Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wayback Whensday:
Obsession With a Man Named Dave

While a friend is teaching in Japan, I've agreed to house his worldly possessions in my basement. One night digging through my old clothes and Christmas decorations I caught eyes with a gigantuan CD case atop his neatly stacked boxes. Being the absolute music freak that I am, I could not resist. Looking at someone's CD collection can be like looking into their soul. It can paint a picture of a person past and present, of the transition from who they were five or ten years ago to who they are today. So I peeked.

And this is what I found. Not your typical hodge podge of junk with a few gems here and there, but rather an entire collection of Dave Matthews Band bootlegs. We're talking hundreds here. Anyone who's ever had a thing for Dave knows the band has put out a ridiculous number of live albums. Beyond that, my friend had acquired countless other live performances, burned on individual CDRs and labeled in neat black Sharpie.

This discovery was not at all surprising, as I know several one-time Dave fans, myself included. In fact, an obsession with Dave seems to be one of those steps music lovers go through on that journey from mainstream music to more experimental fare. Thus I started thinking about my relationship with the Dave Matthews Band.

There are plenty of Dave stories I could tell. From listening to Under the Table and Dreaming with the potheads in the dorm room next to mine (it was the soundtrack to my first year in college), to the countless concerts, to the ultimate disappointment of the Lillywhite Sessions being re-recorded and ruined, to the band's ultimate loss of creative spirit. Even now I get the avid Dave fan in my office, a first-time college student caught up in an immense back catalog that seems to speak only to them.

But to be honest, my first real experience with Dave occurred when I was fifteen, and DMB released its third album, Crash. In past years I had seen the video for "What Would You Say?" on MTV and thought the song was OK, but like many inferior singles this was not enough to make me buy Under the Table. (I also had the song on an MTV Buzz Bin CD, which I used to think was so edgy.)

I had barely batted an eye at DMB. Then in 96', along came the single "Crash Into Me." This song, both lyrically and musically, stirred something within me. Perhaps it was because I was fifteen and experiencing all those accompanying feelings. But here was a band saying such dirty things set to such beautiful music -- and on the radio! I remember waiting up for the Top 10 at 10 on my local alternative radio station and hitting record on my cassette player, cursing the announcer babbling over the song's opening seconds, perhaps knowing how many times I'd hear that babble repeated as I listened and listened and listened to that tape.

Eventually I purchased the album, and from there my obsession with Dave took hold. I've talked a lot recently about how the music I listen to now is so much "better" than the music I listened to as a teenager, but I have nothing against the Dave Matthews Band (except maybe that their endless live albums are an attempt to leech as much money as possible from rabid fans, or the fact that they seem to pander more and more to adult contemporary tastes...) I can still remember a time when I could spend all day under the table and dreaming, and I thank DMB for accompanying myself and other music fans on the paths to what is ultimately "our" music.

And James, please forgive me for my pilfering.


Hackworth Artifex said...

I have a lot of DMB songs. I enjoy listening to them when I put iTunes on random. But I can't say I ever actually got in to Dave.

I can't really put my finger on why, exactly, I was never an actual fan. It might have something to do with his voice. As beautiful as it is, it seems really... I dunno... plain to me.

He's lyrically clever, but his voice just isn't WEIRD enough for me.

SonicRyan said...

I got REALLY into them late in high school...or so I thought. Turns out I was just REALLY into Before These Crowded Streets. Too bad I didn't realize this before I had spent so much money every DMB album released up to that point in my life, including a couple of the live ones, the butchered Lillywhite sessions. I also once cheered them on at a charity softball game. True story.

Mandy♥ said...

I also got into them randomly. My mom owned Under the Table and Dreaming and I found it quite annoying! Then I heard "Crush" from Before These Crowded Streets on the radio and couldn't avoid falling for it. My DMB obsession ended there with that album. I saw them live once and just couldn't get into it. I was sort of bored.

Girlfriend said...

My favorite DMB album was their 2 disc set Live At Luther College. Perhaps it was because I was only a few hours away from Luther College and thus, by default, I was close to the band. It was almost as if I had been at the show myself. In actuality it was their stellar performances of some of my most cherished DMB songs "One Sweet World," "Tripping Billies," "Lover Lay Down," and, of course, "Crash Into Me." According to Wikipedia (and we all know that everything on Wikipedia is fact) "Tripping Billies" was named after a reporter said DMB sounded like, "a bunch of hillbillies tripping on acid." I beg to differ but oh well....

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