Tonight, everyone works for free |

Tonight, everyone works for free

Don Rogers

A weekend of Dave Matthews Band concerts at Red Rocks is a warm, strong hug.This is Thanksgiving with a huge family that gets along and embraces strangers as its own. You only think you don’t know your neighbor on the bench. Once you start talking, look out. The conversations often linger into the next song. And of course, it seems everyone knows the words just well enough to shout them out. It’s nothing to come to every show, all four, from all over the country. Each concert is different. The band seldom repeats songs from the previous night. These shows, the end of the tour, each sold out in minutes. The band has come a long ways from the third act behind Big Head Todd and Los Lobos back in the ’90s.The Dave Matthews Band’s sound is an acquired taste, at least for me. You have to be patient and play a CD at least five times to begin to get it. Then it’s the best. Patience here is a virtue, just as elsewhere.They are billed as rock, and maybe that is the closest category. But really, I think their music is more jazz and why the sound takes awhile to settle in. Sax, violin, bass, drums, keyboards and Dave’s voice and acoustic guitar make up the core. Often they have guests – Bella Fleck, Victor Wooten, Timmy Reynolds, Warren Haynes, Carlos Santana. This weekend it’s Rashawn Ross, a jazz trumpeter from the Virgin Islands who performs with Yerba Buena.But Monday’s show, it’s something special.You might have heard about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina. All that devastation. The Big Easy’s luck finally giving out after 300 years and flooding to the brim.The Dave Matthews Band wanted to do something to help. They suggested adding one more night to their last stop of summer at Red Rocks. Maybe they could give their proceeds to the hurricane relief effort.The promoter, Chuck Morris, got awfully busy awfully quickly. “It was 24 hours a day. We only had a week,” he said. “No one turned us down. It was hard to reach people. But it was easy because everyone wanted to contribute.”By everyone, he meant literally everyone. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper provided Red Rocks for free, and his staff helped Morris’ crew line up big sponsorships as well as arrange for every person involved in the concert to donate everything that night. Roadies, security, vendors and ushers all worked for free. So did the Neville Brothers, themselves from New Orleans, who performed before the Dave Matthews Band that night. Later, Ivan Neville helped DMB bring the house down sitting in on slide guitar toward the end of the show.Morris said even some of the concession tip jars went straight to the Dave Matthews Band’s charitable arm, Bama Works. The tally? Over $1.5 million. Not bad for a Monday night, eh? Oh yeah, the 9,600 or so seats sold out like that, including a bunch that went for $500 and $1,000 each. (For the record, we got the $58.50 seats that the band insisted remain available for their regular following.)Vail Resorts dropped $50,000 on some of those big bucks tickets, incidentally, and gave them to employees. Enough of them wanted to go that they had to do it by lottery.”This will go down in history, not just for Denver, but rock ‘n’ roll,” Morris said.”The Dave Matthews Band has a long history of doing things to support all sorts of causes,” said their publicist, John Vlautin. Just weeks before the hurricane, the band gave $250,000 to help a village in Sri Lanka that was hit by the tsunami last December. The list of groups that Bama Works helps runs two pages long. Matthews performed Sunday at Farm Aid and is scheduled to perform Tuesday in two hurricane benefit concerts in New York City.”I don’t know where he gets the energy,” Vlautin said. Last Wednesday, Matthews, born in South Africa, introduced Bishop Desmond Tutu at a youth AIDS event in Washington, D.C. And this is supposed to be vacation.”Talk about stepping up to the plate before anyone else did,” said Kara Hyde, who oversees community contributions for Vail Resorts, crediting the band for being a catalyst for the tide of giving that followed. Vail Resorts also is working with Harrah’s casino company to possibly hire displaced workers in the Gulf Coast region and house them here this winter.Morris and Vlautin each emphasized that the whole band is giving like this, and they watch where the money goes. Morris said the band hadn’t made a final decision about where to send Monday night’s earnings, but was leaning toward Habitat for Humanity for most of it.”Even though Dave is a rock star and all, he does not think he’s different from anyone else,” Vlautin said. “The whole band is like that. They’ve stayed close to their roots from the beginning. Where they started is at the forefront of their minds.” And that was pretty humble, like all indie bands. As Sunday ticked into Monday after the last regular show of the tour, a mom and teen daughter happened to be near Matthews’ personal bus as he shuttled down from the stage. A gate closed behind the white van. The musician got out and spoke with the same guard who had chatted with the mom and daughter.In a moment the gate opened and out came the star to envelope the mom and the daughter each in big long hugs and joke about a shared birthday. The girls were stunned by the warmth of his embrace. They shouldn’t have been. After all, isn’t Dave himself part of this family? Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or Vail, Colorado

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