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Cheesy is as cheesy does

September 13th, 2006

Tamara Miller -

As I sit here listening to Don Rogers’ playlist, which contains about 800 Dave Matthews Band songs, including nine versions of that knee-slappy “Tripping Billies,” I am reminded of the seventh grade.

Seventh grade, when you could work yourself into a frenzy about the latest New Kids on the Block release.

Seventh grade, where the slightest bit of novelty – a new hair clip, a cool jacket – was enough for someone to be deemed original. A real rebel.

Earlier this week, the Vail Daily editor walked in as giddy as a seventh-grade girl about Tuesday night’s Dave Matthews Band concert. I even think he clapped his hands together and did a little hop. Dave Matthews is the best band in the world, truly original, he declared. They have a saxophone player, for God’s sake.

The truly annoying thing about the Dave Matthews Band isn’t the music so much, or the indiscernible mutterings of Dave Matthews, or the fact that your mom likes them. It’s everyone else who listens to the Dave Matthews Band. It’s like a social institution, like the way people bond over their favorite “American Idol” contestants. You’re either a DMB fan or you are not. And if you’re not, people look at you strangely, the way kids look at the classmate who gets sent out of the classroom during birthday parties. My husband and I had a similar feeling when we were living in California, land of commuters and faithful TV watchers. We signed up for cable just so we had something to talk about with our co-workers.

Dave Matthews fans even refer to the lead singer by his first name, as if they’ve spent time on his tour bus, jamming with the man himself, as if they, too, shared the blame when the tour bus driver decided to unload human waste over a Chicago river. (The tour bus driver apparently did do this in 2004. And the band was sued for it.) I can honestly say that my decade-long disdain for jam bands stems from a Dave Matthews Band concert I attended when I was in high school. There I was, a high school senior, surrounded by frat boys wearing khaki from the nearby University of Kansas campus. Dave Matthews Band fans don’t dance. The jitter like bunny rabbits, or sway their heads like Axel Rose. Between songs they like to gush over the 15-minute version of “Dancing Nancies,” as if it’s a whole new song now that the band decided to incorporate a French horn and a marimba duet. And then if the lead singer mutters something like, “Hello, Lawrence,” it’s as if God himself has spoken. Oh, and the gushing. There’s something ironic about people like Rogers touting a singular band’s gifts, as if they are well-schooled in the history of modern music.

“Even when they play the same song it’s a little different,” he insisted in a recent e-mail to me. I honestly think Rogers likes the Dave Matthews Band because it’s the only post-70s band he knows, save for the Dixie Chicks.

But I guess the real reason I dislike Dave Matthews so much is because music has always been a little bit sacred for me. I fully admit to disliking the band partly because of its mass appeal. In some ways I’m still that moody, self-tortured teenager, the one who turned to bands like The Cure, Throwing Muses, and pretty obscure stuff like His Name Is Alive (they’re not a religious band) for my solace. There’s something more honest, more genuine to me about music that is a little left of center, a little too honest, a little harder for the mass populace to like. We don’t often get to nurture our inner weirdo, but I’ve often felt it’s that part that makes us unique, creative and empathetic toward others.

So Rogers can have his Dave Matthews Band. I don’t want to be a part of his club anyway. VT


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