Tag Archives: dmb

Weekend at the Gorge Pt. 3.1

…Cont.
Part 3.1: Heaven’s Amphitheater 
(Yeah, yeah, yeah…. this is late. Like real late. Far later than it should be, for sure… On top of that, it was getting so long winded that I’m going to pull a Mocking Jay and split the last bit into two parts. Hate me if you want! <I’m talking to you, Annie!> That’s the biggest conflicting benefit of not having a deadline, however; the stress isn’t there, but neither is the impetus…)

<Refresh on Parts 1&2

Click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2>
…Cont…

   I was awakened the next morning at about 8 by a cackling laugh from a few campsites over. As quickly as I cursed them, I chastised myself. I’d put money on that we were just as annoying the night before to people who were trying to sleep.       

   Stepping outside of the tent and seeing the grounds in the daylight was a whole new experience. There was a general hustle and bustle that was about the camp, even at such an early hour, that let you know there was going to be a Dmb show that night. People were already milling about, cooking themselves breakfast, playing tailgate games, many even drinking morning beers. 

   The smell of bacon overrode my initial plan to have the fruit that I had brought for breakfast, so I walked up to the vendor village that had been set up between our grounds and Gen Pop. The vendor village had a bit of everything, a burger tent, one that had pizza, another with dumplings… In addition to food there was also various tents selling a smattering of wares; sunglasses, clothes, basic electronics, and such. I found a place that was selling the best breakfast crepes that I’ve ever seen outside of New York City. Happy with my discovery and with crepe in hand, I made my way back to home base. 

   We spent the day hanging out with our new neighbor friends. We cooked, ate, drank, played cornhole, and swapped enough stories to make Aesop jealous.

   I decided to go into the venue before everyone else because I wanted to get a lay of the land and scope it out for best vantage points, plus I wanted to check out the openers to see if I felt they were worth checking out all 3 days. 

   The walk from premier camping to the venue was a solid 15 minutes, again making me question the venue’s use of the word ‘premier’ in referring to our campgrounds. I arrived and made my way through security, then followed another main path from the entrance to the top of the lawn of the venue. 

   There aren’t really words that can correct express the feelings of seeing the amphitheater for the first time. As you crest the hill and the stage and it’s backdrop come into view, it feels as if you’re looking at a painting. (As a matter of fact, I saw an artist at the top of the hill painting the landscape all weekend). If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, I kind of compare it to the feelings that seeing that for the first time evokes. 

   After meandering through the venue a bit, I decided to hit the merch booth and get one of the venue specific event tees and some other stuff. The line, as always was super long, but I just wanted to get it of the way so I didn’t have to think about it the rest of the weekend. 

   The biggest surprise for me was the rabid fervor over the limited edition show posters. Each show, the merch booths collectively sell about 1,500 numbered prints of a poster made specifically for that night; also available was a whole weekend poster. People were lining up for when the gates opened each day of the weekend to try to secure a copy of that day’s $50 collectable. They invariably sold out pretty early in the day, so it wasn’t uncommon to overhear people trying to buy the posters off of people who had been lucky enough to get one…. for two or even three times their original price. 

   By the time I waited out the line and got my stuff the first opener, a band called The Lone Bellow had taken stage. The band was a folk based Americana act, but they honestly skewed a bit too much towards country music to hold my attention. Even though I was trying to maintain an objective attitude because I knew I was going to be writing this, my brain automatically regulated the music to background noise. 

   Annie and Matty Ice texted that they were on their way in, so I made my way back to meet them on the main entrance path. Somehow, I found them among the cascading river of people that were now flooding into the venue. Seeing the look of awe on their faces as they summited the hill was worth the early solo trip in. 

   After giving them the grand tour, (that hour and a half that I was in by myself clearly made me a Gorge expert!), we made our way to the front of the lawn on stage right, where Matty Ice had hometown friends. They were sitting next to a large pole, on top of which was a huge speaker. Because the pole obstructed view of the stage, it created a natural pathway for people to be coming up and down the lawn. This also meant that a steady stream of inebriated concert goers would be sauntering by like aimless cattle on their way to a watering hole. 

   For the most part, the evening went well. Opening with The Best of What’s Around into one of my favorites, Big Eyed Fish, was epic, but going into my friend Kelly’s favorite, Satellite, well, that just made it all too special. 

   The rest of night one galloped along at a breakneck pace, even the 20 minute jam out of Seek Up not weighing down the flow. 

