Friday, January 29, 2010

The Dave Matthews Band: Greatest Ever?

I am excluding the Beatles and 98 Degrees from this debate—they are music immortals.

As the Dave Matthews Band nears two decades of relevance, I wonder: Is the Dave Matthews Band the greatest band ever? How long do we have to wait before fans can begin to measure Matthews’ place? He’s toured relentlessly, playing sold-out shows in every corner of the world. The band has authored four great studio albums (plus others): Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, Everyday, and the latest: Big Whiskey & the Groogux King, which Rolling Stone Magazine called the band’s greatest. DMB’s complete discography--studio discs, concert CD’s, and compilations--easily number over twenty. I have been to 10 shows. Every concert has been amazing, full of energy, an incredible blend of great singing and instrumental solos, violin, guitar, drums, you name it. All shows went well over two hours, and a sweat-soaked Matthews left it all on the stage every time, even on the second night of a double bill. The encores never disappoint, plus his tickets are cheap ($75.00-$40.00 vs. the Stones or U2 which sell for hundreds). For your money, there's nothing more powerful than being immersed in a sea of 20,000 people, all swaying back and forth and singing along to “Say Goodbye” or “Dancing Nannies” as the sun sets. At that moment, when you see Dave Matthews holding that crowd in the palm of his hand, you realize how great he really is.

If a band sounds like crap live, forget it, that band isn’t even in this conversation. I don’t care about theatrics or some drunken lead singer bouncing around the stage like Jim Morrison or Axl Rose. I don’t need elaborate stage setups like U2’s. When I talk to Phish fans, another popular road show, they all carry on about ridiculous things like barbershop quartets and “far out” stage lights. The truth is Phish is just a mediocre jam band, like Garcia and the Dead were, with a great drug scene. For me, it’s about music. Just make the music sound good.

Let’s look at the heavyweights in this debate. The Rolling Stones are legends, but I would take “Jimi Thing” and “Everyday” over “Start Me Up” and “Satisfaction.” Zeppelin, Floyd, Cream, AC/DC, the Who, all great. But come on, they’re pretty formulaic and their songs sound basically the same. Albeit, great songs, but kind of the same idea. I’d take “Two Step” or “Number 41” over “Comfortably Numb” and “Shook Me All Night Long.” Aerosmith is amazing, but they disappeared in their prime to play with drugs. Nirvana and Pearl Jam put G N’ R out of business. But Nirvana was relevant for four years, maybe, and Cobain didn’t make an album as great as Crash. Nevermind? Great album, but are you kidding me? Pearl Jam’s Ten was super, but I’d take Under the Table and Dreaming first, and that’s not even DMB’s best. In fact, I defy you to find ten albums better than Crash EVER, in any genre, and I’ll give you Dark Side of the Moon, Appetite for Destruction, and Thriller.

Some others. The Eagles? No. Fleetwood Mac? Not even close, although Rumours rocked. The Hendrix Experience? Can you say overrated? Halen? Rush? Queen? STP? Chili Peppers? Metallica? Maybe. But I don’t think so.

It’s hard to say a modern act is an all-time great. We want to defer to history. But the fact is--musically speaking—DMB is the greatest ever. The lyrics are razor-sharp and awesomely smart, the instrumentals are brilliant, and nobody is better live. Recently I went to a Tom Petty concert. I love Petty. I was literally asleep by the fifth song. Matthews has spoiled this generation. Everything else live is pedestrian at best. As a society we've gotten smarter with time. I pay all respect to the musical pioneers, but being first doesn’t mean being best. And I know you won’t find DMB on any Top 100 list. You’ll find Bob Marley and the Wailers or Earth, Wind, and Fire. I know. Who?

I ask: Why do we have to wait for a performer to be long gone or past prime to recognize their greatness? I’m saying we don’t. I’m saying right here and now: The Dave Matthews Band is the greatest band ever. If you don’t believe me, buy a ticket for the June 4th or 5th show at SPAC.

