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I love Dave Matthews Band but I have a hard time showing it

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Welcome to No Shame November! This week we’re diving into the pop culture we love that society tells us we shouldn’t.


I love Dave Matthews Band. They’re my favorite band of all time, but sometimes I think that people will think less of me if I make that information public.

Over the years, fans of Dave Matthews Band have garnered a negative reputation: frat bros, sloppy drunks, and people who are more interested in partying than listening to music at shows. Sometimes I’m worried that if I wear a DMB shirt in public, people will think I’m one of them, and that’s a bummer.

Now, don’t feel bad for me. As a straight, white, cis man, this is pretty much the biggest social hardship I face in my life, and it doesn’t actually stop me from enjoying this band that I’ve followed since I was a kid.

But what I really want to do is be a fan and love and support this music with absolutely no reservations.

For many years, I’ve subscribed to the philosophy that there should be no such thing as “guilty pleasures,” something I heard podcast host Chris Antista say years and years ago. It stuck with me, and it has helped me become a more accepting person of other peoples’ tastes and feel more comfortable with my own.

If you like the movie Batman v Superman, that’s great and I’m glad you find joy in that. If you like the band Creed, that’s cool by me. And you know what? I think Creed has quite a few good songs.

I try to have no shame in what I enjoy, but I still hesitate to wear a DMB shirt in public.

One of my favorite sights.

One of my favorite sights.

Image: dave matthews band

Falling in love

When I was 7 or 8 years old, I was in the car with my dad and something I had never heard before came on the radio. I don’t remember if it was summertime or not, but I remember what song it was that struck me.

I asked my dad, “Who is this?” He informed me it was Dave Matthews Band. In that moment I became a fan, and 17 years later they’re still my favorite band.

That song was “I Did It,” a song from the Virginia band’s 2001 album Everyday — arguably their least popular album. I loved it. I still love it even though there are about 100 DMB songs that are probably better than it. Hearing that opening guitar riff hits me right in the heart and sends me back to my youth instantly.

I’m an unrelenting fan

I was lucky to get my hands on an Everyday CD along with a few other discs, including a handful of live shows, thanks to my music-loving dad. I would listen to them all the time on my little stereo that sat on my bedside table, popping them in my Walkman whenever I was on the move.

My dad, a concert fanatic, took me to my first Dave Matthews Band show in 2003 when I was 9 years old. Since then, I’ve seen DMB, Dave Matthews and Friends, and the acoustic duo Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds perform over 40 times across in seven states. I’ve seen them in my hometown, I’ve traveled through three states in one week to catch a handful of shows, and I made the 2,500 mile journey to The Gorge in Washington to see an unforgettable three night stand with my dad in 2012.

I’m an unrelenting fan. I like every album. I like every song (with the exception of like three pretty bad ones). I have a good time at every show, even when it’s sub-40-degrees in May and I’m stuck outside on the lawn at an Upstate New York concert venue.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds performing in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds performing in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Image: dave matthews band

There are some people that simply do not like Dave Matthews Band because their music doesn’t happen to match their tastes. I get that. There are some artists I don’t like for that same reason. It happens.

The same goes for some of my other favorite bands, like the infamous jam band Phish or the synth-y extreme metal band Children of Bodom. Not every band is for everyone, but people who have a general knowledge of music can at least admit that these bands have talented musicians and can see the appeal to fans of the genre.

DMB is no exception to this, sporting one of the greatest drummers of all time (Carter Beauford) and an extremely talented horn section (Rashawn Ross, Jeff Coffin, and the late LeRoi Moore) that sets them apart from other similarly styled bands. The group is tight, but also comfortable with opening up into 10, 15, or 20-minutes renditions of some of their most popular songs, weaving through jazzy valleys and crescendoing into intense peaks of musical calamity that are borderline euphoric.

It’s these moments that I live for in music, being taken on a journey, sometimes to uncharted waters, and feeling completely enveloped by a band’s display of artistry and unflinching willingness to put absolutely everything they have into that expression. Dave Matthews Band has mastered this, and for a myriad of reasons I love them more than any other band.

But I don’t usually share that fact with anyone unless I feel like they’ve gotten to know me as a person.

