Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dave Matthews Band

You could probably choose any week of any year and identify significant sports-related events that have occurred. This past week I was aggravated to have many Yahoo updates and Facebook statuses related to Lebron James, which really doesn’t interest me at all. As I write this, several members of my family are sprawled on the couch watching the World Cup finals, thus ending that annoying buzzing noise coming from the living room. However, the sports-related event of the past week or so that I find most interesting (okay, it was 9 days ago) is that the Dave Matthews Band is concluding their summer tour in September by playing two shows in Wrigley Field, home of our beloved and beleaguered Cubs. I’ll admit that this is a loose association to actual sports, although Dave was born and largely raised in South Africa, which makes the connection to sports just slightly stronger (today anyway). I also think enough years have passed that our fine city is ready to forgive Dave and his crew for dumping poop on an architectural boat on the Chicago River, although I’m sure memories of that will surface as the tour dates draw closer.

I’ve been a big fan of DMB since the late nineties, a few years after his first studio album came out, and some of their first few albums are still some of my favorites. The band was formed in 1991 and still has four of the five original members; sadly, one of the founding members died in ’08 after an ATV accident (careful, kids). DMB is known for their long summer tours (which I have been fortunate enough to have caught twice); however, they are reportedly not going to tour next summer in order to spend more time with their families. Interestingly, the band allows concertgoers to tape and share the live shows, crediting this sharing with some of their early success.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I have loved DMB so much over the years. Dave is roughly my age (a year older), supports a number of environmental causes (river poop dumping notwithstanding) and was a fairly active supporter of Obama during the 2008 presidential race. Some of his songs feel very personal in their description of the intensity and confusion surrounding certain relationships. The fact that the group has such a wide fan base and such broad appeal speaks not only to their ability to put out songs that are catchy and can attain wide radio play, but also to the fact (I think) that people feel something personal in the lyrics- that’s how I feel anyway. It’s really difficult to narrow down all of DMB’s songs to a single playlist, but here are some of my all-time favorite songs (and the corresponding albums), for various reasons.

The Best of What’s Around (Under the Table and Dreaming) – This song has kind of a carpe diem message. Dave’s dad died when he was about 10, and a lot of his earlier songs have a similar sort of message

Lover Lay Down (Under the Table and Dreaming) – This is a really quiet song and has such an intimate quality that you almost feel like you’re intruding. It’s a really pretty song, though.

Jimi Thing (Under the Table and Dreaming) – Okay, Dave has said you can interpret the lyrics to this song any way you want, but it is widely believed to be about smoking pot. He plays it in concert a lot and it’s got a cool, mellow feel to it, no matter what it’s about.

Two Step (Crash) – This is one of my favorite running songs because of the energetic beat, but I also love the lyrics: two people kind of being in step with each other. Sort of a great love song, though not in the traditional sense.

Crash Into Me (Crash) – This song had some radio success- still love it.

#41 (Crash) – The “title” of this song (and some others) refers to it being the 41st song written by the group. Listening to it is kind of a journey in various different sounds and lots of cool instrumentals.

Say Goodbye (Crash) – This is probably a really inappropriate song to like because it’s essentially about having a one night stand with a close friend and then “go back to being friends”. It’s actually kind of sad, but it’s a really pretty song.

Stay (Before These Crowded Streets) – This is one of the lighter songs from this album. It’s basically about just hanging out and not having to be doing something all the time. Neat message, great sound.

So Right (Everyday) – This wasn’t one of my favorite Dave albums, but I did love this song. It’s pretty energetic. This song is attempting to persuade someone that that you don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so take advantage of what you have now. I’m noticing that the same message comes out in a lot of his songs.

Stay or Leave (Some Devil) – Sometimes I wonder what Dave’s wife thinks about the lyrics to some of these songs, although maybe he writes them with her in mind. Another pretty one.

Up and Away (Some Devil) – I don’t know why I always think of a hot air balloon when I hear this song, but in addition to the title it has kind of an upbeat, sing-song sound to it.

Dreamgirl (Stand Up) – Not much to this one beyond what you would expect from the title, but good lyrics. A song like this makes me smile; it has such a happy, uncomplicated meaning to it.

American Baby (Stand Up) – I think this one got radio play, also. It’s a little political, actually, but it’s got a hopeful message to it.

Hunger For the Great Light (Stand Up) – This song is pretty overtly sexual, and the sound matches as it’s “harder” and edgier. Dave isn’t all poems and roses, it turns out.

You and Me (Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King) – This one has a great message: people can achieve more together than separately.

It turns out Julia Roberts is also a big DMB fan, and she appeared in the video for Dreamgirl (below). Enjoy!

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