For a band that has been selling out arenas over the course of more than 25 years of touring and has the most consecutive No. 1 debuting studio albums for a group (seven, to be precise), Dave Matthews Band still doesn’t seem to get the respect and accolades they so richly deserve.
Too often pigeonholed as a party and/or college band (the audiences, just like the band, have continued to grow and evolve) or used as an undeserving punchline, Dave Matthews Band has a genre-defying sound with a diverse collection of some of the most talented musicians working today.
The tide — at long last — seems to have turned for the eclectic, Grammy-winning band composed of frontman Dave Matthews, drummer Carter Beauford, bass guitarist Stefan Lessard, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, trumpeter Rashawn Ross and electric guitarist Tim Reynolds. (The band’s nomination also includes former members, including violinist Boyd Tinsley and the late, great saxophonist LeRoi Moore.) On Tuesday (Oct. 15), it was announced that Dave Matthews Band (or DMB, if you will) was named as one of the nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Official Class of 2020.
As first-time nominees, DMB are in good company, alongside the likes of fellow legends and freshman nods, including Pat Benatar, Whitney Houston, The Doobie Brothers, Motörhead, The Notorious B.I.G., Soundgarden, T. Rex and Thin Lizzy.
Like they do in most settings, DMB undoubtedly stand out in the pack. They are rock 'n’ roll, sure: after all, just listen to Matthews’ full-throttled scream on “Halloween” or Reynolds’ face-melting handiwork on any live version of “Warehouse”. But they’re also jazz, and folk, and adult contemporary pop, and blues. They’re all of that, and nothing you’ve ever heard before or since.
Formed in 1991 in Charlottesville, Virginia, the original iteration of DMB had humble beginnings that steadily grew, thanks, in part, to being unlike anything else going on in the music industry at the time.
While rock radio was all but dominated by grunge in the early and mid-'90s, DMB’s presence on the airwaves — thanks to hits like “Crash Into Me,” “Satellite,” “So Much to Say,” “Too Much,” “Ants Marching,” “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Crush,” “Stay (Wasting Time)” and “What Would You Say” — was a breath of fresh air for many.
They continued to do their own thing, even as the genre went toward rap-rock and alternative in the 2000s. Over the past two decades, DMB have put out albums that strayed from their norm (they introduced electric guitar in 2001’s Everyday) and those that perfected their unique blend of sounds (most recently, 2018’s Come Tomorrow).
But, ultimately, it’s their live shows — and their rabid fanbase’s devotion to attending the sets and sharing their music (including the famously unreleased “Lillywhite Sessions”) — that have forever changed DMB from a popular '90s band to one of the most successful and beloved acts of all time.
They tour every single year throughout the United States (and sometimes internationally), both in the summertime and occasionally in the fall and winter. And year after year after year, the fans show up, some even with their own kids who are the same age they were when they first got into DMB.
It’s all the more impressive when you consider that the band looks and sounds different from the one so many fans met more than 25 years ago. And through it all — from personal tragedies to Matthews' brief solo stint back in 2003 — DMB has remained as resilient as ever, facing everything head-on, all while continuing to tour relentlessly and putting out incredible music.
Sure, the live shows of today are missing the once-essential violin sounds of Tinsley (who departed the band in early 2018 and was later sued for sexual harassment), but now there’s the joyful and energetic keyboard work of Buddy Strong. The sadness of Moore’s unexpected death in 2008 loomed large, but it also brought the band and fans closer together with their 2009 release, Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, which paid honor to him on tracks like “Why I Am.”
Attending a DMB show is nothing short of a rite of passage, and for superfans, it’s not only a place to get lost in the harmonies of the band’s extensive catalogue (there’s more than 200 songs), but it’s become a place to form everlasting bonds and hold on to a connection that’s as strong in 2019 as it was in 1991.
They can jam a song for more than 30 minutes at a live show (see: “#41”) or they can move you in a different way with something short and sweet like “Sister.” No DMB show is ever the same, nor are any of their albums. Like their songs, DMB is constantly changing, but with its heart forever remaining at the core of it all.
Though you may not be able to put DMB into an easily defined box, you sure as hell can (and should) mark the one that rightfully inducts them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.