Essay, Research Paper: Dave Matthews Band


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Who is the Dave Matthews Band? Five years ago that question would have gotten
nothing more than a weird stare and a stupid look. But today you would get
everything but that. The Dave Matthews Band is one of the most successful bands
of the late 20th century. But many ask how a band so new has become so
successful in such a relatively short period of time. Many come to wonder if it
was their music, their look, or possibly something else that has made the Dave
Matthews Band what they are today. It is my opinion that the Dave Matthews
Band's success comes from their earth-toned acoustical music, their buttoned
flannel shirts and their khaki pants, their heart-laced lyrics, and the need for
many Jerry Garcia "Dead Head" survivors to find a new musical
connection to life. Using the Official Dave Matthews Web Page (
as a reference tool, I found that the life of the Dave Matthews Band saga begins
early in 1991.Dave Matthews decided to put the songs he'd been writing on tape.
But rather than recording just his voice and guitar, he decided to gather some
other musicians to give the project a fuller sound. Carter Beauford, Leroi
Moore, Stefan Lessard, and Boyd Tinsley teamed with Dave Matthews and became the
Dave Matthews Band. After several rehearsals in basements, they were ready to
play in public. The first gig was May 11, 1991 at a party on the roof of an
apartment building in Charlottesville. About 40 people were in attendance that
night. Their first open-to-the-public performance was at the 1991 Earth Day
Festival on Charlottesville, Virginia's Downtown Mall. That exposure led to
regular Tuesday night gigs at a small restaurant called Eastern Standard. Before
long, the largest music club in town had them playing Tuesday night gigs filling
the club to capacity with locals and University of Virginia students week after
week. As word spread, the band was playing three- four- five- night tours around
the region. As the band's success began to exfoliate, the first album named
Remember Two Things was released in August of 1993, shortly followed by Recently
released in February of 1994. With 1994 proving to be a big year for the Dave
Matthews Band, Under the Table and Dreaming was released on September 27th. This
major release is what really made the bands elegant acoustical sound known
throughout the United States and Europe (26 March 1999). By this point, many
wonder what is next for the Dave Matthews Band. Their audience was growing, but
they still didn't have a following that rivaled bands like the Grateful Dead and
Phish. But nobody could have predicted what 1995 would bring, both good and bad.
Dave Matthews Band (DMB) opened two shows for the Grateful Dead at Sam Boyd
Stadium in Las Vegas. Some believe this show was priceless and "one in a
million" for the Dave Matthews Band (Pepper). Many of the reasons this show
was so important had to do with the attention Dave Matthews Band got from the
Grateful Dead's audience. This proved to be an overwhelming significance when
the Dead encountered the death of Jerry Garcia later on in the 1995 year. The
Grateful Dead had an incredible amount of fans. "The band attracted a cult
following in live performances by playing without set lists (lists of songs) in
a free improvised format shaped in part by audience rapport" (Garcia). All
the "Grateful Dead" fans, better known as "Dead Heads" loved
the acoustic sound Garcia provided for the band, and with the newly created vibe
of Dave Matthews Band, the transition was an easy one to make. Thus, many of the
"Dead Heads" are now faithful followers of the DMB, and many now use
Dave Matthews Band as a new musical connection to life. But the death of Jerry
Garcia and the flock of newly dedicated fans weren't the only reasons for
popularity for the Dave Matthews Band. The sound, the feeling of the music that
Dave Matthews Band creates, makes for their own following, like no other before.
As David E. Thigpen, author, Time magazine puts it: The DMB offers an
alternative to alternative rock: music that is conspicuously eclectic but
plainly rooted in the familiar bedrock of Americana, the blues and jazz. By
introducing acoustic guitars and shifting tempos punctuated by violins, penny
whistles and other flourishes of world music and jazz, the band has forged a
cerebral yet commercially appealing sound, surpassing competitors like Phish.
