Monday, October 06, 2014

"Hey, did someone just fart during my jam?"

Yesterday, I heard a Dave Matthews song on the radio. It was a live version of "Ants Marching." The strange thing is that I did not turn the dial. I let the song play out until the end.

Now I do not have a background in jam. I can neither stand the Dead, or any act associated with it, nor will I tolerate Phish for a patchouli soaked microsecond. If there's a banjo involved, you can probably count me out. This goes quadruple for unironic saxophone. But for some strange reason, I have a weird and inexplicable tolerance for DMB. This confuses me, and so I thought that I would try to figure this out. 

This is not to say that I would qualify myself as a "fan." I don't know the deep cuts, and am more of a greatest hits tourist, but I would be lying if I did not admit to loving "Two Step" at one point, finding vulnerable sweetness in "Crash Into Me" and even qualifying "The Space Between" as poignant. Despite the fact that Matthews' voice occasionally sounds like an Adam Sandler parody character, I like the guy. Is it because he just looks so laid back with his perpetually opened two top buttons and his rolled up sleeves, like he's a co-worker who's really determined to meet client expectations? Or is that goofy smirk like he's about to pull a prank on you, and it's George Clooney-worthy? These two aspects certainly add to his appeal, but I'm not hanging out with the guy any time soon, so it has to be more than that. 

I think the appeal lies in the fact that I admire the casual nature of the songs, like they're not belabored over to the point of obsessiveness. I bet most of the recorded takes are first cuts. I bet Dave says "yeah, that works" a lot followed by his signature giggle. There's an unpretentiousness in Matthews' songwriting like he's--I wouldn't qualify it as "jamming" necessarily--having actual fun. It's loose, frayed, and limber. 

But there's also an underdog nature to the DMB oeuvre, like I can imagine the guys in Radiohead making fun of them. Like I imagine Thom being offended by Dave and his troop of uncool dudes even sharing the bill with him on a festival line-up. But whatever, Dave says. I get it, man. You make art. I make music people want to smoke weed to and maybe if they're up for it, they'll run outside and get a bag of Doritos. I personally would never choose to actively listen to this kind of music, but if I heard it on the radio, nostalgia along with my inability to resist the laid backed nature of DMB would probably render me helpless to changing the station. 


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