   Somewhere towards the beginning of the set a kid who was clearly heavily under the influence of some sort of psychotropic drug came literally crawling through the crowd, almost squishing Matty Ice’s friend and her child that sitting on the ground in the middle of our people circle. Matty Ice spotted the danger before any of us, and quickly Don Corleone’d the situation, snuffing the impending crisis in the bud. 

  The only other extraneous excitement for the evening came when one of our camping neighbors texted that he ‘needed help finding himself’, as the full day’s worth of whiskey had gotten the best of him. Annie stepped into the role of ‘show mom’ and retrieved our wayward brother, and soon we were all back together, dancing like fools. 

   Besides Denver, all the DMB shows that I had been to had been east coast shows. I’m not sure if being in a different region was a factor, or maybe it was the fact that many of the people in the crowd had spent the day traveling, but there was a marked difference in the temperament of the crowd. The east coast shows that I had been to, especially at my home venue of SPAC, have what I can best describe as a rabid feel to them. The crowd sings every lyric and dances to every note, creating a palpable vibe unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The crowd at The Gorge was different. From my mid-lawn vantage things felt muted. I saw many people sitting, many standing in what felt a stoic fashion, and very few people were singing along. I made a mental note to see how the rest of the weekend’s vibe was. 

  The rest of the evening played out, coming to crescendo with a killer All Along the Watchtower. As quickly as the evening had progressed, it was over. Not wasting any time, we made our way along the path back to our camp. We hung out enough to have a few drinks, and then crawled into our tents, slipping into the sweet oblivion of sleep. 

   

Weekend at The Gorge pt.2

 …Cont. from Pt. 1

Click this link to read Pt.1

Part 2: Introductions
   The solution to my concert dilemma began to present itself when my mom and sister surprised me with lawn tickets to The Gorge for my birthday, along with enough sky miles to cover my flight to Seattle. This left me only to have to figure out ground transportation and lodging. My work situation was also conducive for me to be able to take the time off at the end of summer. Everything, for once, seemed to be working out!

   For a few years I have been a member of a DMB Facebook group, on which I found a couple of people looking for someone to jump in and split the costs of camping and car rental. After a few bumps in the road regarding flight booking, and a hurricane scare that affected one of my soon to be fellow campers, we all met up in Seattle the Thursday afternoon before the show. 

   My flight arrived last, so by the time I disembarked and made my way through SeaTec Airport, my two soon to be travel companions had already met up with others from our Facebook group and were posted up at an empty counter by baggage claim, being barraged by other travelers who dimwittedly assumed that they were employees at an information kiosk. While many of the others in our Facebook group have met in real life before, this was my first time having corporeal contact with any of them. 

   To be completely honest, while I was in the planning stages of the trip, the idea of flying to an unknown airport, meeting up with strangers who, not only would I be spending a considerable amount of time with, but would also be trusting to uphold a financial obligation with as regards to our travel expenses, and then going to camp and three nights of shows all the while surrounded by 30,000 people that I had never met before, well, it honestly was an intimidating concept. 

   Putting on my adventure hat, I walked up and introduced myself. The preconceived idea of awkwardness vanished instantly, as I was greeted with handshakes and hugs all around. It felt less like the meeting of strangers, and more like a high school reunion, one where you haven’t seen people in years, but you had a general notion of what everyone has been up to along the way. 

   After a bit of talking, my camping group and I said our goodbyes to everyone and headed to pick up our rental. We opted for a minivan, given their function and comfort over form. Shortly, we were on the road. 

   Since all of us had flown in, our plan was to hit up a local store for supplies and then make the drive to the venue. We stopped at a Walmart in Renton, which turned out to be the same sketchy one that I had stayed in the parking lot of back when the Man on Earth tour last came through Seattle. Heading in, we quickly discovered that every other DMB fan that flew in must have had the same idea as us. The camping section was bare, save for a few sleeping bags and a handful of air mattresses. We grabbed our food and what other minimal items we could for the weekend, and decided to head out and search for supplies in another store. After a few phone calls and a stop at a Fred Meyer, we found a Target that had what we needed in stock. Van packed to the gills, we finally actually hit the road. 

   The ride out was fairly uneventful, which gave the three of us, all who had never previously met, plenty of time to become acquainted. By the time we rolled into the campground, there was no shred of informality left among us. 

   It was almost dark, so we set our camp up as quickly as possible, managing to do so before the sun completely set. For some reason nicknames proved easier than using our real names, something that I kind of attributed to the sense of escapism that surrounded the whole weekend. I very easily fell back into my tour moniker Michaels, a botched introduction earned our female camper the name Annie, and rounding off the group was the man who came to be known as Matty Ice. 

