What am I missing about the Dave Mathews Band?
today at 11:18 am
It’s Labor Day weekend. The end of meteorological summer. It usually signals the end of the summer concert season. The problem is this year it never started. Like almost everything else, concerts were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you wanted to hear music, you needed to break out your old discs, check out You Tube or go to wherever you find your tunes in 2020.
With almost all musicians on hiatus, artists tried to find a way to bring their music to their fans. You’d see a lot of bands streaming their old concerts. Yesterday, I received an email from Live Nation telling me what artists will be streaming music this weekend. The Dave Mathews Band has been doing this all summer. They’ve called it the DMB Drive-In series. Each show takes donations that benefit different charities. It’s a great idea that has raised more than $500,000. They’ll do three more shows this weekend before taking a break.
Seeing this reminded me of a day from almost two decades ago….
The year is 2002. The time is around 3 pm. I’m sitting at my desk in an office high over Michigan Avenue, in downtown Chicago. One of my co-workers is heading towards the door, with his jacket over his shoulder. It looks like he’s leaving work early. He has a big smile on his face and waves goodbye to me. I’m wondering what’s going on, so I wave him over. It leads to this conversation:
H: What’s up, man. What’s going on?
A: I’m leaving early. Got to get ready to go to see Dave Mathews.
H: Ahhh. That’s why you’re grinning?
A: I’ve been wanting to see them forever. In fact, I saved up so I can go to all their shows this week. You know they do different songs each night. It’s going to great.
H: Okay, have fun.
A: Really, it’s going to be great. I’m leaving early for the next three days.
H: (laughing) Okay..Okay…have a great time.
And the guy really did leave early for the next three days. When he returned the next morning, he’d walk in with a shit-eating grin on his face. By the way, I’m not knocking this. It’s great when anything you do can make you that happy. It makes your life so much better. I just didn’t get what it was about the Dave Mathews Band that did it!
At the time of that chat, DMB had been around for close to ten years. They had released five studio albums and had a reputation as a great live band. I was somewhat familiar with their music. I’d hear their songs on the radio and I wouldn’t immediately go searching for another station. The music was fine, but I didn’t think it was anything special. It didn’t make me want to search deep into their catalog of tunes. It certainly didn’t get into my soul. I did wonder what it was that made my co-worker full of such joy.
It’s close to twenty years later. The company we worked for is long gone. I have no idea where my former co-worker is. But, the Dave Mathews Band is still going strong…in fact, stronger than ever.
However, they still maintain that same space in my life. I know they’re around. I have no real issues with them, other than the incident where they dumped a ton of shit on people cruising the Chicago River ( and even with that, we’ve all heard worse stories about rock bands).
Then came this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voting thing. For a couple of months, fans are allowed to vote on their favorites of the nominees for induction to the Hall. The final totals play a small part in who is actually chosen to be inducted. The Dave Mathews Band gathered more than one million votes. It was by the most of any candidate. They topped the second choice, Pat Benatar, by more than one hundred thousand votes. I know a lot of this is because the band has a huge presence of social media. They do a great job of reaching out to their fans. Still, the total of votes and the margin is astounding. Also astounding is that even with this, they weren’t elected to the Rock Hall. This is the first time that the leading fan vote-getter wasn’t elected. It’s led to a lot of protests from their fans.
So when you add all this together, it made wonder….what is the deal with these guys? What is it about DMB that I’m missing?
I decided to take a closer listen. I checked out their discography, found all nine of their studio albums, picked out a couple of songs from each one, some studio versions, others from different concerts. I went to You Tube to hear them. After a couple of hours, I still don’t get it!
The musicians in the band are technically good. Dave’s voice isn’t anything special, is it? The lyrics aren’t exactly Bob Dylan-like, are they? It wasn’t the worst way to spend a few hours, but I didn’t hear anything that moved me. Nothing that reached into my heart or soul.
I wasn’t done yet. I had to dig a little deeper. It was time to search for a Dave Mathews Band
groupie cult member. Maybe Facebook has one? I asked, “What is it about DMB you like or dislike?” Here are some of the responses:
“Not exactly a hater, but don’t exactly love them either. And I really don’t understand the cult-like following they have.”
“I like a good amount of their songs, but don’t understand the cult following either.”
“They are so much better live than on record. When they jam it’s great.”
“Love, love his older music. I think it’s amazing. Saw him a long time ago, he was great in concert!!”
“I have been to 5 DMB shows, the last of which was ~15 years ago. I would love to see them still!! The fact that they incorporate horns, strings, etc. really made them fantastic live.”
Hmmmm….so a variety of opinions. Kind of like most other bands and artists. After all this, I still don’t understand the obsessions with DMB…and I guessing I never will. Ehhh….oh well.
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