Dave Matthews Band Defended From Rock Snobs
Fourth of July. Watermelon. Baseball. Dave Matthews Band on tour.
Those are four of the most popular hallmarks of summer. You may balk at the final item on my list but for the last 21 of 22 summers, the Dave Matthews Band has gallivanted around the United States. This year is no different.
The one summer DMB took off, 2011, they still managed to host four three-day music festivals called “Dave Matthews Band Caravan.” Oddly enough, 2011 was the group’s 20th Anniversary.
This summer, Dave Matthews Bands has a slew of dates planned for the U.S. and Canada. In fact, they’ll be on the road until Sept. 6.
DMB has two dates planned for Camden, New Jersey on June 11 and June 13. After that, they’ll play back-to-back nights in Noblesville, Indiana at the Klipsch Music Center.
Look for Dave Matthews Band in Chicago on July 4 and 5. The group is booked at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island.
When will Dave Matthews Band will be at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington? I’m glad you asked. Dave and company descend on that beautiful venue over Labor Day Weekend also known Aug. 29 through Aug. 31. Labor Day comes early in 2014. It’s Sept. 1.
What To Expect
This summer, DMB is doing something a little different. They’re playing two sets. The first is all acoustic while the second is all electric.
Their acoustic set lasts about an hour. They’ll stay plugged in for more than two. The acoustic portion of the show is just the musicians. The lights and video projections show up when the juice is turned on.
If you throw in a 30-minute intermission, you’re looking to spend more than three and half hours with Dave, Carter, Stefan, Boyd, Tim, Rashawn, Jeff, and 25,000 of your closest friends.
The show is billed as “A Very Special Evening with Dave Matthews Band. “
There’s no opening act.
Without a doubt, Dave Matthews Band is one of the all-time greats. The living legends are destined for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the “live performance hall of fame” is there was such of a thing.
Their last six studio albums have debuted at number one—no group has ever done that. Overall, they’ve sold more than 30 million albums and earned 14 Grammy Award nominations.
If the band quit playing music today—or let’s say for the sake of those with Dave Matthews Band tickets, after the conclusion of their summer tour—their place in rock and roll history is secure.
Besides being an integral part in the annuals of rock music, Dave Matthews Band is also a central figure of another group’s history. This group is far less illustrious and far less important. I’m talking about rock snobs.
Dave Matthews Band is a seminal artist in rock snobbery because they constantly defy classification. Are they cool? Are they not cool? Can you listen to them ironically? Or can you not listen to them ironically?
Former Rock Snob
I know this because I’m a recovering rock snob. I entered myself into a 12-step program and now I’m cured. I urge all rock snobs to purge themselves of their snobbery. You won’t regret it.
It’s so nice to be able to participate in conversations about Glee and American Idol without having to fain ignorance.
It’s reaffirming to be able to sing along to Air Supply when they come on the radio without having to make sure no one is watching (as well as listening to a radio station that plays Air Supply).
It’s refreshing to be able to wear a Bon Jovi t-shirt because you like their music and not because you’re being ironic although that’s a difference without a distinction.
Bottom line, it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to listen to whatever I want to listen to without having to worry about what others think. Yes, The National and Bon Iver albums I own don’t get played anymore but Kid Rock and Kelly Clarkson sure are fun.
What makes Dave Matthews Band so difficult for the rock snob is they used to be a slam dunk “cool” band,” but over the years, for some reason, their standing amongst the snob-gentsia has changed. Since DMB’s debut in 1994 and now, conventional wisdom amongst rock snobs (if you can use “wisdom” and “rock snob” in the same sentence) has done a complete one-eighty.
In a recent blog entry on LA Weekly, Dave Matthews Band was named the worst band of all-time. DMB can’t be the worst band of all-time as long no one has gone back in time and eliminated all evidence of The Black Keys.
In the forward to the article titled “Top 20 Worst Bands of All Time: The Complete List” (don’t “top” and “worst” contradict one another?), Ben Westhoff writes that all the groups on the rundown create “simultaneously pretentious and dopey, derivative and uniquely craptastic” music.
That’s an interesting description. Oddly enough, it also describes most of the music championed by rock snobs especially the “pretentious” part.
In the entry explaining why Dave Matthews Band is “tops” at being worst, writer Jeff Weiss, in true rock snob fashion, claims that DMB’s music is for “folks whose favorite book is The Da Vinci Code and favorite TV show is Two and a Half Men.”
This comparison isn’t pithy. It’s mean and pretentious.
