In anticipation of the new album, “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King,” the Dave Matthews Band has been giving fans a taste of what's to come, by showing us the album's artwork, piece by piece. In the previous article, the symbolism of the first three pictures was explored. As you may recall, it was noted that there were 9 people in the first picture, 9 being the most sacred number of all. Interestingly, it turns out that there are 9 pictures in total. This article will focus on pictures 4-6, and a forthcoming article will discuss 7-9.
In the fourth picture, we have the same Mardi Gras theme with a carefree, bathing-suit clad woman holding a wine glass and celebrating. One of the themes that I find so fascinating about all of these pictures, is the paradox between celebration and despair, life and death. Although we may think of these as polar opposites, they are actually more related than we realize. In fact, a synonym for the word celebrate is to honor or memorialize. Again, bringing forth the fact that this project is a tribute to fallen band member, LeRoi Moore. In this picture, as in the others, we can see the faces of despair behind the waving woman. I love that her wine glass is half full, or is it half empty? Also, of note is a crocodile with a purple and gold shirt-sleeve (purple, green, and gold being the traditional Mardi Gras colors), holding a pie. This is likely a reference to the new song, “Cockadile,” which Dave describes in the Billboard Article as having a Southern feel. Similar to the dove in the first picture, the crocodile symbolizes the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. Crocodiles also speak to the integration of new knowledge which fits with the theme of this album in that the band seems to have expanded on their previous strengths to create a whole new miracle. At the bottom of the picture, there are some hieroglyphic-like symbols. If anyone can decipher those, please let me know!
The fifth picture depicts a very sad looking polar bear, who is crying and perhaps yelling, surrounded by a group of people and some animals. Symbolically, bears remind us to go within to find answers from our inner-selves. They are symbols of dreams and the unconscious. Following Leroi's death, Dave posted some tweets about a nightmare that he had concerning a polar bear. The bear fought a “big....naked....horrid man” and ended up sobbing. Dave reported feeling horribly for the bear. It seems to me that this is another reference to global warming and what we as humans are doing to our environment. We know that Dave has always been a big proponent of saving our Earth, and I wonder whether Leroi's death has made him even more acutely aware of the fragility of all living things. Beside the bear in the drawing stands a rabbit, the symbol for fear, particularly fear of what is to come. Both the rabbit and the bear are wearing beads, perhaps speaking to the fact that we are all connected. This promotes the idea that the chasm between species needs to dissipate if we are to save what is left of the natural world.
In the sixth picture, we have another Mardi Gras scene with a man on a float handing out beads to the crowd. The man is wearing a mask, typical for Mardi Gras, but also reminding us that things are not always as they seem. A woman is wearing a hat with a butterfly on it. The butterfly, of course, is the ultimate symbol of transformation, which is quite fitting if we look at the process that the band is currently undergoing. On the far left of the picture, as well as on the balcony there are people with somber expressions. Again, we have this mix of festivities with sadness that is present in all of the pictures we've looked at so far. I imagine that it's safe to say that this describes the overall tone of this album. There is grief and anguish over losing Leroi mixed with excitement and wonder about the next phase of the band's life. In psychology, we believe that in order to successfully move to the next level of growth, we must fully appreciate the previous level. To me, these pictures suggest that the band is doing just that.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self
With special thanks to Amy (Best4uRapunzel) who provided those fantastic Dave tweets!