Part of what gives the Dave Matthews Band their unique flair is their belief in abundance vs. scarcity. From day one, they have openly encouraged taping at their shows, knowing that these recordings will only further their following. Ticket prices have remained considerably lower than those of similarly popular artists, and the fee for membership in their fan club is a mere $35 per year, which allows enthusiasts advanced purchasing of tickets prior to public sale, among other perks. Unlike many musicians, they have never condemned internet downloading of their work. Instead of greedily protecting their output, they have essentially given listeners a golden key to their treasures. Clearly, the members are not suffering financially from these decisions. Rather, their generosity has served to fuel the flame, exposing the masses to their genius. I love to see successful ventures built on this foundation. It reminds us that the path to the top doesn't have to be littered with the misfortune of others.
Not only is the group good to their fans, but they are also supportive of vital causes around the world. Participating in evens like the “Concert to Benefit Bay Area Charities” in San Francisco and the multi-city “Vote for Change” tour, they have given their time and energy to promote awareness of profoundly important issues. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the band added an extra day to their Red Rocks stint and donated all of the proceeds to aid in relief efforts. After the tragedy struck the campus of Virginia Tech, the men played in an attempt to lift the spirits of friends and family members of the fallen. From Live 8 to Live Earth to Farm Aid, the ensemble participates in consciousness raising activities, aimed at exposing attendees to truths about hunger, global warming, and the plight of family farms. And since 2005, after partnering with CARE, their own charitable organization called Bama Works, has contribued to the relief of tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka through the Bama Works Village Recovery Fund.
Part of what I find so refreshing about the band's willingness to help those in crisis, is the way that they continue to toil after others have left the scene. Long past the newspapers front-page attention to Katrina subsided, DMB issued a 1.5 million dollar challenge grant to build homes for the New Orleans Habitat Musicians' Village in the Upper Ninth ward, an area hit particularly hard by the storm. The men's dedication to the city of New Orleans is clear, as they recently finished recording their newest album, “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King” in her arms. In yet another philanthropic gesture, the musicians included various aspects of The Big Easy on the record, including a clip at the end of “Squirm” where Mr. Okra, the resident vegetable seller is featured. The name “Big Whiskey” comes from an experience Dave had while offering money to a local. But perhaps the greatest act of reverence surfaces in the song, “Alligator Pie,” where Dave tells the story of a girl trapped on the roof after Katrina hit, detailing the horror and abandonment felt by so many during that time. The girl's name is Stella, representing his daughter whose famous question, “Daddy, when you gonna put me in a song?” is heavily sprinkled into the narrative. By allowing his own daughter to be part of such a terrifying tale, Dave once again, illustrates the thin line between "us" and "them." And what better way is there to shed light on such a dark juncture in our history than to give voice to it in a song destined to be enjoyed by millions and remembered for years to come?
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self