When I first heard about them, I hated Dave Matthews Band. Not necessarily because of their music–I seem to vaguely recall enjoying the first few measures of the chorus to “So Much to Say” in late middle school–but because of what I thought they stood for.
DMB first came onto my radar as a junior in high school. At the time I was something of a metalhead, and into bands like Pantera and Metallica. I had hair down to my shoulders and wore my two Pink Floyd t-shirts regularly in my wardrobe rotation. I couldn’t stand the preppie kids at school, or their music–and not for any particular reason. I was a rebel without a clue.
My fellow long-haired buddy Tom started dating a preppie girl sometime in the fall of junior year, and he basically ditched me for several months. He was the same kind of guy that I was, but he changed when he started dating her. His grades got better, his attitude sunnier, and, much to my disgust, he started listening to the same music she liked. In short, my friend had outgrown me. I remember giving Tom a lot of crap about how he was selling out by listening to the same music all those hair-spiking, collared-shirt-wearing, good-grade-earning kids we hated as a rule in high school–not that we knew any of them first-hand. As my friend continued to spend time with his girlfriend, and I struck out on my own, my feelings for Dave Matthews Band didn’t seem like they would be changing any time soon.
The best thing I did in high school was get a job. It got me out of the house, away from my family (we both needed a break from one another), and away from some poor influences in my neighborhood. I spent time as a cashier and stockboy at the local K-Mart, and later obtained gainful employment at a dying grocery store down the street from my high school. Getting a job offered me a sense of self-worth that I hadn’t had in years, gave me something resembling a social life, and put some money in my pocket. Rather than grow my savings account for college or use it to buy much-needed in-style clothing, I blew most of it on CDs. At one time, my collection numbered over five hundred discs. I would get my check, cash it, and proceed to go to the local used-CD store, Best Buy, and Blockbuster music. Every payday. In that order. I’d typically come home with six or seven new discs at a time, some of which I would dislike, and I would return to the used-CD store and sell my wares, sometimes hours later.
One late-Spring or early Summer night sometime between the end of junior year and the beginning of senior year, I was at Best Buy, scanning the CD racks, when I thought to myself that I should have a Dave Matthews Band CD for my collection. “Even if I only listen to it a couple of times, every self-respecting music collector should have at least one of their albums, right?” Months after my buddy ditched me for his girlfriend, my attitudes had begun to mellow. I knew DMB had a solid live reputation, so I purchased the double-disc Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95. I got home and fired up my family’s Macintosh computer and put in disc one because… well, that’s when I listened to most of my music–when I was messing around on AOL, chatting with friends.
The first track that came on was “Seek Up.” Within the first few notes, I was immediately hooked. Something about the intro to the song called to mind warm summer nights, girls, romance, sex, and the longing I felt for all of those things at seventeen. The song is thirteen and a half minutes long–too long by my standards at that time–but the music was able to cut through my short attention span and captivate me. Then, as now, I daydream almost always when I’m listening to music. “Seek Up” took me far away from my parents living room, or their basement, or my headphones. I had to hear more.
The rest of Live at Red Rocks was pretty good too. Dave was pretty good at ad-libbing creative lyrical intros and outros, and even throws in a reference to John Denver’s “Sunshine on my Shoulders” during one of them. The music was upbeat, fun, and sexy at different parts. I was hooked.
As my senior year began, I did what I always did when I became obsessed with a band: I blew most of my paychecks on their entire catalog. While I didn’t even have a CD player (or cassette player, for that matter) in my car, I managed to listen to each of DMB’s past releases on my headphones before I slept, on my stereo as I wrote in my journal, and whenever I was on America Online chatting with friends.
The music became the background to my daydreams, as I fantasized about cute girls I saw in the halls at school, or in the aisles at the grocery store. Where once I had dreamed apocalyptic fantasies to Metallica, no my daydreams were… romantic. My attitude had changes as well. I wasn’t the dark, negative, angry person I had been before. I was more upbeat and positive that I had been at any time since I was a kid. The music wasn’t necessarily the cause of my mood change, but it was an influence.
I entered college in the summer of 2000, at the tail end of the zenith of Dave Matthews Band’s popularity. Walking around campus, you’d occasionally hear the music blaring from open windows, and posters of Dave Matthews playing a guitar could be seen in living rooms at house parties. The band’s music was the music of fratboys, sorority girls, and some of the stoners.
I craved new releases by the band and when Everyday finally came out in February of 2001, I downloaded a few of the tracks on Napster (remember that?!) on my roommates’ desktop computer and… found myself disappointed. Everyday wasn’t the sound of Dave Matthews Band. It was the sound of Dave Matthews, studio “magic,” and producer Glenn Ballard. The release was popular, and produced a couple of hits that I didn’t care for, but I was nearly heartbroken. It wasn’t just that the sound of the band had changed or evolved–it was that the band had gone in a completely different direction, leaving it’s unique sound behind. The band’s first four major albums, Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets represented a natural evolution of the band’s unique sound. For my money, Everyday was a total departure from what made the band fun. Their sound had became sterile and uninteresting.
Slowly, I began to lose interest in the band that had been my favorite for years. I enjoyed Busted Stuff when it came out, but the music on that album had actually been written several years before it was actually released. I saw DMB a couple of times in concert, at the New World Music Theater/Tweeter Center/Whatever It’s Called Today, and was disappointed. The venue, whatever it’s name, has a horrendous sound. Seeing Dave Matthews and Friends at the Allstate Arena in December of 2003 was good, but my heart wasn’t as into the music as it had been before.
For a long time, I got away from DMB until I bought my own place shortly before I was married. Once my wife and I started spending time on the deck in the backyard, I started playing some of my old favorite from the end of high school and early college. I still found the music to be fun, enjoyable, upbeat, and perfect for drinking beers outdoors in warm weather.
The music I was daydreamed to has now become the background music and summer get-togethers with friends. The music today often serves as time travel for me, like all great music does from past periods of one’s life.