The Dave Matthews Band
One Great Live Document Among Many from These Road Warriors
For perspective on the particular mojo the Dave Matthews Band has going, check out "Drive In, Drive Out" from this 2002 live set recorded at the Gorge in Washington State. It's a song that's been a staple at frat house keggers for years, a vaguely jammy copacetic ideal of rock and roll that also works great on an amphitheater lawn. Like much DMB music, it seems to ask very little from listeners.
Get closer, though, and "Drive In, Drive Out" is a different story. The pulse is fitful, studded with jerky syncopations. Exacting drummer Carter Beauford's notion of rhythm is less a straight line than an array of choices; he lunges into wild tangents as the mood strikes him, maintaining just enough backbeat to sustain the bootyshake. Everyone on stage responds with lunges of his own; some eventually lead to frenzied, unexpectedly dissonant freak-outs.
This multilevel approach—it's party music! it's egghead music!—has, from the start, defined the Dave Matthews Band. The musicians assembled by singer, songwriter, and former bartender Matthews in the early 1990s were veterans of bar bands in the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, serious players with respect for bluegrass and Frank Zappa and everything in between. By the first official studio album Under the Table and Dreaming (1994), they had developed an approach that remains unique in rock: music that can thunder like great metal, while at the same time thriving on the collective spirit of jazz—with elements of funk and folk in the margins. (Matthews, the only guitarist, plays primarily acoustic.) All of that is evident on the two-CDs-plus-DVD The Gorge, which was recorded over three nights and features whiplashing versions of the band's concert staples. Rarely has rock music of such intricacy reached, and thrilled, so many listeners.
Released: 2004, RCA
Key Tracks: "Two Step," "Drive In, Drive Out," "Pantala Naga Pampa/Rapunzel," "Gravedigger," "Ants Marching" (DVD only)
Collector's Note: The accompanying DVD offers a whole different slate of songs.
Catalog Choice: Under the Table and Dreaming; Crash; Before These Crowded Streets
Next Stop: Phish: Live at Madison Square Garden, New Year's Eve 1995
After That: The Jerry Garcia Band: Lunt-Fontanne, NYC, 10/31/87
Book Pages: 482–483