The family that listens to DMB together …
Tough luck. Just too close to the date. She wound up wrangling an agreement over the club Web site with someone from Austin, Texas, who wouldn’t be able to make it. And the tickets came in the mail, just in time.
I met her at a hotel near the Brown Palace in downtown Denver. She’d been out of town for a couple of weeks and insisted we meet there. The kids had kept the secret pretty well, though I was pretty sure something was up. Rachel, 11, had written in the dust of the rear window – “Everyday,” the latest CD at the time.
Still, I never caught on. Rachel is a Dave Matthews Band freak even at her tender age. Same with her brother, her mother, her dad. Not in the sense we prowl Web sites or follow the group’s news. But for the past year or so, it’s about all we’ve listened to.
So that May evening delivered a double gift, the only CD we didn’t have and the two concert tickets inside. If she could have scored four, this would have been a family outing. The crowd showed a similar depth of fandom as our own, with kids younger than ours and a vein of fans even older than us.
For my generation, the fact we all like the same band is nothing short of miraculous. I mean, my parents thought the Beatles were noise, never mind real rock ‘n’ roll. It was a hard division, a tangible symbol of the generation gap, a gulf between our togetherness.
True, my kids might be a little weird. ‘N Sync, Britney Spears and such never came close for them, and hip hop and rap have yet to catch hold. They dissed the Who and James Brown and embraced Smashmouth, true, but they could at least stomach the Eagles.
Dave Matthews was new ground for all of us. As with my wife and my relationship, it wasn’t exactly love at first, either. She’d liked this song “Crash” we’d heard on the radio July 4, 1997, during an aimless drive that wound up at Niagra Falls and a helluva fireworks show. For her birthday I got the wrong CD, “Live at Red Rocks,” since I didn’t know the name of the song. And then the CD named, um, “Crash” when I realized the mistake.
We listened to them once, maybe twice, didn’t think much of either and they fell to the bottom of the bin. It wasn’t until I ran out of music on my drive here from California ahead of the family that I finally turned to them again. By the time I got here the last day of October 1999, I wouldn’t listen to anything else.
Gradually, first Mary, now 14-year-old Ben and finally Rachel – we all fell. I’ve found with every CD that I have to listen a minimum of five times before I start even liking the music. And then I’m hooked. Turned out the same with the rest of the family.
The music sneaks up on you. The sound is unique, complex, a cool to crazy blend of rock and jazz I couldn’t begin to compare to anyone else. Dave Matthews’ voice runs all over the range, deep and gravelly to high and piercing, often enough in the same lyric. The core band is made up of two white guys and three black guys ranging in age from 28 to mid-40s, violin and sax to go with the staple drums, guitar and bass. A “guest” lead guitarist shows up for their studio work and has gone on tour. They often pick up a keyboard player. Their concert work and even most studio albums offer long jams.
They’ve been together since Matthews picked up some help with a tape in Charlottsvile, Va., in 1991. Now they are known as one of the great live show bands. Their concerts for the rest of this tour have long been sold out, and USA Today pegged them at fifth in tour earnings so far this year, between ‘N Sync and the Eagles. This issue of the rock hallmark Rolling Stone has them as the cover story, and I just read that their latest CD, “Busted Stuff,” was the top seller for the Billboard 200 in its first week since being released July 16. Along with the latest release’s success, the previous CD, “Everyday,” got a boost in sales too, rising to 67 from 120 on the same list.
The fan club membership – I’m almost not embarrassed to admit membership – paid off with a discount and “Busted Stuff” coming in the mail July 16. This one, a compilation of older discarded songs the band revisted and reworked, is slower, cooler and more ballad-like (if ballads can have sax riffs) than previous efforts. And it’s a big change from the band’s most pop effort, “Everyday.”
Now that we’ve endured our first five-six playings of the newest CD, of course we can hardly listen to anything else. And the “anything else” has been all Dave Matthews for all of us. Naturally.
If we’re not careful, I fear the moment we gather around the computer, plotting vacation around a final show at a venue called The Gorge along the Columbia River in Washington state. Bad enough, thanks to a conversation over red wine with a bartender at the Gore Range Brewery who has been there, we even know this much.
Still, with in this instance the generation gap fused shut, this would be a true family vacation. I’m really arching my eyebrow at that thought, while catching myself singing along with “Busted Stuff” as I finish writing.
“Turn it up!” a kid calls. Good idea.
Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or at firstname.lastname@example.org