On April 20th, the Dave Matthews Band will celebrate 18 years since their very first show at Meade Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. Not many bands enjoy this kind of longevity while continuing to dazzle millions of concert-goers year after year. While the explanations behind this phenomenon are as diverse as the individuals who profess them, there is one element central to the plethora of theories out there: The Dave Matthews Band offers fans an experience that enriches them in some way, leaving them with more than they had before. The music finds its way into the depth of our beings and changes us from the inside out. This is a change that may only be noticeable to those closest to us, but it is there for any sensitive eye to see.
The fact that this music carries such profound messages is one reason that it resonates so deeply with its listeners. There is an acute sense of searching for higher ground among the casualties of the world. Global tragedies are acknowledged, rather than overlooked, bringing substance, meaning, and a way to heal the images of these events in our minds. Songs like “Don't Drink the Water,” “JoyRide,” and “Too Much” tackle such weighty issues as power, greed, materialism, consumerism, and social injustice, while themes of confusion, belief, mortality, and emptiness are explored in “Bartender,” “Seek Up,” “Grey Street,” “Dreaming Tree,” and “Warehouse.” Some may say that these are dark topics but, it's my belief that in a world where reality television is considered entertainment, we are all searching for ways to integrate significance into our daily lives. And it is precisely through the naming of these shadowy truths that light can emerge.
The lyrics, “From the dark side we can see the glow of something bright” beautifully illustrate this connection between light and dark, which plays such a prominent role in DMB's music. References to these opposites can be found in numerous songs including: “Pig,” “You Never Know,” “Steady as We Go,” “Loving Wings,” and “Granny,” to name a few. This acknowledgement of life's polarities brings hope to us all. It shows us that even in dark times, we can still seize the day and live life to the fullest. Hope is infused into even the blackest of lyrics, like the Piedmont Park introduction to “Warehouse” where Dave is at once “...the one that fell from there down to the ground and with his broken wings ruled the world all around,” and yet, “Hoping to find my home again.” DMB's compilations accompany us into the world of darkness and show us the way through, like a bright star shining in the distance. Riding the wave of hope all the way to shore, we can find our home again.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self