Written by: Michael Roman
(Photo by Michael Charles Roman)
A friend of a friend once said, “Dave Matthews is for summer.”
It’s true. Blasting “Stay” while coasting down the green mountains of Vermont in the middle of June (“For just a moment/this good time/would never end”), watching fireworks rooftop, wedged between the Watergate and the Washington Monument, hearing “Tripping Billies” talk of tequila drinking, and minds wandering to wondrous places on Independence Day does, in fact, scream summer.
But then there are those crisp autumn days, coasting down the Hudson River on the Amtrak Empire Service line, watching the leaves shed their greenery, earphones blaring “#41”: “It used to be/you and me/played for all the loneliness/that nobody notices now.” Or laying on freshly fallen snow in your front yard and taking the advice of “One Sweet World”: “Let us sleep outside tonight/lay down in our mother’s arms/for here we can rest safely.” Or when the sun melts the white away and buds start to bloom in spring, while “Everyday” suggests we, “Jump in the mud of love/get yourself filthy wet/good muddy love/everyday.”
For me, Dave Matthews is for summer (“Lie In Our Graves”), fall (“Where Are You Going”) winter (“Grey Street”) and spring (“The Best of What’s Around”). And he’s for falling in love (“So Right”), for breaking up (“Some Devil”), for successes (“So Damn Lucky”), for failures (“You Might Die Trying”), for life (“American Baby”) and for lives once lived (“Granny”). For me, Dave is and forever will be the soundtrack to feeling life’s experiences. I’m sure I had heard the iconic 90’s anthem before, but some fifteen years later, I seem to recall a sun-drenched afternoon, riding in the backseat of my older brother’s Honda Passport hearing the Dave Matthew’s Band belt out “Ants Marching” at near deafening decibels. The blend of Matthews’ vocals, a lively violin jam, an alto saxophone wail signaling the end of such a metaphorical march had me hooked instantly.
A few years later, I would join a middle school sweetheart and her family (and 25,000 others) at the famed Saratoga Performing Arts Center, to watch a Dave Matthews Band show (nay, spectacle) and from there, the love affair firmly established its roots deep within. The Northeast humidity couldn’t keep my feet still. My hands stayed raised like a Baptist testifying at a Sunday mass for the 3-hour set. At one point, the dazzling light show highlighted beads of sweat trickling down my face and my date turned to me and asked, “Are you okay?” I was more than okay–I was floating.
From there, we cue the montage.
Another year or two of private school led to homeschooling and moving our sideshow to Los Angeles. All the while, Dave soundtracked my life. The band would go on to play a free show in Central Park for 100,000 people, recording every step, every strum of the guitar, every crash of the high hat and symbols for all of us not able to attend such a scrapbook-worthy event. The boys played their hits, (“Warehouse,” “Too Much,” “Crush”) and the show has gone down in the history books as one of their finest performances. (See pianist Butch Taylor’s four minute epic solo in The Iliad of DMB songs “Two Step”). The triple CD release still rides along with me, my gal and my ever faithful Jeep.
Years later, as the pages shed from the calendar, myself back in the great Northeast, I got a call from my brother from our nation’s capital. Through a twist of fate, his job as a Budweiser Sales Rep introduced him to a chef at the Union Station Grill who claimed to be lifelong friends with Carter Beauford; arguably one of the world’s greatest drummers who also happens to be the co-founding member of the Dave Matthews Band.
Me, a cynic from inception, found the story too good to be true.
As though the raising of my arched eyebrows could be heard some 300 miles away, my doubts were soon quelled, quieted, and put to rest. In just a few weeks, I would enjoy one of the greatest nights of my life: posing for pictures arm-in-arm with Mr. Matthews himself pre-show, sneaking a glance from behind the backstage curtain, looking out at 20,000 Manhattanites inside the most famous arena of them all, Madison Square Garden, singing (screaming) along to the band’s greatest hits, hugging Carter in his post performance glow outside his dressing room, and later that night laying on a friend’s couch in the village, his French bulldog licking my face, wondering aloud to my brother, “Did that really just happen?”
There’s an old adage to never meet your idols. People often say this from experience, having met one of their own only to be disappointed. Sometimes they’re mean. Pretentious. Downright despicable. You discover that the 1080 HD is a resplendent mask that covers who they really are. But if you’re a DMB fan, in the case of Dave, Carter, Boyd, Stefan, Reshawn, Jeff and Tim, my hope is that one day you do meet them. They’re what you’d hope them to be and more–they’re funny, affable, kind and generous. In the years since our first Garden experience, we have broken bread with the band and their family almost a dozen times, thanks to Chef DC (now lovingly referred to as “Uncle”) from Saratoga, MSG to the Hollywood Bowl. And now, we know the crew, who follow their bosses’ lead and treat everyone in the Biblical sense–as they’d like to be treated.
Earlier this year, the band released their new album Away from the World–their sixth studio album to debut at Number One on the charts. The album has its customary soulful, upbeat tracks like “Belly Belly Nice” and “Rooftop” but like a Saint Agur blue cheese, the band has aged and matured. Such proof can be found on “Gaucho” which features a choir of children proclaiming, “We gotta do much more than believing/if we really want to change things.” Or when Dave strums the simple yet somehow profound ukulele and whispers, “You know the feeling when you’re in too deep/and then you make it out/the taste so sweet/sweet.”
The album, like Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King before it and arching back through Matthews’s entire discography, resting on his debut, (the independently released Remember Two Things) are indeed, all for summer. Bonfires, beers and waves crashing in the distance are complimented perfectly by his music. And he’s there when dusk appears sooner, or when kindling is needed to start a fire, or when birds return from their tropical getaways.
Matthews’ songbook sings the seasons as well as anyone’s. And if it’s “5 o’clock somewhere” then it might as well be summer somewhere out there, too.
-Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelCRoman