By Laura LaVacca
Coming out in the early 1990s with their “Remember Two Things” album, over 20 years later, the Dave Matthews Band has released their eighth studio album “Away From the World” and at one point played a two-night gig at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The band is made up of the eclectic sounds of a classically trained violinist, a bass guitarist, a jazz saxophonist, a drummer and Matthews’ mellow, but at times rock, voice. The group of four came together in 1991, as a small band with profound lyrics and a unique sound. Quickly, their combination of jazz and rock gained great popularity. Their most notable records include “Satellite,” “Ants Marching” and “Crash.” Beyond these mega-hits, the band is scarcely played over the airwaves and reserved for more niche radio stations that satellite radio only offers. The band does little promotion except for touring. Yet, practically 30 albums, compilations and live recordings later, they have a loyal following that can only be described as cult-like.
“Their music literally takes you to another place…you forget all your problems and just enjoy the show for hours,” superfan Beth Smith explains.
The show, literally, is hours. It’s pure music, jamming and instruments. There’s hardly any glitz or glam and absolutely no choreographed dance numbers.
And, they certainly don’t hold back in concert. Average songs are at least 10 minutes long with one of the longest being “Two Step” clocking in at over 27 minutes.
“They are refreshing among auto-tuned artists and shows that have pyro and fireworks…this is honest music,” fan Colleen Cald notes. Cald picks up on what seems to be the appeal of this band, a concept all too rare, real music.
Bellmore resident Joe Giorgio piggybacks, “Their live shows are intense and their songs are unique. They don’t lip-sync, they don’t dance,” he continues. “This is my 28th show.”
Other concert goers have impressive numbers as well, “This is my 42nd concert,” Long Island native, Michael Bevilacq states, “And that’s nothing. Check the message boards…people have gone to hundreds of shows. “
“They put on almost three hour shows, each show is different — you never know what the set list will be,” Bevilacq states.
This winter tour promotes their latest album, a return to using producer Steve Lillywhite, who produced their earlier, largely successful albums of the late 1990s.
The highlight of the Barclays Concert, played on the infamous apocalypse date of December 21, was band opener, “When the World Ends.” Fans cheered as Dave sang along with a knowing smirk. They continued with a 21 song set list, a combination of songs old and new.
The set lists seem to be almost a game to both the band and fans. There are apps for smart phones that super-fans can download to receive updates about song set lists, receive notifications of what the band is currently playing and even offers a space to log in all concerts attended. Rare songs seem to be coveted and fans can receive a graphed version of how many times they’ve seen each song.
Some even hold out for a rarity, “I am waiting to hear a song called #40,” explains concert-goer Jessica Calderon, “He hasn’t played it since ’08; he teases it though.” Calderon refers to Dave’s propensity to start a song but stop it just as the crowd gets roaring.
“I’m holding out for it,” stated Calderon, who is at concert 89. “Maybe I’ll hear it at my 100th.”
There are dozens of websites devoted to the congregation of “ants” (as Dave Matthews Band fans refer to themselves, a reference to one of their most well-known songs, “Ants Marching”). Sites like “antsmarching.org” and “dmbalmanac.com” give fans a chance to share their concert experiences, and note how many they’ve enjoyed and reminisce about epic concerts. Overall, the band’s fans share a large sense of community.
The band started with this sense of family when they used to play malls and other small venues. Attendees were encouraged to tape the performances and trade. By the time they played their first college campus concert, fans knew the songs already. This sharing mentality is still something that keeps fans connected to each other and the band. Their first video for the latest album utilized over 14,000 contributions from fans in the forms of pictures and videos.
The Barclays marked the tail end of the winter tour, but the band will not take a hiatus anytime soon. Upcoming shows are scheduled for this spring, with the notable Jazz Festival in New Orleans as being one of their stops alongside Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel and other heavy hitters.