As it turns out, going to a music festival weekend is a pretty good alternative to the old method of finding new music, which was Dating New Boys.
Or, if you’re a boy, Dating New Girls.
See, Michael and I have had this discussion a few times in the course of our relationship: how on earth can two people who stay together ever possibly find new music? Back in the old Single and Fabulous days, I always found new music by dating new boys. And Michael was a boy, so he was always on the lookout for new music to play to impress the new girls he was dating.
So, once you’re married, what do you do? I mean, we can’t very well go on listening to the same Counting Crows and Ryan Adams albums forever! (Well, I might be able to, but only if I was feeling introspective enough at the time.) And Pandora can only get you so far (as they seem to believe that liking DMB means you automatically like Jack Johnson, who I really can’t tolerate, so I abandoned the DMB Pandora station pretty quickly).
Our lack of new music exposure was the driving reason behind making this Achievement. If we forced ourselves to see 4 new live bands in 2011, that would be potentially 4 new bands we could listen to in the comfort of our own home!
It became clear to us last weekend that the missing piece of this puzzle was music festivals.
Naturally, we were attending the Dave Matthews Band Caravan music festival primarily to get our yearly dose of DMB. Since they are not doing an official tour this summer (boo!), the Caravan was our only chance to catch them live in 2011, and as soon as Warehouse tickets went on sale, we were buying. And we knew we were going to come away from the weekend feeling that mix of satisfied and still-craving-more that can only come from a Dave show. What we didn’t plan on was coming away with so many fab new bands to listen to!
There were 39 different bands at the DMB Atlantic City Caravan, stretching over the three-day festival. And at the end of each night, the band that has been a part of my life for over a decade closed things out with a full set, and the shows increased in fabulousness from Friday to Sunday (I do not care if I made up the word ‘fabulousness,’ it is a real word in my heart).
The first band we had the pleasure of seeing on Friday afternoon was Jeff Coffin and the Mu’tet. Jeff Coffin is presently the saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band (he replaced Leroi Moore’s spot when he passed away in 2008), but he’s also played with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Unfortunately, because of delays at the gates of the festival, we were only able to catch the last few songs, but they were really cool, very jazz and improv-driven, and it’s kind of weird to hear Jeff Coffin talking, since Dave usually does all of that 🙂
Next, we hopped one stage over to see another member of the DMB crew, Mr. Tim Reynolds, playing with his band TR3. Tim plays guitar and has been playing with DMB for so long that he’s basically an unofficial-official member of the band (it’s been years since we saw a tour when he wasn’t on stage). TR3 has a very different sound than DMB, or Dave and Tim’s duo stuff (more on that soon), more clearly rock-driven, but they were a lot of fun. I kind of felt like I was watching Tom Petty’s weird uncles rocking out at the family barbeque at some points, but they’re definitely talented musicians, and having a lot of fun up there! (Also, seeing TR3 made me realize just how short Tim is! I never noticed so much because he’s kind of always in the background when on stage with DMB, but I imagine he must be even shorter than Michael, which is quite an achievement 😉
Although there were several other cool bands we wanted to see on Day #1, we were all exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before (soooo hard to not be too-excited-to-sleep the night before a Dave trip!) and the long drive, so we got these sweet re-entry bracelets to go with our 3-day-pass bracelets, and headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours of downtime before the night’s shows.
As our ‘warmup band’ before the big show, we saw the Flaming Lips perform Dark Side of Oz. Instead of just playing the Pink Floyd album in its entirety, they added in familiar bits of The Wizard of Oz, complete with having a herd of dancing Dorothys on stage! It was a little out there, but it was also really cool. (Early on in our relationship, Michael and I got a bottle of wine one night, brought my laptop into my room, and watched the Dark Side of Oz matchup on YouTube, so we were kind of excited about this.)
On Day #2, we saw what I thought was the coolest of all of the smaller acts: Dave and Tim!! After years of listening to Live at Luther College and never getting the chance to see them live, we finally could!
They opened with “Grace is Gone,” and just played all sorts of our favorites (interestingly enough, not only were there no repeats between the three nights of DMB, there were no repeats from the Dave & Tim set as well!). Other favorites of the set were “Lie In Our Graves” and a “So Damn Lucky” encore. I truly love Tim’s electric guitar in the end of live, full-band “So Damn Lucky,” but it is just so incredible to hear the two of them doing all of this acoustic. I promise, someday I will make it to a full show of theirs!!
Next up was the whimsical, lovely Lisa Hannigan. We’ve apparently heard her before on Damien Rice songs, but we loved her solo performance as well! She has a folksy sound and a charming Irish brogue as she introduces upcoming songs. Once we were back home in Pittsburgh, I ordered an album of hers, and I’m excited for it to arrive!
And next was another band whose songs I realized I knew, once I was hearing them again. This is Guster, an indie-ish band whose songs have apparently worked themselves onto the radio stations you hear playing when you’re out at the mall. Lots of fun, and another album purchase for us!
Finally, just before our favorite Charlottesville gentlemen took the stage, we caught some of Warren Haynes’ set. You surely know Mr. Haynes from the Allman Brothers, and perhaps also Gov’t Mule, but also because he’s sat in with DMB a number of times. His music was perhaps a little more blues-influenced than I’m typically interested in, but that was what this festival was all about: broadening our musical horizons. As an added bonus, he sat in that night on “#41!”
By Sunday, we were sunburned and worn out of the dirt at Bader Field (it’s a former airport that was converted into a sort-of grassy area, but in a place that seems to have a poor ability to grow grass – you could tell how long people had been there each day by how dirty their feet were!), so we didn’t come over until late afternoon, where we were able to catch David Gray on the main stage, all while securing our spots for DMB. Turns out, I’ve heard David Gray on the radio tons of times, and he was really good! Time to buy our third album when we got home!!
Michael Franti and Spearhead were the final act before the last Dave show of the weekend, and they were the perfect band to get everyone excited. The crowd involvement was crazy! Michael Franti even went into the front rows of the crowd to dance and get people pumped up. Such a good time, and I would LOVE to see these guys at an outdoor event here in Pittsburgh like the Arts Festival or Regatta!
And while this post is mostly about the new bands we had the chance to experience, I could not miss a chance to mention my absolute favorite group, Dave Matthews Band. Their shows are more than just a concert, and if you’ve got the time, you can read my entry on my other blog leading up to the PNC Park show of last summer. And, if you have the weekend off, you should get in the mood to travel and hit one of their other three remaining Caravan stops this summer. You will not be sorry!
Oh, one more thing: even though we saw well more than 4 new live bands, we’re counting this as one of the 4 needed for the Achievement, as it was all part of the same festival. Plus, we want to give some Pittsburgh bands a shot, so we are looking forward to where our next live show journey takes us!