Much like Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, Dave Matthews Band was a group that was an unavoidable irritant for me as a burgeoning music fan throughout the early ’90s. As someone who preferred the likes of rawer, heavier bands and with an angst-ridden music elitist during that era, every song from Under The Table And Dreaming and Crash would send me into fits of rage. The Downward Spiral and Nirvana’s Nevermind were so popular that even the sight of the CD’s would fill me with anger. I was as much a hipster elitist as those album purchasers were “posers.” Hey, at least I was a hipster before it was cool though, yeah?
Dave Matthews Band: Before These Crowded Streets (1998)
Today’s entry is going to read even more like a nostalgic journey entry than most on our site’s blog. For one, I’m not a fan of Dave Matthews Band per se, though I find his work as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter admirable and interesting. In short, I respect what he does, both as a front-man and composer but I really can’t stand the majority of his legacy with this band and absolutely loathe the fandom that surrounds it.
So, it was 1998 and I was into bands like Slayer, Black Flag and Doves. Every guitarist and drummer I knew was fawning over Dave Matthews Band and The Smashing Pumpkins so every jam with every capable musician included having to know a few tracks by each of those bands. Ants Marching was getting old and despicable but I kept putting on a happy face. We used to have sessions at the lead guitarist’s home when I first heard the song Halloween, the sixth song from Before These Crowded Streets. It was raw, unsettling and perfectly reflected the mood of the month that I had first heard it, October.
The creepy screams of Matthews at the end of that song birthed the incredibly frantic acoustic riff that opened The Stone. A long story short and I was hooked on the album. Every day I practiced and meticulously learned every guitar and bass line from Pantala Naga Pampa to Spoon. It might still be the most fun I’ve ever had learning to play material written by another band and Halloween and The Stone remain two songs I will listen to every year in October.
My appreciation for Dave Matthews grew from disgust to respect that October in 1998. I still don’t like the majority of his commercial releases but learning those guitar parts made me a better player as his songwriting is superb.
Before These Crowded Streets maintains a cold, autumn feel throughout and is one that I recommend to anyone looking to enjoy the season. I’d also like to personally give a nod to the rarer recordings of Matthews and Tim Reynolds performing at Luther College. It is required listening for anyone who wants to up their acoustic guitar game from campground to fantastic. One Sweet World is a great place to start.