Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Dreaming Tree Has Died: Lamenting a Formerly Great Band

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the Dave Matthews Band released, in my opinion, their masterpiece, Before These Crowded Streets. As one who worshiped 1996’s Crash, I didn’t think anything could top it. I was wrong. BTCS captures what the band’s trademark jam/improvisation style and highlighted each member’s talent. Just listen to Carter Beaufort’s drums on “Rapunzel” or Boyd Tinsley’s violin on “The Stone.” What about Leroi Moore’s sax on “The Last Stop” or “Stay (Wasting Time)?" This was DMB at their best. Four-minute diddies are for radio bands. DMB are not a radio band, which is what made this album so great…radio tried to turn “Crush” into a hit by trimming the damn thing in half…all it did was strip it of its groove. Eleven tracks (though, at 40 seconds, “Pantala Naga Pampa” hardly counts), seventy minutes—in an era where singles are championed, it stressed the album as a whole…which explains the album’s many “interludes” (some of which are so badass, I wish there were lyrics and an extra six minutes to them).

Unfortunately, the dreaming tree has died. BTCS songs, by and large, have fallen out of the DMB’s touring repertoire, in favor of fan (and by fan, I mean the drunk a-hole and his slutty girlfriend next to me) favorites “Where Are You Going” and (please shoot me in the face) “All Along the Watchtower.” Instead of starting a concert with the fury of “The Last Stop”, they opt for the phone-it-in “Ants Marching” or “Grey Street.” I long for the simpler days…I saw DMB in Lexington, Kentucky on November 20, 1998. 13 songs played over 2+ hours, the bulk coming from BTCS…the definition of an ideal DMB concert. Before everyone from Delta Tau Delta got a copy of The Lillywhite Sessions and thought they were insiders…before Glen Ballard stuck an electric in Dave’s hands…before Dave traded songs about getting high for government manifestos (please leave political songs to Neil Young, Bono, or Bright Eyes)…Before These Crowded Streets found a way to capture everything that was right about a once great band. Looking back ten years, sad to say, this was the last stop.

Kevin Smith Clark

8 comments:

g13 said...

i'm really glad that kevin smith clark posted on this topic because this band - along with his mission to rescue me from a destructive relationship, our shared love for midget and d*ck jokes, our shared goofy fetish and his wife's attempts to rescue unsuspecting women (including, ironically the pixie) from me - is one of the foundation stones of our hetero-lifemate relationship.

as for the band, as much as it once would have pained me to say it, they really, really need to break up. then kev and i can join up for the google sponsored reunion tour in 2030 and talk about how great life was then.

Agent B said...

From the "who cares" file or the "please believe I'm special" subconscious...

I'm friends with one of the guest musicians on that album, and I think his track is called "The Dreaming Tree".

Greg Howard has been a hanger-on of the DMB since their conception way back when (early 90s??) as they're all from the same town in Virginia.

I've taken lessons from Greg and had him out to the fair mother city a few times, once to teach a seminar I hosted. And once I got to open for Greg at my favorite cigar/hang-out in town.

So there you have it. I know someone who recorded w/ DMB. I'm cool.

Other than that, I know nothing of DMBs music.

Anonymous said...

g13,

Thanks for your kind words...as for the 2030 Stand Up (if Your Arthritic Joints Can Handle It) Tour, they'll probably still play the same stuff I've grown to detest. Fooey!

Agent B,

I'm familiar with Greg Howard. He was part of the experimental "Code Magenta" project with Leroi Moore back in the early 90s.

He's also part of what I'll call the "cool group" of collaborators with DMB (along with Tim Reynolds), not to be confused with the uncool group (including Butch Taylor, and the Lovely Ladies, or as g13 calls them, "the Meal Ticket")...they just annoy me.

Kevin Smith Clark

Tyler said...

TLDR version: I don't like DMBs new stuff.

g13 said...

the more i think about it, the less i'm with you on the condemnation of the delts. i think they deserve a more balanced judgment for at least two reasons:

1) the original lilywhite sessions material was brutally honest, beautiful and brooding stuff. when i first listened to those tracks, which kev burned for me if memory serves, i was so moved by the authenticity of the music that i (ok, a little ashamed to say this) began to pray for dave. he then shelved that record in order to release something he wrote under the influence of glen ballard and within a two week time frame. for these reasons, i think his failure to sack up and release the lilywhite album might have been the beginning of the end.

2) during my year at okie state the delts stole two sitting statues of ronald mcdonald and enthroned their awkward wavin', creepy smilin' faces upon toilets in their house. although their theft was an open secret in the greek world, they were somehow able to evade detection, even when their capers made the national news, and they eventually ditched the statues by sitting them on the edge of docks at the local lake. when the statues were finally found they had ransom notes tied around their necks that read something like: "i'm mcsorry i've been gone for so long. i told you i really need a mcvacation but you simply wouldn't listen. ~ronald."

Agent B said...

KSC - Yeah, Code Magenta. Love that CD.

Greg said he sold like 5 times more Code Magenta discs than all of his others combined because of Leroi.

I also remember him complaining about the direction of the DMB around 01 or 02 as well as the recordings post BTCS. That would fit your time line.

Anonymous said...

g13,

maybe the delts have some honor @ OSU, but my reasoning:

1. It was more representative of all Greek douchebags who do something based on its "hipness" rather than its intrinsic value.

2. DTD's at Kentucky (insert joke here) celebrate Deep South Week, and formerly took their house photo in Confederate-style uniforms, and they're uppity-jerkoffs. Ugh! Though it was funny to see 1989's photo featuring Kentucky (later Syracuse) basketball player LeRon Ellis, who's black.

And you're right...LWS could've been BTCS, part deux, but Glen Ballard...damn you, Glen Ballard.

KSC

mike said...

agreed mostly. but i like where are you going. but i like sad sack sentimental crap.