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Leave the Big Door Open

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Sometimes, as a psychologist, you get to do really cool things. In my case, I am honored to be speaking at a wonderful conference in Santa Fe this summer, called “Creativity and Madness.” A synthesis of health professionals and art lovers come together at this event to muse over the fine line that tends to divide intense genius from mania. We pore over the works of some of our favorite artists, noting the skill with which they use their crafts to transform their deepest passions into finished products. And, of course, the best part, is that for an entire hour, I will be talking to a captive audience about Dave Matthews!

Although my talk mostly centers around the spiritual longing behind many of Dave’s lyrics, another topic that I plan to discuss is Dave’s uncanny ability to attract people from all different ethnic, political, social, religious, and economical backgrounds to his loyal party of followers. Contrary to the assertion of the late-night talk-show host who once joked that a biased SAT question might read, “I drive my Volvo to buy Dave Matthews tickets while listening to ‘All Things _______,’” Dave Matthews Band concerts are not just for white, upper- middle-class, college students who drive Volvo’s, and listen to NPR.

It goes without saying that the caliber of DMB’s performances largely accounts for their cosmic fan base, but I have also wondered about the idiosyncratic qualities within our favorite lead singer that make it so easy for people everywhere to fall in love with this band.

Part of the magic, I believe, stems from the mystery that Dave intentionally injects into his writing. He has said before that he purposely leaves his words ambiguous to allow us the chance to “read in whatever you’re needing to,” as he suggests in “Warehouse.” In this way, we, as listeners, have the opportunity to project that which we need to see and hear into his phrases. And yet, there are certain conspicuous facets about our frontman that special groups of people could find difficult, although even this doesn’t seem to deter enthusiasts. For example, I find it fascinating that Republicans love Dave’s music, despite the fact that he is a known Democrat, and conservative Christians adore his sound, even though many of Dave’s lyrics clearly illustrate his skepticism regarding organized religions.

Another element that I believe engages such a diverse collection of admirers is Dave’s delightful humility. Success has not dampened our vocalist’s sense of gratitude, both for being able to play on stage in the company of such amazing musicians, and for the love and support of his fans. There is a feeling of warmth that emanates from this man, and it extends out to all corners of the crowd, pulling us in like a vortex.

In the end, there are many, many aspects of Dave, the music, and the entire ensemble that keep us in rapture. Just as each one of us has a unique heartbeat, we all have our own reasons for connecting so deeply with these rhythms. And the rhythms themselves fly as singularly as a butterfly.

Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.

Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self