Imagine standing on a stage, overlooking 70 tiered rows in what is possibly the most beautiful amphitheater in the world. As Dave Matthews and his fellow band mates walk on stage, the crowd cheers wildly. You are at Red Rocks and the scene is set for the Dave Matthews Band.
Red Rocks Amphitheater is located in Morrison, Colorado, 15 miles west of Denver. It provides seating for 9600, and has some of the best acoustics found anywhere on Earth. Since 1941 it has been home to many concerts and performers and is the perfect backdrop for a live performance. Recorded on August 15, 1995, “Live At Red Rocks 8.15.95” was created at the height of the bands musical talent and at the bottom step of their climb to fame. It was shows like this that left fans mesmerized by the funky, jazz-infused riffs that the band played. It is this kind of energetic and intimate live music that keeps the fans coming back.
The members of the Dave Matthews Band (or DMB for short) are each very unique, especially in the instruments that they play. This is what makes the band and its music really work. Dave Matthews provides lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Boyd Tinsley plays the violin, Stefan Lessard is on bass guitar, Leroi Moore blows the woodwinds, and Carter Beauford plays the drums. Matthews is a very talented musician. He provides very unique singing styles and an abstract, awkward ability to play the guitar. Tinsley plays the violin like no other. It is odd to find a band with a violin, but his talent forces it to work. Lessard, who joined the band when he was only 16, provides funky bass lines that fill in the empty spots. Leroi Moore plays flute, saxophone, and clarinet which mixed with modern instruments, create an odd combination of sounds, finally Carter Beauford, known for his excellent improvisational skills and perfect fill-ins, lights up the drums with a talent that few have. These five musicians joined together on the night of August 15, 1995, to play at the sold out Red Rocks Amphitheater.
The Dave Matthews Band walks out on stage to a loud sea of cheering. As the acoustic guitar begins to slowly pick the familiar six notes that make up the introduction to Seek Up, the crowds goes wild. As anticipation grows, the band joins in. They jam together for a good amount of time, before setting into the actual song. The crowd anxiously awaits the familiar voice of Dave Matthews on lead vocals. About three and a half minutes into the song, he comes in. His voice is very unique, and has a large range. He has raspy lows and clear, falsetto highs. He is a natural. “Look at me, in my fancy car, and my bank accounts./Oh, how, I wish, I could take it all,/down to my grave,/oh, how Id save and save.” These lyrics basically sum up the entire song. Seek Up describes the people who live for the riches and power, all of which will mean nothing in the end. Even if all the money in the world is obtained, one cannot take all of that with him when he/she dies. Lyrics such as “Seek up an emotion and your cup is overflowing” suggest that if we “seek up” emotions and feelings, then we will be “overflowing”; whether in spirit, hopes, love, and about any other positive feeling or emotion. Instead of focusing all of our energy and life on the “fancy cars and bank accounts”, we should focus it on making ourselves happy instead of on material possessions. As Seek Up fades out, Matthews thanks the crowd and continues with the set.
Number five on the CD is Two Step. This song begins with Matthews strumming the same note over and over, while special guest guitarist Tim Reynolds solos over him and as Tinsley plucks his violin. This goes on and builds up, until eventually the rest of the band comes in. This song features much plucking by Tinsley. This sound is created when he plays the violin similar to a banjo, using his fingers instead of a bow. It really adds to the effect of the song which makes you want to get up and move your body. The lyrics in the chorus, “Were climbing, two by two,/to be sure these days continue.” refer loosely to the book of Genesis, in the Bible. The “climbing two by two” is referring to the animals on Noahs ark. It also takes on a “seize the day” outlook. “Celebrate we will,/because life is short but sweet for certain” are some other lyrics found in the chorus. These for the most part say that one must live life to its fullest, because there may be no more tomorrow. This theme of “carpe diem” is commonly found in many DMB songs.
A very powerful song on the album is number nine, Warehouse. It has a very rough and strong acoustic guitar beginning, which sets the songs fast paced beat. As Matthews franticly plays, Tinsley soon joins him with a violent nine beat, one-note strum. Then the drums are added as Beauford follows the same beat set by the violin. These elements race with anticipation until all the elements are combined in an explosive bridge to the first verse of the song. Once you think that you know where the song is going, a quarter of the way in, the mood switches to a mellow, reggae beat and almost pop/jazz tone. These great tempo changes really bring a fun emotional impact to the song. Tinsley is featured a lot on this song and Moore stands out in several places. Tinsley again uses plucking, similar to that in Two Step. It is musically a very fun and powerful song.
Ants Marching is always a crowd favorite. As one of their hits, most fans know and sing to this song. It provides a lot of energy that gets the crowd going. It starts with the familiar pounding on the snare drum, followed by bits and pieces from all the band members. Moore and Tinsley provide a musical accompaniment to Beaufords beat, and Matthews, Lessard and Reynolds fill in the rest. This is a great example of how the band works together as one unit. This song basically compares humans to ants. Many people get themselves into a routine, and never break it. Humans resemble ants in the ways we work and go about doing things in life.
Some people trace the Dave Matthews Band’s rise to stadium-packing status to a time in the mid-’90s when the musical scene appeared lifeless and a band doing anything different from the Nirvana or Pearl Jam seemed a welcome change of pace. The Dave Matthews Band certainly met the qualifications for being different: three black guys and two white guys from Virginia playing a melting pot mix of acoustic guitar, violin, and horns, led by Matthews’ often muddled and diverse vocals. The band is amazingly able to find a balance between composition and improvisation and combine the influences of many different types of music together to create a truly unique style of their own.
Dave Matthews Band. Live At Red Rocks 8.15.95. 1997
Martell, Nevin. The Dave Matthews Band: Music for the People. 2000
Date Released: October 28, 1997
1. Seek Up
2. Proudest Monkey
4. Two Step
5. Best Of What’s Around
7. Lie In Our Graves
8. Dancing Nancies
1. Tripping Billies
2. Drive In, Drive Out
3. Lover Lay Down
4. Rhyme And Reason
6. Ants Marching
7. Typical Situation
8. All Along The Watchtower