Five years ago…

I was in Seattle. Seeing Roger Waters recently made me think of seeing David Gilmour in Toronto, and that made me think of traveling to see shows. Now I’ve seen acts in further away places – No Doubt and Green Day in Sydney, Australia or Heather Nova in London, UK, but the farthest I’ve traveled just for a show was Seattle.

I’ve been a Dave Matthews Band fan since the first time I saw them, at the Bayou in Georgetown on a rainy night in November 1993. My sister, Sharon, was going to school at the University of Virginia at the time, and she was telling me about this great band I had to see. So we went down there with a couple friends without tickets, only to find it was sold out. We waited outside as the rain came down off the Whitehurst Freeway onto us while Sharon begged for spare tickets in her UVA hat. Eventually we got enough tickets to get in, and we worked our way to the side. We only caught half the show, but it didn’t matter as I just fell in love with the band.

After the show, I got copies of the tapes Sharon had of the band, recordings from Trax nightclub in Charlottesville where she went to school. They were helpful in those pre-interweb days as I had copies of “Halloween” and “Two Step” years before they showed up on studio albums, not to mention songs like “Blue Water” and “Spotlight” that never did. One particular song on those tapes I just loved was “The Maker”, a sweet ballad that turned out to be a cover of a Daniel Lanois song. I saw Dave Matthews Band every chance I got over the years, but they never played “The Maker” when I saw them (though it did show up on Live in Chicago 12.19.98).

During the summer of 2001, the Groundwork 2001 concerts were announced, a week-long series of concerts to benefit the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, which provides the hungry with seeds, livestock and tools to produce their own food. Dave would headline as a solo act at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday, October 14th. That was pretty tempting on its own merits (Dave had only played solo a couple of times after the band got big), but the kicker was not only was Daniel Lanois on the bill, Emmylou Harris was also playing, and she had also covered “The Maker”. So I told myself if I could get tickets, I’d go.

I’ve been a member of the Dave Matthews Band fan club, The Warehouse, since it was formed. In addition to getting exclusive live discs each year, they truly reserve the best seats for their members, and since these days I usually only request one show a year, I almost always get the orchestra pit. The tickets for the Seattle show were in high demand, and I was shocked when I got a pair through the Warehouse ticket lottery. But I was happy and bought airplane tix to fly in on Saturday, the 13th and back home Monday morning after the show.

I know some people were worried flying so soon after 9/11, but I didn’t see what the big deal was – after all I was in Hawaii that week in September and I had to deal with trying to find out if the airports would even be open for my return flight. The flight to Seattle was fine, and I took a bus into the city (my first time being on a hybrid gas/electric bus). I stayed in a hostel downtown, put my luggage away and went out to explore Seattle. I don’t remember where I ate that night but do remember it was somewhere near the monorail, as that was when I went to the EMP museum. The museum had some nice exhibits, but the coolest part was the interactive music area. There was one area where you actually played for real like you were in a studio, and I played drums for the first time in years.

I had a pair of tickets to the show, and could have just sold one on eBay, but came up with a more creative solution. At the time, I was dating women I met on, and I decided to look at Seattle women and ask one to the show. I think the third one said sure, why not? For the life of me, I can’t remember her name now – probably because we didn’t keep in contact (not much chemistry, certainly not worth the long distance effort). We met at the Gordon Biersch for dinner, then went to the theatre. Quite a crowd outside, I could have made a good deal of money if I’d chose to sell my tix. But we went inside and sat down.

Daniel Lanois kicked off the show, and he had a good set, but he did not play “The Maker” and had no guests. Avant garde composer Philip Glass and gospel singers the Blind Boys of Alabama were up next, but also did not play “The Maker” and had no guests. For some reason, Artis The Spoonman (as seen in Soundgarden’s “Spoonman” video) came on during the next break to play his spoons, but did not play “The Maker”. Emmylou Harris came out and played a nice set, and Dave did come out near the end, but it wasn’t to play “The Maker” – it was to play “My Antonia”, off her then current CD, “Red Dirt Girl”. So I was 0 for 2 but still had high hopes as Dave came out for his set. He did sparse versions of some classics, great versions of “The Stone” and “Bartender” as well as the premiere of “Where Are You Going” (which coincidentally Jill and I got the band premiere of the next April).

Finally, for his last song of the set, he brought both Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris, and they did “The Maker” together. I have a copy of Dave’s set, but it fails to capture the transcendence of that moment. Their voices blended so beautifully I just got lost in the moment and emotion overcame me. I thought it was fitting that when Dave returned alone for an encore (after thunderous applause), he played another cover, this time Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away”. Definitely one of my favorite concerts ever.