The dissenters

For one reason or another, people don’t like Dave Matthews band or their fans, and from my experience in talking to non-fans it tends to be that latter fact that often influences to the former.

As someone who has been to more than 40 shows over the course of 15 years, I can see where these people are coming from.

Dave Matthews Band got its start in the early ’90s in the midst of the jam band surge that was occurring amidst the death of legendary Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia as Deadheads suddenly found themselves without a band to base their entire identity around and follow religiously around the country and up-and-coming music lovers were looking for a scene to hang their hats on.

Some of the headier hippies landed alongside late-’80s and early-’90s bands like Phish, Disco Biscuits, and moe., while the crews that gravitated toward more college-friendly, preppier scenes latched onto O.A.R., Pearl Jam, and Dave Matthews Band. Of course, there is some crossover and not everyone fits into either of these narrow categories, but this is what many outsiders perceive of these groups’ followers.

This perception of Dave Matthews Band fans has lead many to believe that DMB shows are chock-full of fratty guys who love nothing more than drinking too many beers and possibly getting into a senseless fight after pumping their fists and screaming “I LOVE YOU DAAAAAVE” at various points throughout the concert.

These people exist. I’ve had run-ins with some very aggressive guys in polo shirts and backwards hats at multiple shows. But it’s not the norm.

For the most part, though, I tend to see very friendly crowds at DMB shows. I’ve had conversations with very polite and mild-mannered people who have followed the band for longer than I have, and I’ve spoken with 50-something-year-old first-timers who are very excited to hear a particular song or two. I’ve seen kids that are now the same age I was when I was at my first show who are immeasurably amped to be able to go to a live show.

But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that when the band busts out one of its slower, softer, more touching songs, the ignorance of the masses unveils itself. Many stand and enjoy the song, but the volume of drunken mouths becomes very apparent as a loud hum of conversation buoys the sweet piano-driven sounds of a song like “Out of My Hands” struggles to become the center of attention. And if you’re seated far enough away form the stage, you may notice a constant, throbbing mass of people who are more interested in going on a beer run than hanging out and enjoying the music they probably paid at least $60 to experience.

For many, DMB shows are parties, and these fans’ focus is much more fixated on maintaining a steady stream of alcohol and other substances than watching the band do its thing.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m not one of these people. When I go to a show, it’s extremely rare for me to leave my spot. I’m all about the music. I want to stress, though, that it’s perfectly valid to be one of these people that likes to party it up at shows, just please be considerate of others.

Toxic fans

This problem of annoying fans ruining an otherwise good thing is not unique to Dave Matthews Band or music at all. Look at Rick and Morty.

Rick and Morty, is a good, funny, thoughtful show. Unfortunately, a vocal legion of Rick and Morty fans think that the show’s alcoholic, self-destructive patriarch Rick is someone worth looking up to and the show has a quality that only appeals to the most intelligent people, which means they think they’re smart and everyone else is not. These people are generally insufferable and thus turn people off from the show that really has nothing to do with them.

Despite my love for DMB, I don’t make my fandom public

This kind of thing happens in sports all the time too. While a team like the New England Patriots or New York Yankees might have a roster mostly filled with nice, genuine people, some of the fans can be really obnoxious, thus turning the teams into the villains to beat in their respective leagues.

These perceptions matter and have huge impacts on what people think of certain things that, in a perfect world, would just be enjoyed unabashedly by its fans and ignored by those who aren’t as into it. 

I love Dave Matthews Band, but because of the perception of DMB fans as party animals and generally shitty, inconsiderate folks, some people have a negative connotation associated with the band, as if the folks on stage were just as bad as some of the least savory people in the crowd.

And so, despite my love for DMB, I don’t make my fandom public. I don’t usually wear my Dave Matthews Bands shirts in public because I don’t want people to think I’m a shitty dude.

It goes against everything I believe, but it’s reality. I still go to as many shows as I can every year, and I’m willing to talk about this kind of stuff with people I know pretty well, but I don’t like to present myself as a DMB fan to strangers.

But now I guess I have put it out there for all to see, so I might as well be an ambassador for the level-headed, considerate fans out there.

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