In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 2 is Dave Matthew Band.
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard Dave Matthews Band (sometime in the mid-90s) nor which song it was that I first heard (likely something from Under the Table and Dreaming). I do remember that DMB struck me differently than most of the music I had been listening to up until that point. I was young enough to still soak up much of top-40 pop radio yet just old enough to question if there was something more that I was missing.
Meanwhile, out in his studio, my dad was making pots while listening to B.B. King and Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan. My dad loved jazz and blues, but it wasn’t quite palatable for a simple-minded pre-teen like myself who was simultaneously embracing Ace of Base and Shaq Diesel (seriously). In addition to becoming my second favorite band, Dave Matthews Band is largely responsible for opening the musical doors for me to explore and appreciate other types of music, particularly the jazz and blues that my dad enjoys so much.
DMB was one of the first groups that made me listen to music for something other than the lyrics. No, that’s not quite accurate. DMB’s lyrics have consistently resonated with me on a personal level. What I mean to say is that DMB’s music enticed me to listen to more than lyrics alone. Even on their studio tracks, the band’s musicianship has always stood out. Their songs are so etched into my memory that I often find myself trying to sing along note-for-note to the instrumental solos in addition to the actual lyrics.
If my memory serves me right, 1996’s Crash was the first DMB album that I actually purchased, and I quickly wore it out in my CD player. I was hooked. Today, in terms of official non-bootleg releases, I own more CDs from Dave Matthews than any other group or artist. The collection includes every studio album DMB has released as well as an assorted number of live releases that really showcases what has made DMB the concert band of my generation.
When summer rolls around, you can be sure that DMB will be touring. I first saw DMB live on June 26, 2003 at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa., with my friend Ryan. I’ve seen them live four times in all, and although each show was at the same venue, each show was different and awesome. No two DMB performances are exactly alike, and that’s part of the thrill. Thanks to the amazing database at DMBalmanac.com, I can look up the entire setlist from that show and pretty much any other DMB show dating back to the band’s first performance in 1991.
As I mentioned before, I own a lot of DMB music. Trying to narrow it all down into one compilation CD of my favorites was a painstaking process. More than any other band, I think that my list of tracks with DMB would likely shift somewhat if I attempted to re-do the process. With the exception of maybe The Beatles, no other group on this list would likely cause other fans of the band to complain more, telling me that I left (insert song title here) off the list. Sorry, folks. It’s my project. It’s my list. I’d love to read about your favorite DMB songs, so feel free to leave them in the comments. In the meantime, click below to read about my favorites.
Because of song length, especially from the live tracks, only 14 tracks—the second fewest among the artists I selected for my 30 at 30 project—made the final cut for my ultimate DMB compilation.
Fittingly, the compilation begins with the roar of the crowd leading in to “One Sweet World” from 9/12/04 in San Francisco. Although I did not personally attend that concert, I did hear “One Sweet World” live in Pittsburgh at my second DMB concert on June 26, 2004 in Pittsburgh. “One Sweet World” always lifts my spirits. The opening guitar riff leads into a blaring saxophone that screams life into me. I cannot imagine coming out of this song in a bad mood.
Track two, “American Baby” comes from 2005’s Stand Up. As the first DMB album released after I met Jessie, Stand Up has a special place in my heart. Eight of the album’s 14 tracks have appeared on a Matt’s Mix at some point in time. “American Baby” is one of two to make it onto this compilation. Dave Matthews has gone on record saying that Boyd Tinsley’s violin-plucking riff on “American Baby” is “one of my favorite licks in the history of all music.” Unfortunately, when Jessie and I saw DMB together for the first (and, to date, only) time on June 9, 2006, “American Baby” did not make the setlist.
Speaking of Jessie, tracks three and four made it onto the CD because of the sentimental value they have in our relationship. “Where Are You Going?” comes from 2002’s Busted Stuff. But in the summer of 2005, Jessie and her sister Abby played a version of it at a local cafe called Moonsense. Sadly, Moonsense is no longer in business, but that end-of-summer show was one of the first times I heard Jessie sing and play for a crowd, and it made me love her and the song even more, even if it did precede the first of our many breakups.
Perhaps more than any DMB song, “Crash Into Me,” in particular the Live at Luther College acoustic version played by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, symbolizes our relationship. It’s a song that we have probably listened to hundreds of times, so it should come as no surprise that earlier this summer I ranked it as my second favorite song of all-time. The entire Live at Luther College album is excellent, but if I could only listen to one Dave song , this version of “Crash Into Me” would be the one.
Tracks five through eight are all grouped together in my mind. “Ants Marching” and “The Best of What’s Around” come from Under the Table and Dreaming. “Tripping Billies” and “Two Step” come from Crash. But these two albums, and these songs in particular, all share a similar carpe diem attitude. Seize the day. Make the most of the moments we have.
From “Ants Marching”:
Take these chances
From “Tripping Billies”:
Eat, drink and be merry
for tomorrow we die
From “The Best of What’s Around”:
Turns out not where but what you think
that really matters.
We’ll make the best of what’s around
From “Two Step”:
Celebrate we will
because life is short but sweet for certain
There is a definitive shift in tone with “Stolen Away at 55th & 3rd,” the other track from Stand Up. This seemed like an appropriate follow-up to the carpe diem suite of songs as “Stolen Away at 55th & 3rd” includes lines lamenting about how the time gets away and reconnecting after missing out or losing someone in the past. “Funny how you take me right back again” definitely hit home during my on-again, off-again dating period with Jessie.
Track 10, “You & Me” is the lone track from 2009’s Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King. It was an instant classic love song the moment I heard it. I really like the message of this song. On first listen it’s another song about these two lovers, but the line that really gets me, especially now, is “when the kids are old enough / we’re gonna teach them to fly.” So wrapped up in the two of us being able to do anything is the idea that “anything” includes being great parents, a destiny that I hope to realize in the very near future.
Track 11, “Mercy” is another lone representative, taken from 2012’s Away From the World. It’s such a beautiful little song. The song speaks to the most simple and most profound of truths: love is strong. There is a lot wrong in our world today, but if we all actually embraced love as our primary operating principle, we can overcome anything.
I’m not sure if there is a better song to close a concert with than track 12, “Stay (Wasting Time.” Conveniently for me, it was the song that closed the concert the first time I saw DMB live. And I definitely wanted to stay, stay, stay, stay, stay for awhile.
Track 13 was “Crush (Live in Central Park).” It came in as number 10 on my list of all-time favorite songs. The solos on this recording are out of this world. If I had to pick one track to explain who Dave Matthews Band is to someone, this might be the one I would choose. It’s a great love song on its own, but when you add in the live jam band aspect, it takes it to a whole different level.
Finally, I closed my compilation with #41, a song so sweet that it doesn’t even require a proper name. I was fortunate enough to hear it live the last time I saw DMB live back on May 31, 2008. Unfortunately, they played an acoustic version that did not feature LeRoi Moore’s saxophone, which is critical to the studio track. A month later Moore was injured in an ATV accident. Tragically, he passed away on August 19, 2008. His memory lives on through so many classic recordings with #41 being arguably at the top of the list.
MM 30 at 30: Dave Matthews Band tracklist (finalized August 17, 2014)
1. One Sweet World (Live Trax, Vol. 2: 9/12/04 Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, CA)
2. American Baby
3. Where Are You Going?
4. Crash Into Me (Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College)
5. Ants Marching
6. Tripping Billies
7. The Best of What’s Around
8. Two Step
9. Stolen Away on 55th & 3rd
10. You & Me
12. Stay (Wasting Time)
13. Crush (Live in Central Park)