For the first time in years, Dave Matthews Band wasn’t going to embark on a summer tour next year. The news should have floored me. DMB tours are a rite of summer for thousands like me. They were a personal band — a group I discovered as a teenager, in their formative years, when their mix of African rhythms and jazzy flourishes was new and mystifying. They were first band I ever bought a T-shirt for. And I’ve seen them about 20 times in my life, spending many a summer weekend trekking across the northeast — to Pittsburgh, to Hershey, to D.C., to Fenway Park — to see them.
But I’m 26 now, a professional journalist. The fact that I wouldn’t be seeing DMB on stage next summer? It didn’t sting me as much as it would have in 2003.
Then, I saw them last weekend at Citi Field in New York — and something felt different. The sky about the stadium — home of my beloved New York Mets — seemed lacquered in photo-esque blue. The crowd was majestic. The setlist was solid — ‘One Sweet World,’ ‘Seek Up,’ the most perfect ‘Two Step’ I had ever encountered. For some reason, it felt like the last DMB show I would ever witness. It seemed like a farewell that had already been staged for me.
One of the reasons? I felt kind of old. DMB is one of those bands where their fans seem to stay the same age. Yes, their old fans — the ones who bought Crash the day it came out — are still in the crowd. They have children now and slight tinges of grey hair. But as I looked around me in Flushing last Saturday, I saw teenagers in hemp necklaces who weren’t born when ‘Under The Table And Dreaming’ was released in 1994. I saw girls working on term papers swaying to ‘Satellite.’
The feeling was even more potent the next night when I saw 1970s/80s new wavers Squeeze in New Brunswick. There, I was one of the few people under 40 in the crowd. They’re a band that people my age discover because of a desire to reach back into the past. Something tells me DMB won’t have that problem. They will always attract Abercrombie-clad college freshmen with a penchant for pot and relaxation. They’re not classic rock like the Dead — the kind of music you inherit from your parents. DMB has a universal, timeless appeal that begs to be played in college dorms for decades.
With Squeeze, I never experienced their music first-hand. I learned it after the fact — like a history project you get excited about but will never understand the way your grandparents do. It’s easy to remove yourself from the experience and just like the music with bands like that.
But Dave? I will always love him. At Citi Field, though, I felt exhilarated and sad at the same time. It was the first time I felt like I was older than the music I listened to.
Maybe it’s a symbol they won’t be touring next year.