September 7th, 2006
Charlottesville's favorite son will make a triumphant return Sept. 22 when the Dave Matthews Band will play the brand-new John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia. Judging from the band's last appearance in town, you'd better act fast if you want to be part of the action.
The group played several years ago at the school's football stadium before a huge crowd, and its popularity certainly hasn't dimmed any in Charlottesville since then. Of course, the music is perfectly suited for the student population, but the band's fans cover all age groups.
The band's infectious, danceable rhythms are a large part of the allure, but Matthews also is something of a hero for both his roots and his charitable ways.
Many locals remember when he was a bartender at Miller's, a venerable downtown bar that is well-known for hosting fine local jazz players. Some of that music obviously rubbed off on Matthews, who employs wide-ranging influences in his music. Known for his humility, the soft-spoken guitar player seems to be more at ease with his muse these days, as evidenced by his recent comments to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I have to say that maybe I've become more comfortable with the process of songwriting. At least this phase. But that doesn't mean that I know it's going to get better or worse," he said.
The band is working on a new CD, due sometime next year, and while they're developing new material, they haven't lacked for fans that enjoy the group's previous recordings, since the group grossed a whopping $57 million from their tours last year.
Matthews could live anywhere he desires, but still calls the Charlottesville area home, living with his family in a secluded farmhouse near the city. He's also very involved in charities in the area, with his Bama Works Fund, a mechanism that is administered by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.
His philanthropic gifts have ranged from aiding Boys' and Girls' Clubs to public housing improvements and environmental concerns to youth sports and the arts, aiding thousands of area people, further endearing him.
But Matthews also has gone beyond that with his Blenheim Vineyards, a locally winery and Maple Farms, near Scottsville, a 1,300 acre community agricultural program. "I think that builds a sense of community for those people more than anything. It helps us get the vegetables out of the ground, but for the people, they get a sense that their food belongs to them, and they also belong to the food," he told the Chronicle.
It's a wonder that Matthews finds the time to perform, much less write music, but his famed concert energy isn't to be contained, even after all the touring and his other endeavors. He also formed ATO Records, which he co-owns with his manager Coran Capshaw, and he is one of the Farm Aid directors along with Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellancamp.
While his fans applaud all these efforts, it's the music that has made Matthews and his band the darlings of throngs of whirling dancers. Playing in his own backyard will most certainly bring out the best in both the bands and the fans.