I did not write this. I found it on a forum I can no longer track down but had it pasted onto a word document from way back and thought it should be shared. It's a thoughtful reflection on a life influenced by the music of DMB.
It’s a bright summer morning in Grant County, Washington where Amy and Paula are waiting to sprint down a hill. They’re at The Gorge, an amphitheater in the Pacific Northwest situated right in front of the Columbia River in George, Washington. Among thousands of other people, my mom and my aunt are waiting to get to the barricade. Once the flags go up, my mom runs as fast as she can while my aunt laughs giddily. They end up getting the last bit of rail on the far right side of the stage. My mom has a sign that says “IT’S MY 40TH BIRTHDAY.” This is her forty-fifth Dave Matthews Concert.
When I remember my childhood, Dave Matthews Band has everything to do with it. In long car rides, in short ones, in school picks ups, in school drop-offs, DMB always welcomed me with his acoustic guitar and saxophone interludes. If you played me any song from Dave Matthews, I most likely wouldn’t be able to give you the title, but I could probably sing it word for word. With multiple versions of their songs, ranging from three minutes to twenty, just two albums of DMB could last up to three hours worth of driving if need be. In the center console of our mini-van, there were stacks of CDs, a vast majority of them being Dave Matthews Band.
Countless numbers of live albums were accounted for in this small space usually used for wipes, DMV information, and loose change. Choosing songs would be a privilege in that car, but it was usually only from the DMB catalog. “Alligator Pie” was my go-to pick. I think it was because I liked that a dog was barking in the beginning. I always liked how he shouted out his daughter in it because, from my mom’s oral history, it was because “her sister Grace’s name was always written in but Stella’s name was never used.” Only looking back now do I realize that beyond it being a song for his daughter to dance to, it was also a story about a father and daughter trying to be rescued during Hurricane Katrina.
This was a common theme for me while I was listening to Dave songs almost ten years after my last involuntary listen. Researching other songs, I noticed that my perceptions of each of them were so different than what they actually were. Talking to my mom, I asked her what “Alligator Pie” meant to her, she enthusiastically responded with a detailed breakdown of the history of its production to its lyrics: “it was produced in New Orleans and the dog barking at the beginning of the song was a stray that was kept in the studio. There’s banjo in the song because it adds a cajun a little bit.” This was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to my mom’s knowledge around DMB. Hearing her talk about it reminded me that I already knew this because she had told me countless times before. I realized I had always liked my mom’s commentary on the songs rather than the songs themselves.
My mom got into Dave Matthews after she got married at the age of twenty-three in 1993. She was a year into her marriage when she heard “What Would You Say”, the single of their debut album Under the Table and Dreaming (1994), on the radio for the first time. She loved the song so much that she went out and bought the CD. What she discovered was that most of the songs off the album were super long and not radio-friendly. “They had interesting instruments which was a very unique sound,” my mom says over the phone, “[Dave’s] a terrific storyteller and I could really relate to his observations about life and immediately I was hooked to the music.”
When I listen to certain songs, it takes me back to a very specific memory or time in my life. Time capsules for my family, I remember listening to “Cornbread”, not the recording at Piedmont Park in 2007, nor the one at Busch Stadium in 2008, but the one recorded in Radio City Music Hall in April of 2007. Without his band, Dave Matthews sang this set with guitarist Tim Reynolds, a man whose work I have heard countless times without ever knowing what he looked like. In our car rides, my brother would always request “Cornbread,” I think we both thought it was so silly because, in the beginning, Dave says with a heavy southern accent, “Make you wanna run around naked / 'Cause you know it looks good on you.”
The song that gives my mom the most distinct meaning is “Where Are You Going?”, a song off DMB’s fifth studio album, Busted Stuff (2002). “[it’s] a really special song to me because he talks about, not in the literal sense, but in your life: where are you going? When that song came out there was a moment in my life like what do I want to do for the rest of my life, I’m a mom, I took off from my career, what do I want from my life?” At the end of the song, Dave tells the listener directly, “And a where are you going? / Where...let’s go!” For my mom, the end of the song was a rallying call for her: “It was part of my thinking process when I went back to nursing school, it was the craziest and more impulsive thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
I’ve always understood that Dave Matthews Band was a huge part of my mom’s life, but I never stopped to think about why. I think there are moments when we forget that our parents have interests and dreams and problems. Dave always helped my mom cope with decisions even if my brother and I didn’t even know the decision being made in the first place.
In a safe place in my house, there’s a drum stick that my mom caught that fateful night at her forty-fifth Dave Matthews Concert. Almost ten years later, she still plans on framing it in our house.
By: Annie W.