Earlier this week the Dave Matthews Band announced their fiftieth full release, the upcoming Live Trax 17, recorded on July 6th, 1997 at Shoreline Ampitheatre. Along with old favorites like “#41” and “Say Goodbye,” this compilation boasts the rare “Leave Me Praying” which eventually became “Don't Drink the Water,” (and perhaps “Bartender,” as some would argue),and Daniel Lanois' “For the Beauty of Wynona.” For many fans, shows like this one in the late 90's contain some of our top picks, and because every performance offers a different spin, we can never grab enough versions of these classics. Hard to say the same for other 90's acts like Boyz 11 Men and Spice Girls. Remember them? Just saying.
It's amazing to think about how much has changed since the early days of DMB. Where hardcore fans used to have to wait for snail mail to trade cassettes, we now have the convenience of online forums and torrent files that download entire shows in a matter of minutes. Notebooks filled with tour statistics have been replaced by sites like dmbalmanac.com, where aficionados can find everything from the last time a song was played to the album breakdown of a set. But not every listener can rattle off a list of every “Bartender” since 2000 (or 1999 if you count it's predecessor “Reconcile Our Differences/ On Bended Knee”). Some are content to listen to radio edits of the group's hits and enjoy a night under the stars every summer on the lawn in West Palm Beach. Some of us have witnessed the magic since the mid 90's while others are more recent converts. It's fascinating to see how the music touches people of all different ages and backgrounds, and how men and women alike are drawn to the sound. There is something unifying about music in general, but especially about their work. People who love DMB form a true community, both online and in person, and nowhere is it more evident than at the concerts. There is a feeling of camaraderie present that makes forming friendships easy and natural. Despite the huge crowds and the more than occasional beer, there are rarely altercations. We are a peaceful bunch, coming together for a great time, spectacular music, and something warm to remember on darker days.
Undoubtedly, the enthusiasm of the fans is part of what has kept these musicians going for the better part of two decades. While the outstanding quality of their performances goes without saying, it is also their widespread appeal that has contributed to their staying power. And though we rationally know that millions of followers love this band, it's still utterly intoxicating to meet a fellow friend of Dave in an unexpected place. Two new local establishments quickly gained my loyalty after I found their owners to be fans. So while the electronics used to listen to the music, and the technology may have changed, the unifying element of human experience, and the transcendent way that the music penetrates our souls ultimately stays the same.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self