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Members include Carter Beauford, drums; Stefan Lessard, bass guitar; Dave Matthews (born in 1967 in Johannesburg, South Africa), acoustic guitar, lead vocals; LeRoi Moore, saxophone; Boyd Tinsley, violin. Addresses: Agent--Red Light Management, P.O. Box 1911, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Record companies--RCA Records, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. Bama Rags Record, 3305 Lobban Pl., Charlottesville, VA 22903. Website--Dave Matthews Band Official Website: http://www.davematthewsband.com.
Recalling the first time he played with the musicians who would eventually fill out his band, Dave Matthews remarked in Guitar World, "We all got together just to jam and I was blown away.... I had never experienced anything like it before. What immediately appealed to me was the spontaneity of their playing. Everything just flows for them." The other musicians--violinist Boyd Tinsley, saxophonist LeRoi Moore, bass player Stefan Lessard, and drummer Carter Beauford--were excited by the results of that April 1991 gig as well, and within a matter of weeks the players coalesced under the banner of the Dave Matthews Band. The group quickly embarked on a wave of furious touring that sparked a devoted cult following and, a few years later, a contract with recording giant RCA. Not long afterward, two well-received albums--1994's Under the Table and Dreaming and 1996's Crash--firmly established the Dave Matthews Band as one of rock and roll's most talented and versatile musical groups.
Matthews was born in 1967 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The son of a physicist, he grew up in comfortable surroundings but was appalled by the country's political system of apartheid. By the time he graduated from high school, he had participated in a number of marches and other activities designed to end apartheid. "There would be people singing the most incredible music in the face of police with tar gas and bats," he recalled in an interview with the Boston Globe's Steve Morse. "The singing gives a sense of being completely invincible, which is not true, but it is in a way. It keeps the spirit of the people up. A lot of that hope and spirit is going to save that country, and has enabled the guilty people there to be forgiven."
After graduating from high school, Matthews left for the United States, eventually settling in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his mother. "I got an inscription letter from the South African army and said, 'I'm out of here,'" he told Guitar World. "This, of course, was when apartheid still ruled, and I wasn't going to serve in that army." Over the next several years he worked on his songwriting and guitar playing, supporting himself as a bartender. After a while he became acquainted with LeRoi Moore and Carter Beauford, two highly regarded local jazz musicians. "I served both LeRoi and Carter a lot of drinks," Matthews recalled in Guitar World, "and somewhere along the way I told them about this tape I was making and asked if they'd be interested in doing some recording, maybe playing out a little. I didn't ask for any commitment--I wouldn't have dared. They were both older than me, and much better musicians. And when I met Stefan [Lessard], he was some kind of bass prodigy. He was still in high school and was playing upright bass with both Carter and LeRoi, cats twice his age."
Once the musicians got together, they quickly realized that Matthews' pop-folk-African music sensibilities and the other players' jazz background made for a tantalizing mix. "We gelled in a really profound way," said Matthews in Guitar World, "and it was obvious to all of us that we should stick with it, keep exploring and see what we could come up with." A short time later, the musicians added violinist Boyd Tinsley to the stew, and the fledgling band began making plans to play live.
Over the next few years, the Dave Matthews Band became a fixture on the college concert circuit in the Southeastern United States. Dazzled by the band's high-energy stage presence and unquestioned musical chops, a devoted grassroots following soon emerged. As the band's visibility increased, much was made of Matthews' South African background, since three other members of the band--Moore, Beauford, and Tinsley--are black. However, Matthews expressed little patience with suggestions that the fact of his birthplace somehow made their collaboration illegitimate. "It's such an absurd idea that by virtue of living in a place that I'm guilty of the sins," he told huH magazine, pointing out that the United States has had more than its share of problems with race relations. "My feelings are that South Africa is a raging example to the rest of the world--and most poignantly to America--on a way to deal with the issues of race. In a small period of time, they've done the most thorough and the most relentless purging; it's phenomenal. It's something that America has done the opposite of over the years: we're patching and hiding and shoving under the carpet....If you show the wounds, they have time to heal, but if you hide them, they just fester."
The band's blistering live shows, which were on full display during a couple of H.O.R.D.E. tours, where they shared the stage with such bands as Blues Traveler and Phish, soon gained the attention of major record labels. RCA eventually signed the band, and in 1994 the Dave Matthews Band unveiled their first major label effort, Under the Table and Dreaming. The album garnered largely favorable reviews from critics impressed with the band's instrumental facility and its unique blend of jazz, rock, and folk. People reviewer Geoffrey Welchman remarked that the album "has a beguiling sound all its own, a sound that mixes jazzy acoustic guitar riffs with spiraling sax solos." Buoyed by their live reputation and "What Would You Say," a catchy single that eventually garnered two Grammy nominations, Under the Table and Dreaming sold more than three million copies.
