In September 2000, a few days before Dave Matthews Band played with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at Coca-Cola Starplex, I got into a car accident turning onto Inwood Road from Walnut Hill. My '99 Explorer was crunched, and the woman I hit injured her arm.
I sat on the curb, waiting for my parents to arrive -- one of the worst feelings I can remember. The woman's car smoked in the center of the road. There was broken headlight glass everywhere. And all I could think was: Am I going to miss Dave?
My name is Nick, and, man, I used to really love Dave Matthews Band.
I had bootleg live albums burned onto countless CDs from Napster. I played Under The Table and Dreaming as loud as I could on my long drives to school. I wore out my double-disc copy of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds' pluck-tastic Live at Luther College. And though I've tried to bury this fact under copies of Wilco, Rolling Stones and Neil Young, I can no longer deny it: I permanently learned Dave Matthews Band songs on the guitar.
Thirteen years later, I now know something important. An inconvenient truth: Dave Matthews Band isn't very good. In fact, they're terrible. Dying-pets terrible. No-bacon terrible.
Their music is bloated with overwrought melodrama. "Crush," a song that used to have a long-term lease in my head, opens with that cliche smoky bass and a flourish of saxophone. It's also eight goddamn minutes. It's like bad porn music.
Matthews' lyrics, meanwhile, meander, they're boring, and they're really on-the-nose in that Radioheady-man-is-a-cog-in-a-shitty-machine-way. Here is a sample:
"Television we bounce around the world / and while I spend these hours / five senses reeling / I laugh about the weatherman's satellite eyes"
"Lately I've been feeling low / a remedy is what I'm seeking / I take a taste of what's below"
"The space between / the tears we cry / is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more"
"When I'm walking by the water / splish splash / you and me taking a bath
On the album Everyday, they ditched their signature jam-band-sprawl sound, hired Glen Ballard and wrote a bunch of radio hits. It couldn't change the fact that Dave Matthews can't sing.
And those endless live albums: They pretended to be Pearl Jam good. Phish good. No. Stop. There's a 15-minute song on the album.
I possess no shame over my "Crash"-belting past. Everyone has guilty-pleasure music, albums you save for the long drives to remember that one smell in high school, the way the sky tasted in October when you were a kid. Sometimes it's nostalgia, others it's that campy, poppy song you want to blare and no one to know you've memorized every lyric and guitar bend.
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It's a band I have to file away, stack in towers of CDs in some dusty storage box. Dave Matthews is my attic band.
I still made it to that Coca-Cola Starplex show in 2000, by the way. It's where I smoked weed for the first time, and I heard Bela Fleck play some wild banjo. That's a memory, at least.
Dave Matthews Band plays the Gexa Energy Pavilion tomorrow.