   Annie had set up a ‘meal plan’ with another camp for the weekend, in which she had paid a flat rate for 3 hots a day. Since we were all set up, we said a quick hello to our camping neighbors, then headed off to find Annie’s grub hub. 

   The campground was a sprawling collection of tents and RVs set in the middle of a non-cultivated farm field. We were in premier camping, which to my surprise wasn’t top tier camping. We weren’t even second to the top. Not that I was complaining, it turned out that we had real bathrooms and showers in our tier that were available for no extra charge. The people over in standard camping (or as we came to call it ‘Gen Pop’ or ‘District 9′) had only Honey Bucket port-a-pottys and pay per use showers. After a bit of wandering, we found Annie’s people. 

   Site B, as I called it, was more of a small city then it was a camp site. If he wasn’t Canadian, I would definitely believe that the guy who organized it was a FEMA employee. 30 or so people had met up outside the campground and all rode inside in convoy so as to ensure they all could camp next to each other. They had set up and connected 3 20’x20′ canopy tents that were at least 10’ tall at their peak. One tent was set up as a kitchen, with coolers full of food and drinks, gas grills, and the like. On the opposite end, the other tent was set up as a living room type of area. Actual couches and chairs were arranged in a circle around a gas fire pit. There was even a few tapestries hanging on the walls. Connecting the two areas was the third tent, which was set up as a dance floor. Outside, behind the triple living area tents the group had set up their sleeping tents, definitely keeping the sense of community flowing that was so prevalent inside. The scale of Site B’s operation made you forgot for a minute that we were actually in the middle of a field in the sticks of Washington state. 

   We hung out for a bit, and soon enough people broke out guitars and started a singalong while passing around a bottle of Fireball Whiskey. Matty Ice commented on his hatred of cinnamon and need for another beer, so the three of us decided to head back to our home base. 

   When we got back our neighbors had all finished setting up their camps and were spending their evening hanging out. The campers in the RV on our passenger side were in their own world on their passenger side, but as we sat down our other adjacent neighbors struck up conversation and offered us shots. Nicknames were again the soup of the day, so we met Goldie, Tommy Gun, Ming Chang (who I called Harambro, due to his love for the dearly departed Harambe), and Ian (Annie started that one, she said he looked like an Ian, and it stuck like gum to a shoe). Our new bros were drinking Jack Fire, and of course not wanting to be rude, Matty Ice set aside his hatred of cinnamon for a moment and did a shot with us. Or six. Or something. I lost count after three. 

   2 am curfew came quickly, and not wanting to be evicted on our first night, we all went to bed. The day’s travel finally caught up to me and kicked me in the head, causing me to fall far quicker than into the blissful oblivion of sleep than usual….

——TBC——

Weekend at the Gorge 2016 pt.1

   After a few drafts of this blog post, and seeing it grow longer with each revision, I came to the decision to keep with The Gorge tradition and break it up into 3 separate posts over 3 separate nights. I promise, it all makes sense in the end. Or the beginning… Or maybe it won’t. Who knows…

Pt. 1: Prologue 
   It was the summer of 2004. I was freshly 21, single, and more than ready to mingle. 

   Dating was something that never came easy for me; despite my best efforts with women I usually found myself in that awkward space between romance and the friend zone that I often referred to as ‘dating purgatory’. Living in a small New England town of about 6,000, dating was already a difficult endeavor, as everyone already knew each other’s history, to the Norman Rockwell detail. 

   At that time in my life I discovered two things: 1) it was extremely easy to cross this magical, undefined, and ever changing line of what was considered appropriate conduct as regards to where these ‘relationships’ stood at any given moment, and 2) when said line was crossed, women got extremely pissed off. 

   One such confusing incident happened that summer at the fabled Green River in my Western Massachusetts hometown. This girl that I had been spending a considerable amount of time with, we’ll call her Jane, and I took a picnic down to the river. It was a perfect Berkshire day; we ate, drank, swam, and took a nap in the sunshine. I awoke to Jane using my chest as a pillow. All seemed good in the world. 

   At that moment a group of our friends showed up, which woke Jane from her slumber. They obviously assumed that things had progressed beyond where they actually had, which for some reason greatly angered Jane (I later found out that it was because she had a big unrequited thing for one of our friends that had shown up).

   After that day Jane refused to even talk to me. Not knowing what was going on in her head at the time left me at quite a loss. I absolutely hate having unfinished business in my life, but I could see no rhyme or reason as to why she was acting the way she was. So, I did what every rational guy in 2004 would do: I went to our local record store and bought her a cd. 

