Summer means a lot of things to a lot of folks – cookouts, swimming, vacations… all the regular players. For me, above all, it means seeing one of my favorite musical acts – the Dave Matthews Band, in concert, more than once.
What the what? you might ask. As any fan knows, this band plays a different set every night. You read that right. So, if you ever have the chance to see them at a 2-nighter extravaganza, you now get why lots of people try to go to both and make an awesome weekend of it. If you happened to go to both nights, for example, outside of Pittsburgh at First Niagara Pavilion on July 13th and 14th, you would have seen a total of 41 songs played, almost 5.5 hours of show time, and NOT ONE REPEAT. Not ONE. What kind of band gives you that sort of bang for your buck?! But enough of me selling these guys, I have already done that over here.
I was a lucky attendee of night 2 (my 31st show! One for every year I’ve been alive), which sort of broke my heart, as I am usually at both nights. See, I love the First Niagara Pavilion (formerly Post Gazette, formerly Star Lake). It’s not Alpine or SPAC or the Gorge (the big guns), but it’s got a sort of dirty, hillbilly, midwestern charm. Burgettstown is just outside of Pittsburgh, and there’s honestly not SHIT there. Little convenience stores, creepy backwoods bars, and some campgrounds. Lots of folks brave the camping but seeing as I refuse to be somewhere with no running water, my friends and I usually stay in the nearest hotel, in Weirton, WV, just a few miles away. And we have a tradition of going each year. Tailgating all day (as long as you’re over 21 and drinking out of cups or cans, they don’t care WHAT you do here) is a complete and utter blast, that is almost as fun as the damn show. I find myself always leaving our site begrudgingly.
But on to the show… and my goodness, what a show.
Considering the Dave Matthews Band has been touring for over 20 years, I think it really says something that my 31st show is hands down one of the best I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s from working on the stellar material from their new album that’s coming out next month (squee!!), but they all seemed to be having the absolute time of their lives. I’m talking pure, unadulterated joy. I often wonder how they can play the same songs for multiple decades and act like they still love to play them – but I think I finally discovered the answer. They’re not acting. They really do love to play, and their enthusiasm bleeds into their fingers, voices, and ginormous assortment of instruments. Dave’s voice has a tendency to go scratchy/death metal/is his throat filling up with blood? as the summer progresses, but of the two shows I’ve seen this year, it I liken it to butter, or honey, or any other smooth, delectable substance.
The show opened with ‘Squirm‘, from their last studio album, Big Whiskey and the Groogux King, and goddamn, I forgot that this song rocks, and was a fantastic opening to the ridiculously steaming hot evening. ‘Proudest Monkey’ and ‘Satellite’ are beloved, old-as-time tracks that are always great to hear, but they mellowed everyone out after getting us going with ‘Squirm’. But as I said, I couldn’t be disappointed because they looked so full of happiness. It was infectious!! When Dave announced, “I’ve got a sister named Jane, and this is ‘The Song that Jane Likes’,” I thought, okay… this is getting good. ‘Jane‘ is an ancient track that is a great sing-along and higher energy than the previous two songs.
Next up was ‘Shake Me Like a Monkey‘, continuing Dave’s need to lyrically discuss primates, and you know what? I adore this song. It is FUN, SEXY (“I’d rather be lickin’ you from your back to your belly” – Jesus Christ Dave, yer killin’ me), and a blast to belt out.
The opening notes of #41 always inspire the most ecstatic cheers and screams from the crowd, and since this is in my top 5 favorite songs, I also went ballistic. I’ll never forget the first time I heard this. (Yes, I cried) To this day, it’s still crazy special to me. When 20,000+ people are all screaming “I wanted to stayyyyyy I wanted to playyyyyy I wanted to LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU” you will most certainly have an orgasm. Dave hit the crazy high-ass notes like they were nothin’, and Jeff Coffin’s saxophone talents were on full display. Pure, aural magic.
Throughout the 2012 tour, the boys have been playing several new tracks off their upcoming release. At this point, Dave informed us that we were going to see one that had NEVER BEEN PLAYED LIVE. Orgasm alert! Nothing pumps up a bunch of DMB fans than feeling like they’re getting something at a show that nobody else is! So began ‘Belly Belly Nice’, which was fantastic. Thanks for giving us a special treat, guys. 🙂
‘Big Eyed Fish‘ is a song you don’t hear a lot, and it’s one that has always been hauntingly beautiful to me, (“but oh God, under the weight of life, things seem brighter on the other side”). I could easily say I’m tired of the next run of songs, but they were all played to such perfection, with such enthusiasm, and to the obvious delight of everyone there, it’s just not possible. ‘Don’t Drink the Water’ was as good as it’s ever been, which is to say fucking astronomically amazing. That song basically tears the roof off the pavilion, with its precise mix of power and darkness. It’s still shocking to me when I realize how different that one is live from it’s slower studio origins. ‘So Much to Say’ into ‘Too Much’ is basically a 20- minute Zumba dance session (oh woops, or is that just me?). ‘Dancing Nancies‘ is a HUGE favorite of mine, and the world’s, so when those familiar opening notes began, with Dave uttering “Could I have been?”, it was easy to go apeshit. Dave Matthews does darkness SO WELL (“23 and so tired of life, such a shame, to throw it all away) – this song is a fantastic ode to questioning how we all are who we are and why. Add in the simultaneous swelling of joy at “Dark clouds may hang on me sometime, but I’ll work it out, and I look up at the sky, my mouth is open wide” – fucking hell, do I love it. Boyd Tinsely’s CRAZYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY violin-playing will surely drop your jaw. You know you want to see a jumping/dancing guitar/violin duel (as Dave and Boyd execute each time this is played).
‘The Dreaming Tree‘ is another of my all time favorite tracks, and it’s haunting beauty is almost unparalleled in their catalog. It’s a song that’s not played often, and of the tragically few times I’ve seen it, it wasn’t done in its entirety, or a verse or two was skipped or altered (it’s LONG). But not tonight. Oh fuck, tonight, it was played to perfection, its whole self, and for my tailgating buddies who have been fans since the beginning, it was their first time seeing it live. You can be a fan for OVER 20 YEARS AND GO TO TONS OF SHOWS AND STILL NOT SEE IT ALL. ! Think about that.
‘Gaucho’ is a new track, mellow, yet enjoyable (still growing on me), but ‘You and Me’, I despise. Apparently though, the rest of the free world does not, as the whole house was chanting “You and me, can do anything, BABY!” (groan). ‘Pig’ shocked the hell out of me, as this song brings immediate exhilaration, and to go from that high into ‘Rapunzel’, a rapturous dance/sex/glee-fest, was a STUPENDOUS way to end the main set.
The encore featured a BEAUTIFUL acoustic version of ‘The Space Between‘ (when did they start doing this?!!! It’s brilliant!), ‘Typical Situation’ (another dark/uplifting haunting/joyous goody that I adore and have only seen a handful of times), and the be-all and end-all (in my opinion) of Dave Matthews Band-ness, ‘Ants Marching’. If you don’t like this song when you hear it on the radio, if you think it’s old, over-played, then you’ve most certainly NEVER experienced it live. And yes, it is an experience. The ultimate end to a night of supreme elation, feeling ‘Ants Marching’ with 1000s of other people is a drug of the purest happy brain chemicals.
This band (every man on stage, truly) pours out their out their whole souls for almost 3 hours every night. As part of your experience on this earth as a music-loving human being, you have to feel the dopamine/serotonin/spectacular live-music cocktail for yourself.
“It’s not where but who you’re with that really matters.” – Dave Matthews
Full set list: