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.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
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.