was incredible.
I got my copies of Recently
and Remember Two Things
, and suddenly I was a fan. DMB spent the early part of the 90s rotating between Trax, The Flood Zone in Richmond, and pretty much every fraternity house/college campus that would have them. Their concerts were giant parties really. A great mixture of jam based rock and roll fusion. The fraternity dudes, the good looking girls, and the jocks were always at his concerts. It didn't matter what your story was; it was about his music and your connection to it. Back then shows were recorded with cassette tapes. Those concert tapes got copied and passed around. Word spread very quickly about DMB and pretty soon the days of the weekly $5 show became a thing of the past. Watching DMB at Trax is memory that only a certain group of fans can cherish.
It was a great time to be a music fan. It was the perfect development of a fan base. The development of that base propelled DMB into the national spotlight and more importantly, national touring. It is safe to say that in the modern era of iTunes and quick dollar music business that if DMB were to be created today, the odds would be overly stacked against him. The way he developed his brand is often copied but never duplicated. Dave Matthews could create a song around "Ring Around the Rosey," play it for twenty minutes and his Warehouse fans would eat it up...maybe even go on tour.
Well after 20 years, The Dave Matthews Band is still touring. It might even be called the DMB aka the Dave Matthews Business. His latest summer tour dubbed Two Sets stopped by the PNC Arts Center, in NJ last Wednesday night. It raised the question - what is the secret formula to Dave's longevity?
I am not here to rehash the show and pick apart the setlist. It was sold out, as in "good luck even scalping a ticket in the parking lot" sold out. The true fans of the Warehouse, they were not selling. The place was packed. Then again every show for DMB is sold out. It is why they tour every summer. The fans keep showing up, regardless of any new music. I have often heard Dave referred to as the modern day Grateful Dead. The constant touring every year and the shows rotating set lists each night, much like the Dead. I get the analogy, but musically? DMB crushes the Dead. Insert your arguing comments now. [Ed. Note: I'm going to have to argue you with you here, Mark.] I am grateful the Dead have gone away. I was never a Dead Head. Never liked their music or the fan's odors or actions. Do I respect what they accomplished business wise? You better believe it. I Just didnt care. If I am going to spend my money on concert tickets and follow a band around like its my job, then I would pick Dave Matthews all day, every day and twice on Sunday.
This year's tour is broken up into two sets, acoustic and electric. It's a smart move on Dave's part. Keep the band fresh without needing new music to promote. You want to play summer ampitheaters and arenas, you better put on a show. Dave and Tim Reynolds ( guitarist and acoustic partner) would often tour together when not touring with the full band. Their acoustic shows are staples amongst rabid DMB fans. Incorporating the acoustic feel and electric feel gives all types of fans what they want. It connects the fans to the early years that watched Dave grow as an artist and it connects the modern day DMB fan who might be favoring Big Whiskey and GrooGrux King
- his last produced album.
Dan Wintz is one such fan that I ran into at this show. He is from Philadelphia and has been to over 70 concerts of Dave Matthews. It started for him back in 94 when DMB played in West Virginia [Ed. Note: West Virginia, represent! Sorry. I'm a local.]. He has never missed a tour since the first time he saw him play. I asked him what is it about DMB that connects with you? "Well, I have been a fan for over 20 years now and mainly it is his music. It is that simple; I just really like his jazzy rock and roll music. The group is great, and I enjoy them very much. Every show is different and when I hear them play it reminds me of some great times 20 years ago. I actually prefer DMB from the younger/earlier years, but it's all the same great music, just on a bigger stage."
When the concert actually got going, Dave came out solo and performed John Denvers "Take Me to Tomorrow." "I figure I would come out and play a song and give a chance to everyone still making it to their seats before we get started." Once the butts were in the seats it was 2015 Dave Matthews. The band has expanded slightly over the years , since the Trax days, but the sound and the vibe is all the same. The first ten songs were performed stripped, or acoustically as they like to call it. There was a 20 minute break and then the amps were plugged in. Acoustically "Funny the Way It Is," "You and Me," and "Typical Situation" made the rotation.
When the electric set started, it was the powerhouse "Don't Drink the Water." Some classics like "Satellite," "Mercy," and "Cornbread" made the cut as well. The real treat was Warren Haynes (of Government Mule & Allman Brothers fame) joined the band on stage. "Can't Stop" and then "Cortez the Killer" just absolutely sucked in the audience; lengthy guitar solos were watched emphatically like a dog staring at food through a window.
The show ended with "Ants Marching." It felt rushed and a little cut off, but I think there was timing issues on the night and the acoustic set ran longer than they wanted to so the evening didn't end in the traditional 2 encores, but the show was great regardless. It left everyone wanting more, which, correct me if I'm wrong, is what you want out of a rock show?
In a recent interview, Dave was quoted as saying that he thinks his band is "pretty bad ass" and that "they are trying not to suck." Dave, I think you have been jamming now for over 20 years, so I am pretty sure your band is bad ass and you guys certainly did not suck the other night at PNC.
The same fans who supported you back in the day at Trax are the same ones still cranking out seats for your concerts. Maybe your music brings us back to a good time in our lives and we all want to be reminded of the good times. Or maybe you're smarter than all of us and recognize good business and it seems like DMB going on tour is good business.