The Dave Matthews Band and weed have a lot in common. They go well together, certainly. But more specifically, DMB is a gateway drug. Learn to appreciate a 16-minute "Seek Up" at age 15, and you'll be hula-hooping and begging for "miracles" on Phish tour by high school graduation. Likewise, few people go on a psychedelic journey without first puffing a few doobies.
And it seems not much has changed. An informal survey of local high school seniors revealed that seven out of 10 classmates plan to attend DMB's show, despite the cheapest seats running a cool $77 after fees.
At least a few must be slinging schwag to pay for that. Not much changes.
DMB shows were certainly mandatory attendance when I was 16 and obsessed with the Charlottesville, Va.-bred quintet. I had the Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash fake books, and I could literally play a medley of the entire albums track by track (and I still can, although by college I swore off wooing girls with a rendition of "Lover Lay Down" worthy of John Belushi smashing my guitar to bits against the wall). The tiny record store down the street occasionally stocked a random double-CD live recording bootleg, which I'd eagerly mow a couple lawns to fork over $30 for. Thank God that I was too chicken when I turned 18 to get the "fire dancer" logo tattoo I'd heavily considered.
It's hard to say what changed. Dave Matthew's music certainly got more electric, beginning with 1998's Before These Crowded Streets. But it was probably 2001's Everyday that killed the band for folks like me. Despite a few strong tracks, the album came off as overly polished, occasionally sappy, and overall, boring. With Widespread Panic hitting their peak of popularity and Phish finally selling out arenas, DMB suddenly seemed very uncool. Fortunately, Matthews had the good sense to release Busted Stuff soon thereafter, an album full of gems ("Grace is Gone," "Big Eyed Fish," "Bartender") that was recorded prior to Everyday and initially scrapped.
By that point, DMB could have released an album of fart sounds and seen it top the charts, as 2005's Stand Up did — they're fourth consecutive studio album to hit #1. Across the nation, DMB could (and still can) sell out the biggest stadiums and arenas. Then, in 2008, tragedy struck. Founding member and saxophonist LeRoi Moore flipped his ATV at his Virginia farm, puncturing his lung. Complications set in, including pneumonia, and he passed away after six weeks. Boyd Tinsley (violin), Carter Beauford (drums), Stefan Lessard (bass), and Matthews persevered, recruiting Béla Fleck and the Flecktones saxophonist Jeff Coffin to fill in and eventually replace Moore.
The new quintet responded with 2009's Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, tying Metallica with a fifth consecutive #1 and earning "best album yet" accolades from Rolling Stone.
Big Whiskey cemented the growth of DMB's touring ensemble as well. Long-time guitarist and collaborator Tim Reynolds and trumpeter Rashawn Ross join the band on the road, now a septet.
Wednesday's show marks the group's first appearance in Charleston since Big Whiskey's release. The Fourth of July 2008 brought them to the Joe Riley Stadium, their only other show here this century, despite frequent stops at the Music Farm, Gaillard Auditorium, and the Citadel in the '90s.
With two horns in the band and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave. opening, count on plenty of brass-driven acoustic funkiness at the Coliseum. The kids may not be full-on noodle dancing at the Dave Matthews show, but they'll certainly be in training.