This year DMB has been nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys for Big Whiskey and the Groogux King. I hope for the sake of all music, the committee doesn’t give this great award to that silly circus-freak Lady Gaga, or that fifteen-year-old puppet Taylor Swift. And don’t even tell me about Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce. Something different this year: Give the Grammy to the “best” album not just the most commercial.


  1. Um...a couple things. First, your argument is highly subjective and a matter of opinion. Loaded words like "best", "greatest" or "amazing" are giveaways. I will give you the fact that DMB are at least more listen-able than the rest of the garbage that passes for pop music these days. I've seen them live and, yes, they put on a good show...but some of the claims you're making about the greatness of "Crash" and "Under The Table" are simply outrageous. Go take some more Molly and drink some Natty Lights so you can "trip" with all the "billies".

    Oh, and get your facts straight: Taylor Swift may write like a 15-year old but she's actually 20 now and deserves every bit of criticism she gets.

  2. DMB makes enjoyable music - though you have a vastly over-inflated sense of worth of much of their studio work - and, despite their obnoxious, vapid following, they do put on a great show. That said, I submit that your argument is largely unsubstantiated and unqualified. I recognize this is a short blog, and I give you that. But, you clearly bit off way more than you can chew. Bicuspids are integral to thorough mastication.

    Best ever debates make for some of the most inane conversation humanity can muster, and I generally refrain from involving myself in them because they are boring - why argue about personal tastes? However, it's pretty alarming how passively you dismiss quality music as ordinary in comparison to DMB. DMB? Watch, now, as I assess random points from your piece and prod them with a stick:

    Your whirlwind montage addresses some pretty epic bands and leads me to believe that you aren't familiar enough with their music to pass sound judgment. Example: no legitimate Stones fan listens to "Start Me Up" or "Satisfaction" but on the radio. These are amateurish examples taken from a prolific catalog. Shame. Pink Floyd? Formulaic? Astounding. Double shame. Go listen to Animals and/or Meddle and be thankful.

    Indirectly, you suggest that Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd sound basically the same? To put it gently, that idea is senseless. How can they be compared? Can one even compare them to themselves? They are basically the same in that they both explode heads, yes. I once listened to "Since I've Been Loving You" and felt no pain for a week. Compare that to the time I listened to "Fearless" - not even balls-out Pink Floyd - and I grew my first chest hair. The differences are fundamental yet beyond comparison.

    You owe the readers of the Troy Record an apology. I read this blog and nearly fainted. Your slander is so rampant, it's too profound to adequately address in a single, somewhat brief response. Debate DMB as the greatest band ever. Fine. But at least put some honest thought into what you're saying.

    Fact: Earth Wind & Fire made kick-ass music. Listen to "Fantasy" and tell me different. You won't, if you're human. The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac: garbage. Why are they even mentioned? Tom Petty: supremely overrated. Petty made some fine, catchy tunes, but that's the extent of it. Washed-up Tom Petty is the show you pit against DMB? Maybe start going to see good live music? Go on, give Phish a chance. They are back on tour - sober, even - now would be a perfect time. The Grateful Dead and Phish are mediocre jam bands? What in the name of fresh bed linens are you saying? That is a dangerous claim to toss around as if god isn't watching.

    Consider the following - you actually wrote this:

    "Some others. The Eagles? No. Fleetwood Mac? Not even close, although Rumours rocked. The Hendrix Experience? Can you say overrated? Halen? Rush? Queen? STP? Chili Peppers? Metallica? Maybe. But I don’t think so."

    Now consider a few brief thoughts in response to your aforementioned dribble:

    1. Rumors certainly does not rock. It is the opposite of rock. It does not make lovin' fun. You are sad.
    2. See earlier thoughts on The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.
    3. Listen to Axis: Bold as Love. You have a filthy mouth.
    4. Rush? You have no business suggesting that the Experience is overrated.

    Now, listen. I know I've ranted. I know this. You meant well. I meant well. Just, please, take more care with your words. Your credibility as a blogger depends upon it.

    P.S. Tony Bennett Unplugged is wonderful.

  3. una pajita vale mas que nada ...