Rock Snob Argument #1
The rock snob spends an inordinate amount of time listening to music and discovering new bands. There’s nothing wrong with that except they berate people who don’t follow suit. The expect everyone to spend the necessary time and energy to make bands like Beirut and White Rabbits tolerable. The rock snob doesn’t understand, and won’t comprehend, that sometimes people want to see a jam band and the only jam band they know is the one fronted by Dave Matthews. There’s nothing wrong with that and ultimately it’s a compliment to DMB.
5 Reasons We Love To Hate Dave Matthews Band
The snobbery doesn’t stop there. On May 28, Chris Baker posted “5 Reasons We Love to Hate Dave Matthews Band” on Syracuse.com.
He starts by going to the first page of the rock snob’s playbook. He ridicules the band’s fans and calls DMB “jam rock for people who don’t like jam rock.”
Jam Rock For People Who Like Jam Rock
I responded to a similar sentiment earlier in the article, but let me also say that all throughout the history of popular music, the really great artists have taken a marginalized, or somewhat marginalized, genre and made it accessible. Elvis did it with rhythm and blues. The Beatles did it with folk music. Dave Mathews Band did it with jam rock.
Baker then writes that DMB is “Nickelback for Kids with bachelor’s degrees.” I don’t know what that means. Kids don’t have bachelor degrees.
What I do know is Nickelback is the go-to-band when a rock snob needs a punchline and the second bestselling foreign band in the United States in the decade of the 2000s.
Baker’s first reason why we love to hate Dave Matthews Band is “because they’re generic.” I think DMB is anything but generic. After all, not too many rock bands have a full-time violin player. Dave Matthews Band has one of the most unique sounds in all of music.
Funny, in this section of the article, Baker writes “DMB is music for people who aren’t fans of music but want people to think they are.” It’s funny, because you can say the same about people who hate Dave Matthews Band.
Baker’s second reason is “because they’re safe.” This is a trick rock snobs love to pull. They call something safe because in popular music “safe” is bad. In their eyes, dangerous is good. Do they mean dangerous like Volcano Choir or dangerous like the ultra-scary Poliça?
Josh Groban is safe. OneRepublic is safe. Dave Matthews Band is not safe.
Later, Baker explains that Dave Matthews Band is not as “inaccessible” as Neutral Milk Hotel or Umphrey’s McGree. As if being “difficult to understand” is a good thing. How many people listen to Neutral Milk Hotel and Umphrey’s McGee? The answer is (relatively) no one. Rock snobs consistently punish artists who have the ability to relate to large numbers of people and extol artists who connect with very few individuals.
His third reason for why he loves to hate Dave Matthews Band is “lacrosse jerseys, flat brim hats and beer pong.” In other words, he doesn’t like their fans. I get that. All bands have a swatch of obnoxious fans, even the ones beloved by rock snobs, but that’s no reason to dislike someone’s music.
Rock Snob Argument #2
Let’s talk a little bit about this because it’s the great contradiction of the rock snob. They chide people for not listening to “cool music” but when the band that makes “cool music” becomes popular the rock snob stops liking them. Rock snobs are never happy. That’s why you should ignore their punditry.
Baker’s fourth reason is “because they dumped crap on a whole bunch of people in Chicago.” He’s referencing the 2004 incident where Boyd Tinsley’s bus driver emptied the vehicle’s septic tank while on a bridge. The contents, 800-plus pounds of human sewage, rained down on a tour boat. I actually agree with him on this one. The bus driver took the fall, but I think the band, or at least a few of its members, was culpable.
The rock snob’s final reason is “because they’ve made ‘Under The Table And Dreaming’ eight times.” Baker is referring to the band’s debut album and how their subsequent seven studio releases sound similar.
Rock Snob Argument #3
This is another trap rock snobs love to set. They think every artist has to be revolutionary and on the vanguard ALL THE TIME. Being cutting edge doesn’t necessarily make your music good just as being “dull edged” doesn’t necessarily make your music bad.
Overall, I think this criticism is a little harsh. Has DMB changed their sound as much as U2? Of course not, but their eight studio albums are not interchangeable.
Furthermore, Dave Matthews Band is a live product more than a studio product. Their greatness is best experienced at a live venue and not via the mp3 player.
You don’t have to enjoy the music of Dave Matthews Band. You don’t have to enjoy attending a Dave Matthews Band concert. Love them or hate them, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t dislike them because they’re not blazing new trails, or their concerts are attended by a certain ilk of people, or their fan base has exceeded a certain size.
Don’t listen to rock snobs and especially don’t listen to them when it concerns DMB. Instead, attend one of their concerts and experience the group and their music for yourself. Chances are very good you’ll leave realizing that there’s just one reason to love Dave Matthews Band and that reason is they make great music.
By David B.