(Thigpen) After the release of Under the Table and Dreaming came the album
Crash, which involved various artists such as Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
and Los Lobos. But their most recent and best studio recording effort by a
landslide is Before These Crowded Streets. Instrumentally, the band is joined by
interesting guests such as Bela Fleck that is known to "…decorate the
record with his saw-toothed banjo…" (Gulla). Kronos Quartet and Alanis
Morisette show up on several songs and sing background vocals on
"Spoon". Before long, the Dave Matthews Band not only attracts their
own audience, but they reveal that rather than being content with their
considerable fan base, they reach out to new styles, new ideas, and best of all
new fans (Gulla). Though their music is powerful indeed, what's in the music is
as so ever powerful. Lyrics are the heart of any music, whether they are sung,
yelled, or mumbled. The Dave Matthews Band is definitely one to talk when it
comes to lyrics. In hearing any of his lyrics from all the way back to his first
album, right up to his current hit with Before These Crowded Streets. All of the
Dave Matthews Band songs have what many would call "heart and soul" to
them. Take for instance "I Let You Down": …I let you down; How could
I be such a fool like me; Tail between my legs; I'm a puppy for your love; I'm a
puppy for your love; I have no lid upon my head; But if I did; You could look
inside and see what's on my mind; oh it's you… Line by line, Dave Matthews
Band goers find themselves breathless is awe of the words that come from Dave's
mouth. In "I Let You Down", Dave is singing about how he had done
something that let supposedly somebody down by, and he is so upset he tries to
show his sorrow and his want to reconcile his wrong doing. But the helpless of
his music propels you into his world so you can feel his pain. Many well known
magazines also have good things to say about Dave Matthews Band's lyrical
approach, "he (Dave Matthews) conjures optimism in a world beset by
environmental depredation, political paralysis, self-doubt, and
hopelessness" (Thigpen). Meanwhile Dave Matthew's describes his songs as
"therapy, an effort to help his listeners cope with society, where racism
is absolutely alive" (Sheffield). There's something else about the Dave
Matthews Band that propels so many to want to see every show that they play.
Maybe it's because whenever the band is seen they wear anything but exactly what
one of the newest and most popular alternative bands would wear; Khaki pants,
flannel shirts, hemp necklaces, and an occasional baseball cap. This helps
create the well known "laid back" style of the band onstage as well as
off. But quite possibly it's the way they "seem more like a jazz combo than
a rock band " (Thigpen). Robin Bresnark, from Melody Maker says: Their
musical style is very natural, full of blues and jazz from introduction of
acoustic guitars and shifting tempos punctuated by violins, penny whistles, and
other flourishes of would music and jazz. Onstage the five band members seem
more like a jazz combo, playing tightly coordinated phrases then suddenly
veering off into flights of improvision. (Bresnark) In conclusion, the Dave
Matthews Band is nothing short than incredible. By projecting a very laid back
and functional attitude, with a very open musical style, the band will continue
to top the billboard charts for years to come. Dave Matthews' musical style will
live forever, and I am sure that Jerry Garcia is very happy knowing that his
following is now sleeping in line for hard to get tickets to every show Dave
Matthews Band plays. Talent flourishes in the band, and for anyone who has any
of their CD's, you'll know that their live music is incredibly spontaneous. But
one thing is for sure, this band will be releasing albums for years to come; and
it's nice to hear music that is not filled with hate or violence, but filled
with heart and soul lyrics, and a non-violent tone.
BibliographyBresnark, Robin. "The Dave Matthew Band gives us a guided tour of
Washington DC." Melody Maker Aug 8, 1998. Bresnark, Robin. "Unfinished
Monk Business" Melody Maker Jun 27, 1998. Garcia, Jerry. "Jerry
Garcia." Encyclopedia Encarta. 1998 Ed. Gulla, Bob. "Before These
Crowded Streets." Audio Aug 1998. Pepper, Tracey. "Dave Matthews
Band" US Jun 1998 Sheffield, Rob. "Stunt/Before These Crowded
Streets." Rolling Stone Dec 24, 1998-Jan 7, 1999. The Dave's Matthews Band:
the official Web Site. (1991-1997) Thigpen, David E.
"Shelter in the storm" Time Aug 3, 1998.
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