If the college music scene of the 1990’s and 2000’s had a mascot, it would probably be the Dave Matthews Band. The reasons for this are varied. Part has to do with the constant touring of the band, and part also has to do with their tailgate-party atmosphere they carry with them. Whatever the reason, the Dave Matthews Band has found a niche among those involve in higher education, especially in the Greek and party scenes. It’s a niche that has served the band well, as they consistently have some of the best attended concerts every year. And this year, they will be bringing the party to the college town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
On June 3rd, the Dave Matthews Band will perform at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre. It is sure to be one of the most highly anticipated shows at the Amp this year.
The origins of the Dave Matthews Band can be traced back to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1990, when South African-born musician Dave Matthews began recording demos with local jazz saxophonist LeRoi Moore. The band formed with members of the local jazz scene and began performing around the state of Virginia in 1991. Unlike many bands that feature the name of one member, the lineup of DMB has remained remarkably stable. The only longtime member no longer with the band is Moore, who died in 2008 after an ATV crash.
The band’s major success began in 1994 with the release of their second album Under the Table Dreaming. They won a Grammy and had hits with songs like “Crash Into Me”, “Too Much” and “What Would You Say”. Their 1998 release Before These Crowded Streets began a streak of six straight albums to open at number 1 on the charts. By the year 2000, they were one of the best-selling artists in the United States.
Labeling the band has been difficult in some terms. In many ways they exhibit the traits of a jam band. They have long, improvisational pieces in their live sets, set lists change from show-to-show, there is a premium put on musicianship over songwriting, and artist collaboration is encouraged. Matthews has regularly contributed to albums by jam artists like Tim Reynolds and Trey Anastasio. DMB were also key figures in the early success of music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Rothbury. However, their acceptance from more hardcore jamband fans is tentative at best. Part of this may be the band’s increasing commercial success. Part may also be the fanbase they attract is not a typical jam crowd.
One thing they definitely have in common with other jam artists is their policies towards taping. Feeling their early success was due to tape sharing, DMB used to allow taping at almost all their shows. However, in the late 1990’s they soured on this policy as bootleg tapes began to be sold illegally. To further combat bootleggers, the band regularly releases live recordings of their shows.
As the Dave Matthews Band comes to Tuscaloosa, one must feel that this show was exactly what city officials had in mind when they decided to build the Amphitheatre. This is an artist that appeals distinctly to the large college crowd that inhabits Tuscaloosa. However, DMB have also been around long enough that they have a much older fanbase than just those in college. The band has sold out Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham many times before, and officials are banking that they can bring that crowd down to T-Town. One thing is for sure: the Dave Matthews Band will put on a great show like they always do.

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