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DBTP Flashback: Dave Matthews at The Prism Coffeehouse


Charlotesville, VA, the birthplace of Dave Matthews Band and common stay for the band at venues like the Floodzone and the legendary Trax nightclub through the early 90's. This was just the beginning for the former Miller's bartender.

The Prism Coffeehouse was another historic landmark in Dave Matthews' journey to stardom and sold out stadiums. Through the Prism's 40 years, Dave graced the stage a handful of times, yet never with the band, he delivered some memorable performances.

The Prism was founded by a group of UVa. students in 1966. Up until the mid-70's, the Prism remained a popular venue for local and regional folk performers, many long-forgotten, but Joan Baez once stopped in to introduce her friend Bob Dylan. In 1972 a rising young singer and guitarist from Washington D.C. named Emmylou Harris played at the Prism for the typical .75¢ cover.

Other now very successful artists to pass trough the Prism include:  Béla Fleck, Ani DiFranco, Nanci Griffith and Alison Krauss. The Prism closed their doors for good on April 22, 2006.

Looking back at the number of solo performances that Dave Matthews has done over the years, there have been many gems. By 1993, DMB and Dave Matthews had quite a local following. His performance at the Prism on April 5th, 1993 was about as close and intimate that you could get to Dave, seating just under 150 people. The show was a benefit fundraiser for WTJU 91.1-FM in Charlottesville and the MC introducing Dave had to ask him his name. How times have changed!

The 24 minute, 9 song performance includes classics, "Satellite" and "Dancing Nancies" a cover of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" and rendition of "Christmas Song" which Dave dedicated to his drummer, Carter Beauford who was in the audience. Image sitting in an audience with a small group of people with Carter sitting there amungst everyone else. It almost seems unheard of...

The taper recording itself has 3 missing songs: "Dancing Nancies", "Angel From Montgomery", and "Pay For What You Get". The quality is sub-par, but the rarity of this show and many others from this time period still makes it worth the listen.

prism coffeehouse.jpg

April 22nd, 1993, well known by fans as the first known recorded Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds show, giving audiences the beloved acoustic spin on the DMB classics. It has been said that Dave & Tim had played at the Prism Coffeehouse, making 10.01.92 their first performance together, though there is no audio recording known at this time.

04.22.93, is already the best sounding recording of the Prism shows, but is also now available on DMBlive as an official release.

On December 3rd, 1993, Dave visited Prism for another short set which was to be with Tim Reynolds, but ended up a solo performance due to Tim being out of town. The quality like the April show is a bit rough, but listenable. Dave sat in during Shannon Worrell's set on songs "Eleanor" and "See Jane". Shannon joined Dave for "I'll Back You Up" and "Christmas Song".

A performance with Tim Reynolds took place between May 4th-7th, 1994. This show was a radio special by WTJU-FM in Charlottesville. It is not known which day the show truly took place or if it was at Prism, but as WTJU did live broadcasts from Prism on occasion. This would be the last time that Dave played at the Coffeehouse.

So many shows from the early 90's that are currently unknown or incomplete, like the 04.05.93 recording will hopefully someday see the light of day. At the very least, DMBlive gives fans hope for shows like these to surface with a more complete and clear sound. 

The Prism is just one of many local Charlottesville spots that Dave Matthews played. Some of which are now unfortunately out of business. Dave Matthews Band will return to Charlotesville this April for two show at John Paul Jones Arena. Quite a step up from the ol' Coffeehouse.