The Dee Em Bee: Everybody’s Happy, Everybody’s Free | Dave Matthews Band Live Review | Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre Tampa | Wednesday, July 29, 2015

by • August 5, 2015

Shortly before he took the stage, and all by himself at first—the very man owning up to the DM of that DMB equation—we threw a blanket down on our grassy knoll of a spot and declared the land rightfully ours for the next few hours. We got cozy, settled down into the softest of yellow hay. Tampa knows full well Florida lays out a soggy welcome mat for rain this time of year, pretty much considering it a daily visitor come summer. So the city was kind enough to throw a bunch of hay across all the muddiest parts of our lawn seats. It was our safe place. It’s where we chose to cheer fairly nonstop through two sets of songs for those who made up Dave Matthews Band.

Dave Matthews Band Live Review

“I’ve been dreaming of seeing a Dave Matthews concert since I was in high school,” she says at one point, eyes never leaving the orchestrated musical pandemonium happening. She says it before she loses herself to dancing, head thrown back, eyes closed.

Well then,” is all I can manage, grinning. “I’m glad I could help a dream come true.”

This Dave Matthews Band all the way live business was a first for me, for both of us, and we were most definitely in the minority. My whole-decade-younger brother, he with the fire dancer tat emblazoned across his freckled back, he’s the DMB veteran I know best; he usually sees them a half dozen times a year. There were lots of others like him here too. The gaggle of fans next to us paused from taking selfies long enough to let us know they’d seen him at least once a year since 2006. They’re the ones to pass on the not-so-secret secret that the mug Dave drank from so regularly was usually filled to its brim with rye whiskey. They knew things. They had a certain kind of concertgoer superiority we couldn’t lay claim to, not if we tried.

It was a first experience, but what of it? We were happy we could see faces from the band we sort of recognized projected large enough for us to feel less than our mile or so away. We could even hear songs clearly enough to sing our remembered choruses aloud and loudly. We lay down when we wanted to. We’d ample chance to rest a couple weary backs. Mostly we stood up, passing off what we could as dance moves and ending up with fairly black splashed feet, mud creeping under toenails and staining white shoes like a sudden plague. Muddy festival feet are a rite of passage, friends (at least it’s what I could gather up as good advice).

You know, I had one friend make the comment that DMB has really just been singing one long uninterrupted song since they’ve been a band, but hold on there, citizen, not so damn fast. It’s true this was some kind of initiation for us and I can’t even admit to being more than the most casual of fans after the ’90s came crashing to a close. Still. Still! What they offered us, they did with all the ferocity of a band much less established and wealthy then they very likely are, a band that still had something to prove to its non-believers (the unwashed less-than-massive masses mixed in the midst) if any truly existed. At the very least, everyone was impressed into reverence. At the very most, we were grateful.

I may not have left the show a changed man, but I’d certainly say my night was really sort of perfect. It had all the best ingredients of a summer eve included. There was the pretty girl in cutoffs and boots right next to me, occasionally coming at me with an ear-to-ear smile and a few long kisses in tow. The Tall Boy beers we paid small fortunes for were actually large enough to be considered the tallest of boys. They even served up gooey homemade arepas (which pair really pretty well with long extend-o-versions of “Typical Situation” playing). There was a bright moon that smiled and wanted to be good and full just above our heads. And there was a band offering its greatest songs and hits without thinking twice about keeping them all to themselves. They were doing exactly what they’d come to do, what we expected them to, playing all we wanted to see and hear.  To sort of quote the band’s own very memorable lyric,

Everyone was happy. Everyone was free.”

Final thoughts? I’m not going to tell my brother he’s committed himself (or generous parts of his skin) to being attached to a subpar band for the rest of his life, not anymore. What we’d been added to that fateful Wednesday night felt strangely familial, just not in that awkward family reunion and asshole uncle sort of way. When your fans show up early enough to play corn hole in the parking lot and turn a normal concert into a kind of sporting event (now! with more! guitars!), you feel like they’re going to hug you before the night’s over with. Whether or not it happens, you feel it just might should you play your cards right. You end up a little happier and attached than you might be at, say, a Sugar Ray concert. Maybe that’s why people come back, determined to stoke that flame and keep that kind of feeling alive. And maybe it’s just because the Dave Matthews Band—having practically created its own genre, with fiddles and saxes and all else—maybe it’s because they’re just so damned reliable, making it impossible for you to have a bad time, mud or no mud.

Then again, if it’s Tampa we’re talking about? Maybe it’s because the hot arepas are to die for. Maybe that’s the gift that keeps on giving. One never can rightly tell.

Dave Matthews Band Live Review by Dainon Moody.

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