8:20 p.m.: You couldn’t have asked for a better night to see one of the most anticipated concerts of the summer: Dave Matthews Band at 10,000 Lakes. The clouds blew out, the wind died down, and it settled into a perfect summer evening—actually better than perfect by Minnesota standards. 80 degrees, unseasonably dry, uncharacteristically bugless—the sort of evening to which all summer nights should aspire.
8:30: 25,000-30,000 people are expected to show up to this thing. If so, many of them must still be on the road.
8:35: The crowd erupts; Dave and Co. take the stage. Someone throws a small beach ball on the stage. Dave grabs it, holds it for a while, then kicks it into the crowd. Screams ensue.
8:37: People are still screaming. Dave is standing onstage, in blue jeans, a t-shirt, dark shirt over that (more or less like your college roommate), pointing at his watch as if to say, “Hey, we’re wasting time.”
8:38: Dave opens with “Shake Me Like a Monkey,” a tune off his new album. No one seems to recognize it—but hey, the show just got started.
8:44: A giant inflatable turkey is now being tossed around by the crowd.
8:45: A long drum/saxophone solo leads into a trumpet solo. Evidently, the brass players have to warm their lips up. The jam leads into “Seek Up,” a tune people recognize, at least they know the refrain, “Fall back again. . .”
8:57: A nice little violin solo. Observation: There aren’t enough black fiddle players with dreadlocks in rock today.
8:58: A kid with a green hand painted on his face just walked by me. He looked like an idiot.
9:02: Dave says hi to the crowd and explains: “We’re going to start slowly and fade out altogether. It’ll be good.” Uses one of those weird fake voices of his.
9:04: Heads into “Squirm,” from the new CD, in which he promises, “Heaven will be yours before you meet your end.” I wonder who he wrote that for, and whether he kept his promise. Or did he just squirm.
Observation: DMB is a very good band. But a great one? We’ll see.
9:16: The band plays “Don’t Drink the Water.” Dave is in great voice, and seems to be in a good mood. He’s even dancing, a little. People scream.
9:23: “The name of this song is ‘Spaceman,’” Dave informs us. Again, it’s off his new album, so nobody knows it—but there’s a nice sliver of a moon hanging in the sky behind the stage, and the sunset is beautiful, unknown song and all.
9:26: The drum kit is lit up like a spaceship.
Observation: It isn’t always easy to dance to a Dave Matthews song, especially one you don’t know.
9: 32: Finally, a song people recognize—“Jimi Thing.” Unfortunately, this is the moment that a hefty woman in front of me decides to start pole dancing with the fencepost. It’s obvious why her stripping days are over. The band is jamming pretty hard, though, and the crowd is singing along.
9:41: Dave is scat-singing, and he’s pretty good at it.
Observation: Dave’s lighting technician earns his keep. The guy is amazing. Does great things with a fan strobe.
9:43: We learn from Dave that the short guy with the Fender strat in his hands is Tim Reynolds, the guitarist he played with on the popular Luther College acoustic CD. Dave needed a good guitarist, and Tim brings some great chops to the table. He just hasn’t really let loose yet. But it’s early yet—there’s still hope.
9:45: “Why I Am,” another song no one knows. Honestly, you’d think the guy just released a new CD or something.
9:47: A guy with a green laser pointer is going crazy on the screen behind Dave. I don’t think Dave would appreciate it. I know I don’t.
9:50: The band launches into a heretofore unknown song that sounds pretty lame, like it came out of Dave’s generic song machine. Next song, please.
9:57: Dave thanks us all for “staying up late” to see him. He better play something people recognize pretty soon, or the geezers are going to start nodding off.
9:58: Dave announces that he’s going to play a song called “Lying in the Hands of God,” another new one, leisurely paced and forgettable. Nice bass solo, though.
10:08: Finally, a song everyone knows! But it’s not a DMB song; it’s “Burning Down the House,” by the Talking Heads. A fun surprise—and they play it with a lot more grit than TH; sort of a deluxe Cadillac version of the song. Pretty great stuff.
10:14: The band plays “Alligator Pie,” by far the best song on the new CD. Sort of a weird, funky gumbo jambalaya mess of a thing, but fun to listen to.
10:18: Now he’s got them eating out of his hand. The band plays the opening riff to “Ants Marching,”—and the crowd sings with him: “He wakes up in the morning . . .”
Observation: The concert just kicked into high gear.
10:26: The concert takes a weird turn. Just when he has the crowd going crazy, he decides to play “Rapunzel,” one of his more forgettable songs. Most don’t recognize it, folks around me decide to start talking amongst themselves until it’s over.
10:27: The guy with the green laser is back. Not a good sign.
10:40: Lost consciousness from boredom there for a while, but we’re back. Finally, Dave starts playing “Two Step,” a crowd favorite, and everyone is on their feet and singing. Uh, even me.
10:43: Tim Reynolds finally has a guitar solo, and it’s a good one. There’s a long jam here; eats up about twelve minutes, and gets the sax and trumpet involved. Which is good, because I was starting to feel sorry for those guys. It’s a long, great jam.
10:51: “Thank you, good night Minnesota,” says Dave, but no one believes it, because he’s supposed to play until 11:30. The crowd isn’t even screaming very loud for him to come back on; they just assume he will.
10:57: And . . . they’re right. They’re back. But Dave insists on playing yet another mid-tempo number from the new CD, “You and Me.” Yawn.
11:08: A slow guitar intro, then a guy behind me says it’s going to be “All Along the Watchtower,” and I immediately know he’s right. I’m briefly miffed that he recognized it before I did. But I’ll get over it. Dave does an interesting but ultimately searing version of the Dylan classic. And yes—they burn it up, all of them, especially Tim Reynolds on the Hendrix-style guitar solo, which is so essential to a great “Watchtower.” And after four days of listening to bands jam, this is very close—if not the best—jam we’ve heard all weekend, with the possible exception of last night’s second set closer by Widespread Panic. It’s a toss-up.
11:17: The band leaves the stage, but everyone thinks they’re going to get another 13 minutes out of Dave and Co. They aren’t. The show is over, and the fireworks are starting.
Closing observation: What does it say when the two clear highlights of a DMB concert—“Burning Down the House” and “All Along the Watchtower”—are songs DMB didn’t write? Just saying.
10,000 Lakes Musicfest isn’t officially over—Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings will close it out on the field stage. But that’s it for me.
Good night—I hope you enjoyed the show.