   One of the things that had originally connected Jane and I was my newly found love of the Dave Matthews Band, so I picked up their freshly released live album that had been recorded at The Gorge, wrote a little note blanketly apologizing for whatever it was that may have upset her, and delivered it to her at work. This apparently helped, because while nothing ever happened between us, we are still good friends to this day. 

   The one thing that I got out of it all, and the reason for that story, was that buying that album introduced me to Heaven’s Amphitheater, The Gorge, and set me on a mission to someday make the trek to Washington state for what had been dubbed ‘LaborDave Weekend’ by the fans; a 4 day event of camping and concerts that ended the Dave Matthews Band Summer Tour every year. 

   As it does, life got in the way. Every year it seemed there was some new excuse as to why I couldn’t make the pilgrimage to the west coast. 

   Fast forward 12 years. Dave Matthews Band announces that they are taking the year after their 25th anniversary tour off from the road, and I’m in Denver, which is literally 8 hours to the closest venue of the tour. My summer schedule was so jam packed between work and a travel wedding, that I wasn’t going to be able to take time off to make the trip to any of the midsummer shows that I wanted to. If there was ever a year that I wanted a trip to The Gorge to work out, this was it! I set myself to work on every angle I could think of. I was set to try my damnedest to make this trip work out!

——TBC——

Remember Two Things

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I actually remember the first time I ever heard Remember Two Things. It was the summer of 2005, and I had just gotten home from Saratoga Springs, NY after going to my very first Dave Matthews Band concert.
Before that day, I had been a fan, but more of a casual fan. I had heard all the studio albums and a few live ones that had been released up to that point countless times, with the exception of Remember Two Things. I remember thinking of the album as just a demo, being that a number of the songs were re-released on subsequent albums (it wasn’t much later in life that I learned an appreciation for demos).
When the band started playing that evening at SPAC, they opened with a song I didn’t recognize, but everyone else seemed to know. In the pre-smartphone era, there wasn’t a way to Google on the go, so I took a mental note and when I got home I did an internet search.
It turned out the song was “One Sweet World”, and the very next day I was at our local record store buying a copy of Remember Two Things.
The album cover has an autostereogram image on it, which all through growing up I had never been able to see. (Autostereograms are those ‘Magic Eye’ 3D pictures that were really popular in the 90’s.) I spent hours going cross-eyed before I was finally able to see the hidden image. I won’t spoil it for you in case you haven’t seen it yourself yet, but trust me, it’s there.
   Remember Two Things was released on November 9, 1993 on the bands own label, Bama Rags. In 1997, after the band made it pretty big, their major label, RCA Records, re-released the album, helping it go platinum in 2002.
The 2014 re-re-release of the album has four different sections. The first six tracks are full band live recordings that were taped at two separate venues in Virginia and one in Massachusetts. The next two tracks are full band studio recordings, recorded at Flat Five Studios, in Salem, VA. Then there are two more live recordings, but are done acoustically, with just Dave Matthews on rhythm guitar and vocals, and long time friend and collaborator Tim Reynolds on lead guitar. Finally, there are two bonus tracks, early studio recordings of two tracks that would be reworked a bit and released on the debut studio album, Under the Table and Dreaming.
One of the things that had always struck me about this album is the quality of the live recordings. Remember, these were recorded at small venues, in the early 90’s (pre-digital era). Yet the instrument levels don’t wash out the vocals, the ambient and crowd noises don’t thunder over the band… It’s an high standard set right from the get go for the live official releases from DMB.
One of the other things that really stands out to me is the palpable energy given by each band member. You really get a sense of the youth that the band possessed when this was recorded.
More than twenty years later, these songs have all developed their own unique flavor that only time and experience can bring. Listening to these songs in their early incarnations, slightly simpler and stripped down versions, gives a look into the innate talents that each member of DMB possessed from the start, and gives you a baseline with which to view the musical progress of the band from then until now.

Daily Dose of Dave

3/18/14
American Baby
Weekend on the Rocks

There’s those thought mazes that, when you take the time to analyze them, just make absolutely no sense at all. What I mean by a thought maze is, the journey that our brain takes from point A to point B to arrive at a thought.
For example, today I was talking to a friend who retold a joke that I had heard a while back. My thought process took me back to when I first remembered hearing the joke, and had flashes of the faces of the people in the room at that time. One of those peoples faces, a girl that I’ve known for some time now, triggered the memory of a conversation that I had earlier that week about her, in which someone told me that they heard she was pregnant, which brought the word “baby” to mind. 2.3 seconds later I was subconsciously humming ‘American Baby’, causing me to stop for a second and trace back how a joke about a clever midget led me to the song in what seemed like an instantaneous jump. I often find that stopping and tracing back through these mazes proves insightful into my own mind.