I will be the first to admit that a lot of Dave Matthews fans are seemingly assholes. It is a lot of brosephs jumping around, spilling beer on you unapologetically, maybe wearing a college t-shirt and neon sunglasses in the nighttime. They jump in groups, arms around each other, re-living some bygone memory of when they lived together in some University town.
They have usually buddied up with a group of girls that look like jailbait and "woo" a lot, and who all have a weird obsession with the song, "Halloween".
You'll also see a lot of young, buttoned up 30-year olds. The type that leave early to beat the traffic or bitch because you just stepped on their blanket as you walk to find a spot to sit or stand.
You'll see lots of khaki's and crisp white shirts, which all appeared to stay clean and ironed even with the dirt blowing wildly around the old U.S. Steel Factory. You will not see ANY skinny jeans or asymetrical haircuts at a fest like Caravan, not a hipster in site. You'll only see lots of tube top rompers, spray tans, blonde highlights and lip gloss, college hats with subtle d*ck jokes and lots of bare chests that sport Firedancer tattoos.
However, when it really comes down to it, the Dave Matthews Band really only has two types of fans, the old fans and the young fans.
I am an old fan, a fickle fan. This means I have no idea what anything they have released sounds like past 2001, but I'll be damned if I don't hold tight to those memories of listening to the Dave Matthews Band during the milestones of my teenage/early adult years.
There was a time when I'd drive miles in blinding rain to see the Dave Matthes Band at Alpine Valley or Deer Creek. His music got me through a million 5-hour car rides home during seasonal college breaks, provided the background to a good conversation or make-out session. And many relationships were started and ended to a Dave song and honestly, the Dave Matthews Band, if I really think about it, is the single solitary band that I connected most with as a teenager (besides Phish). It's the single solitary band that many people connected most with as teenagers, whether then or now.
Even though we are the self-proclaimed music festival capital of the country we are missing one huge demographic: a fest for frat rockers. There is nothing out there for the more, say, mainstream crowd. Lollapalooza has turned into an indie-pop fest; Pitchfork is a weekend of hipster-ballads and weird electro; And Northcoast, although the line-up has an appeal to many, it is far from mainstream. The DMB Caravan is the festival designed for those that don't usually go to festivals (or sit only in the VIP). It's designed for the 9-5'ers, those who over-use the term "work hard/play hard". Those that pay upwards to get good seats when they go to a Cubs game or to a U2 show.
The idea of a mainstream rock fest is a good idea. In fact, it's brilliant, really. It's a solid three days of music that they break up accordingly: Friday is geared for a younger crowd, Saturday for those who want to throw glowsticks and sweat hard dancing like a Wook (there is no lack of glowsticks...or Wooks -- btw), and Sunday was seemingly catered to the early-thirties fans -- fickle fans like me.
Although there are some issues with the old U.S. Steel site, like tree stumps that stub toes and dirt that blows so badly that when you blow your nose, dirt comes out, the fest is spread out well. Concert-goers don't have to walk too far between sets and the accoustics don't overlap.
The location is far from the city, but there is free parking, and if you are taking the Red Line (which you will take to the second to last Red Line stop going Southbound) there are cops on the cars and security everywhere. A CTA shuttle takes concert goers to the actual spot of the festival. Inside the DMB Caravan boasts a fairground feel complete with a Ferris Wheel and corndogs.
On top of a Friday, Saturday and Sunday of summer music by popular artists like Ray LaMontage, The Flaming Lips and Michael Franti, the Dave Matthews band finshed all three nights with a three-hour long set, not repeating any one song twice. The Sunday set that I saw had a funky vibe and featured songs that I haven't thought about since before I was old enough to drink.
There was no "Crash" and no "Satellite", (he did those on Saturday), but there was "Warehouse", "Say Goodbye", "The Best of What's Around" -- the songs that I grew to love more than the hits, the songs that made me gasp a bit when I heard the opening chords. The best part was that he sounded the same, he brought full energy along with his fancy footwork, his sexy smile with his bloodshot eyes.
Once they got going, the fiddle and drums immediately transfixed a screaming audience who sang along to every cadence, who knew every small vocal change, and could call a song by how obscure the bass line was from the actual song, reminding me why people do consider the Dave Matthews Band one of the best bands of our time.
He pulled out three covers, "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith, which livened the crowd up after he sang a newer song that reminded me of a Todd Rudgren jam; "Buena" by Morphine, which would have made the late Mark Sandman proud; and "Thank You" by Sly and the Family Stone.
By the time he started a much anticipated "Ants Marching" encore it was all of a sudden a summer night in 1997 at Alpine Valley...or at least, I danced like it was. I hope Caravan becomes a fixture, even if it's at a festival ground that is nine miles away because really, it turns out that it's not where, but who you're with that really matters...
Dave Matthews Band - Caravan Chicago
July 10th Setlist
"One Sweet World"
"Best of What's Around"
"When the World Ends"
"Six Feet Under"
"Sweet Emotion" (cover/Aerosmith)
"The Idea of You"
"All Along the Watchtower" (cover/Hendrix)
"Thank You" (cover/Sly and the Family Stone)