It’s almost comical to think of, but very few of my musical loves-not Michael Jackson, not hip-hop, not the New Kids on the frickin’ block, are met with as much derision as my love of the Dave Matthews Band.
Normally, I have a pretty good sense of humor regarding my musical taste. I like what I like and I generally don’t care what anyone thinks about it. And I still don’t feel the need to defend my likes, but a friend hipped me to an article, written by another gay dude, that (sort of) offers a really good explanation…OK, it’s honestly not much of an explanation as to why I like DMB, but a good conversation about enjoying the things you enjoy without conforming to someone else’s idiotic ideas about what you are and are not allowed to enjoy (that uses DMB as a prime example).
Dave has often been criticized as either a neo-hippie with limited appeal to jam band-lovin’ frat boys and their girlfriends (a la Jack Johnson) or a sensitive singer-songwriter pandering to female fans (a la John Mayer haters who haven’t heard anything other than “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Daughters”). Truth is, attaching any of those descriptions to Dave is gross oversimplification.
While Dave’s appeal to frat-tards and “hey” girls (a demographic that only annoys me when I have to go to concerts with them) certainly exists, his music has appeal far beyond that limited scope. There’s a reason that Dave Matthews Band has been a top-level touring act for 15 years now. You can’t deny that these guys have ridiculous chops. I’ve seen these guys more than ten times over the years, and I’m always impressed by the quality of musicianship coming from Dave, Boyd, Stef and Carter (as well as the auxiliary musicians that make up the touring band). I’ve never seen the same (or even remotely similar) set lists from the band at any time I’ve seen them, a tribute to the respect they have for their fans (do you think Britney Spears even thinks about her set list? Do you think Britney knows what a set list is?), and no matter what songs they play, they always put on a kick ass show. My most memorable DMB concert experience would have to be during a Giants Stadium performance in early 2001 (immortalized on the “Best of What’s Around” compilation) during which the band performed “Two Step” as an encore in a torrential downpour. Most fans would have run for the hills. Barely anyone at this show headed for the exits. Matter of fact, folks were dancing through the downpour, including myself. Does it matter that I was shirtless at this juncture, bumping chests with two burly (also shirtless) frat boys? Well…let’s not go there. I should probably try not to shoot myself in the foot going forward.
The quality and diversity of the band’s music also gets short shrift. Musically, DMB have explored jazz, soul, folk and country flavored sounds. Lyrically, the band has explored themes (especially regarding politics) that most chart-topping bands stay far away from in these strangely apolitical musical times. AND they’ve managed to keep up a 15-year streak of Platinum albums and strong concert box office without a single Top 10 hit. Seriously-how many bands over the past two decades have been able to maintain such a high level of commercial success with barely any love from a radio format other than Triple A?
To pigeonhole DMB as a one-note jam band would be akin to calling Pink Floyd just another prog-rock band appealing to aging stoners and pimply-faced teenage geeks. Fact of the matter is that these guys have a much wider fanbase and much more musical appeal than they’re given credit for, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they found themselves in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in a decade’s time.