The mainstream king of Jambands, Dave Matthews Band, took the stage Wednesday night at DTE Energy Music Theater in Clarkston, and MCB's Andrew Bender was there - read on for Drew's thoughts on the show and some shots from the start of the show.
Because I live in Ferndale and work in midtown at Wayne State, getting up to Pine Knob/DTE for a show in the middle of the week can be a bit of a challenge. Work, traffic, and my seething loathing for Palace Entertainment only makes it less enjoyable. Last year there was a serious last-minute credential SNFAU when I tried to cover the sold-out Dave Matthews Band show at DTE, and I ended up giving my photo pass to fellow MCB photographer Gene Schilling who got some seriously sweet shots of that gig - so I knew I the bar was set pretty high for me this year. Knowing that I-75 turns into a parking lot in the hour or two before any major event at the DTE outdoor pavillion, I made my way up a bit early and did a little work at a Panera nearby (thanks for the WiFi, and sorry I stole that fork from you guys - I'll try to return it some day) before taking the scenic back road in to the venue, where I hardly saw another car and slid effortlessly into the lot like a hot knife into butter. After getting my gear in order I walked up to the gate, waited around for a bit at the instructions of the Palace Entertainment flunky before I signed the totally absurd photo release form he provided. When I asked the flunky, 'Where are the other photographers?' He informed me that nobody had been credentialed to shoot the opening act, Martin Sexton. I'd never before encountered a situation where the opening act required a separate credential from the headliner - you'd think they'd want some exposure, right?? So, instead of spending the next 10 minutes berating the hapless dude for his company's (or the tour's) ridiculous policies - I went and relaxed by the car with a beer from a friendly couple two cars down from mine. While I was waiting, I got word from my good friend and former roommate that he was on his way up to see if he could find a cheap ticket in the lot - so I figured I'd stick around after shooting and chill for a minute. (continued below photos)
When the time arrived, I made my way back to the gate and was escorted with another few photographers to the photo pit. People lacking pavilion tickets were asking if I could get them in and all I could tell them was, "Sorry - I don't even have a ticket, and I leave after I shoot the first few songs," but I don't think they believed me (anybody with a laminate surely can make magic happen, right?).
When Dave Matthews and company took the stage, the entire place exploded with applause and cheers - these people were seriously psyched to be there and wouldn't be anywhere else, given a choice. I must admit that although I'm a big fan of jam bands, improvisational music, rock with fiddles and horns, and so many other things that should make me a natural DMB fan - I've just never really gotten into his whole catalog. Yes, I listened to and enjoyed their album 'Under the Table & Dreaming' when it came out when I was in college (damn, I'm really dating myself) but I'll just say that there were other bands that I connected with far more and leave it at that. So, I've seen Dave Matthews on several occasions, but can't name most of the songs. I have enjoyed their newest album, 'Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King' and their performance of 'Shake Me Like A Monkey,' and 'Time Bomb,' off that album last night were both pretty hot - but I'm getting ahead of myself.
After shooting the first few songs, my escorts showed my fellow photogs and me the door. With the crappy cell coverage up there, texting was the best option. After a few back and forths, I found out my friend had scored us some cheap tickets in the lot - $30 total for 2 tickets that were priced WAY higher was enough to get me back into the show, despite my lack of enthusiasm for the band. So, we had a couple of drinks in the lot and wandered into the show about an hour into their almost 3 hour long set. We'd flipped a coin to decide whether we should bring an umbrella in and tails won - so we took our chances with the sky looking increasingly ominous and the ticket taker saying that the radar said the storm was on its way.
My friend isn't a much bigger DMB fan than I, but he does know a few more songs. At some point we decided that we needed to try to blend in more so we started screaming and clapping. A LOT. People barely gave us a glance. So, I decided to up the ante just a tad. It wasn't that I wanted to be an asshole - well, not exactly. Those lot beers loosened up my inhibitions just enough that I was able to reach back into my memory to different occasions at various shows in my past where I'd encountered 'That Guy.' There are lots of different versions of 'That Guy,' and he can certainly be more or less offensive, annoying, obnoxious, or ridiculous. I conjured up an image and became 'That Guy' for a brief period of time, depending on where we were on the lawn. At one point, remembering the kid whose constant chattering started to wear on me during a show I saw last year, I just kept saying over and over rather loudly, "WOW! - THIS IS AWESOME!' and although it was fun, I think that statement was maybe less than 100% genuine. Well - the music was good and fun and the crowd was very enthusiastic - the light show in the sky was pretty sweet as distant lightning kept illuminating the crowd on the lawn for brief moments. A hot performance of their darker song 'Gravedigger' started my buddy yelling. Apparently, he thought this was a good way to blend in. So, my friend just kept on yelling, whistling, and cheering. As we only had one pavilion ticket, he slyly 'stubbed me down,' to the pavilion, where we found empty seats for the end of the set and encore. Shortly thereafter, a random frat boy appeared next to us (I was afraid were were in his seats), but he just sparked a spliff and offered it to the 40-something yuppie in front of us whose only response was - 'YES! Thank God!" The band closed the set with their popular song 'Ants Marching' before coming back for an encore of 'Busted Stuff,' followed by 'Time Bomb,' and finishing with an admittedly AWESOME version of Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower.' Ok Dave (and band) - you do know how to put on a show.