Dave Matthews Band & Galactic, Hershey Park Stadium, Hershey, PA-7/10
Dave Matthews dances like a duck. With his arms wrapped around an acoustic guitar, and his feet wedged a bit too wide for his wobbly legs, the Virginia-based pop star sure could use a lesson or two on how to strut his stuff. For many years, Matthews patented dance-step seemed out of place amongst his band's polished popa poor take on James Brown's carefully orchestrated bounce. But, a decade since "Ants Marching" turned his canon into the soundtrack for suburban sprawl, it's comforting to know that Matthews still doesn't mind doing the jamband bobble.
Located a parking lot away from Hershey Park's chocolate-themed circus, this small, cement stadium is a quintessential Dave Matthews Band locale. A day's drive from a handful of major Northeast cities, Hershey Stadium is an iconic suburban escape. Two weeks deep into July, the 30,000 fans who flocked to this relatively intimate stadium experience arrived with all different fashion tastes and musical motivations. Yet, each facet of Mathews' fan base came in search of American Pie entertainment.
Sprouting like a slightly gentrified version of tent city, Hershey Park's overcrowded lots quickly turned into a mini-mall full of half-empty Coors cans and omnipresent propane grills. Offering bits and pieces of Dave Matthews's back catalogue, each grassroots car DJ even offered their own take on the scene between shotguns of beer.
In fact, Matthews himself must have needed a breather from this sort of sorority soir Working steadily through his band's longest road hiatus in over a decade, Matthews surrounded himself with musicians: Emmylou Harris, Trey Anastasio, Tony Hall, Brady Blade, and the Orchestra Baobab . A minimalist, Matthews traditionally uses his rhythm guitar to texture his band's jams, further in a series of slow, melodic mood pieces. However while using his semester off to cultivate Dave and Friends, on song such as "Up on Cripple Creek" he handed off lead vocals to Anastasio, forcing himself to dig deeper into his guitar playing, amplifying his tight, start-stop style.
Opening with "Warehouse," Dave Matthews Band picked up right where they left off in Central Park last September. Tossing over-produced ballads like "The Space Between" alongside dark narratives such as "One Sweet World," this set could have slid unnoticed into any show since the late-1990s. But, like his giddy cover of "Cripple Creek,"
Matthews played with a new sense of comfort, tossing a bit of "Grace is Gone" at the outset of "Ants Marching" and plucking his strings a bit louder between Boyd Tinsley's solos. New numbers like "Crazy Easy," "Sugar Will," and the Bonnaroo-debuted "Good Good Time" mixed honky-tonk, vocal layering, and light-jams like ten year old cuts, deemphasizing the guitarist's vocal styling.
Revitalizing old cuts as well, Matthews nodded to his recent spot at John Kerry's Radio City benefit, rapping about individualism at the tail end of a drawn out "Jimi Thing." In fact, shortly before jumping into the new "Sugar Will," Matthews waltzed off-stage for a bathroom-break, allowing Carter Beauford's drumming to guide his band's playing. Having survived double jeopardy, Dave Matthews has the ability to bounce between playing pop and jam, without worrying about surviving in an increasingly competitive music industry.
Playing a high-energy, yet poorly attended, opening spot, Galactic's spunk recalled a young, eager version of Mathews' quintet. Like Matthews' band, Galactic's sound is anchored by a powerful, progressive drummer, but narrated by a somewhat out of place singer. While Mathews' has spent the past year uncoiling his compositions, Galactic have sharpened their jams, exchanging their long, flowing narratives for compact, layered songs. Broadening their appeal, Galactic is equally comfortable among DJs, hard rock jocks, and hippie-jams. With singer Latrice Barnett sitting in for an ailing Houseman, Galactic also offered a reworked version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" as their caboose. Much like Dave Matthews' anathematic "All Along the Watchtower," Galactic's closing jam focused on force, with Ben Ellman horn solos shining particularly bright.
Slamming his cymbals with manic energy, Stanton Moore is a mighty force, whose precise, but powerful, playing has furthered the concept of lead drummer. Likewise, Beauford has spent the past decade as DMB's not so secret weapon. A busy drummer, Beauford favors subtle changes, while Moore is more comfortable with loose, broad percussion tricks. Yet, both drummers function as the glue holding their rhythmic-based, tightly focused units together.
A decade ago, few fans would predict that a then-flannel plaid Matthews would be jamming alongside a potential president. Likewise, three years ago few would have thought Phish staples like "Bathtub Gin" and "Waste" would work their way into Matthews's solo spot. Thirteen years into their career, its comforting to know that Dave Matthews still changes up his soundtrack each summer. It's also nice to know that bands like Galactic may one day grow into symbols of a generation.