Two years later the Dave Matthews Band released their follow-up effort, Crash. In contrast to the band's first effort, Crash featured a heavier emphasis on electric guitar, courtesy of Matthew's friend, guitarist Tim Reynolds. As with its predecessor, however, the album was hailed as a funky hybrid of roots rock and freewheeling jazz fusion. Los Angeles Times reviewer Sara Scribner wrote that "Matthews mostly fuels Crash with the same sultry, loose-limbed offering of polyrhythmic, jazzy fusion" that marked the earlier album, and Andrew Abrahams commented in People that "as alternative music threatens to become just another bland pop category, the Dave Matthews Band successfully redefines it on its own eclectic terms." Entertainment Weekly agreed, noting that "to rock fans burned out on the hordes of Nirvana knockoffs and Hootie hopefuls, the Virginia-based quintet's ear-catching jazz-folk fusion must seem like an entirely new genre."
For his part, Matthews indicated that the band enjoyed putting together Crash more than their first RCA album. "For [Under the Table and Dreaming,] we did it by the book," he told Morse. "[Crash] is more by our book. We just got in a circle--reminiscent of our early rehearsals--and played to each other. There was a lot of creating as we went, a lot of jamming, and hours and hours of tape used up. And it really lent itself to an energy. There are very different songs from one to the next, but I feel there was a sensibility that stayed the same."
Playing on the strength of their live performances and the energy derived from jamming together, by 2003 the group had released no less than four live albums. One of these included a benefit for New York City public schools that was performed to a crowd of 10,000 in Central Park. In 1998, they released their third studio album, Before These Crowded Streets. The album showcased the band in collaboration with diverse artists such as Canadian alternative pop star Alanis Morrisette, banjo innovator Bela Fleck, and avant-garde musicians Kronos Quartet. Their 2001 release Everyday strayed from the band's typical jam-style, which disappointed many of their fans. In response, they went back to the studio and reworked the material. That collection, called Busted Stuff found the band back in familiar territory and eventually made it to number one on the Billboard 200.
Matthews is well aware of the ephemeral quality of his band's popularity but also the importance of making a difference while he can. "This will pass," he told huH magazine. "It may be twenty-five years, it may be two years, who knows? I might go over the edge in a week. My time is temporary, so I'm going to make the most of it." In 1999, they formed the Bama Works Foundation, through which the band channels millions of dollars to charitable organizations worldwide as well as supporting those in their community of Charlottesville, Virginia. For this work, the band was a 2004 recipient of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP) Chairman's Award.
Armed with popular records and a devoted grassroots following, the members of the Dave Matthews Band are enjoying their stardom. The band continues to draw huge numbers of fans to its live performances--with concert procedes often outstripping sales of its album sales. Their humility aside, it would appear that the Dave Matthews Band will be around for years to come.
by Laurie Collier Hillstrom and Eve M. B. Hermann
Dave Matthews Band's Career
Group formed in Charlottesville, VA, 1989; made first appearance as band in Charlottesville on Earth Day, 1991; toured throughout early 1990s, including with H.O.R.D.E. festival; released Remember Two Things and EP Recently on own Bama Rags label; after signing with RCA, released multi-platinum album Under the Table and Dreaming, 1994; participated in H.O.R.D.E. tour, 1996; released Crash, 1996; released Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95, 1997; released Before These Crowded Streets, 1998; released live recording Listener Supported, 1999; released Everyday, 2001; released Live at Folsom Field, Boulder, 2002; released Central Park Concert, 2003.
Dave Matthews Band's Awards
Grammy Award, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, 1997; My VH1 Music Awards, Best Live Act and Coolest Fan Website, 2000; My VH1 Music Awards, Favorite Band, Favorite Album for Everyday, and Favorite Song for "The Space Between," 2001; Grammy Award, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Gravedigger," 2003; NAACP Chairman's Award, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Remember Two Things Bama Rags, 1993.
- Under the Table and Dreaming RCA, 1994.
- Crash RCA, 1996.
- Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95 Bama Rags/RCA, 1997.
- Before These Crowded Streets RCA, 1998.
- Listener Supported RCA, 1999.
- Everyday RCA, 2001.
- Live at Folsom Field, Boulder RCA, 2002.
- Busted Stuff Bama Rags/RCA, 2002.
- Central Park Concert RCA, 2003.
- Associated Press, December 1, 2000.
- Baltimore Sun, April 25, 1996.
- Boston Globe, April 26, 1996.
- Calgary Herald (Canada), May 6, 1998, p. F3.
- Detroit News and Free Press, April 28, 1996.
- Entertainment Weekly, November 11, 1994; May 3, 1996.
- Guitar Player, August 1996.
- Hollywood Reporter, December 4, 2001.
- huH, 1996.
- Los Angeles Times, April 28, 1996.
- New York Post, April 30, 1996; June 11, 1996.
- New York Times, May 26, 1996; June 11, 1996.
- People, November 7, 1994; May 6, 1996.
- Philadelphia Inquirer, June 8, 1996.
- Rolling Stone, May 16, 1996; June 27, 1996.
- Stereo Review, February 1995.
- Times Union (Albany, NY), January 29, 2004, p. 16.
- Additional information was obtained from RCA Records publicity materials, 1997.
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