Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All Aboard the Caravan

by Greg Herrmann


Every summer seems the same, “inside a crowd, five billion proud, willing to punch it out.” The crowd is young and they eagerly await the wailings of the lead vocalists, followed by the violent thunder of the drums and the buzz of the horn section. As the blitzing screech of the violin competes to the sound of the electric guitar warming up to the audience, the sound of the rhythmic chords from the acoustic match with the undertones of the bass to create the perfect collision and coalescence of musical forces. This crowd is waiting in anticipation for the Dave Matthews Band to hit the stage and this summer will be no different, though it did not appear to be so, at first.

Following the band’s 2010 Summer Tour, the band and management jointly decided to take off the next touring year. The band would soon be celebrating a milestone, its twenty year anniversary, and they thought it was an appropriate time to take a break. Dave Matthews himself viewed the time off as an opportunity to spend with his young children; an opportunity not granted very often to his children due to the tenuous constraints of life on the road. Stefan Lessard, the band’s bass player, said the time-off would allow him to “focus on more personal projects.” Although it was a disappointing for most that Rolling Stone’s “boys of summer” would not be touring, it was welcomed by some fans as an instance to save some money. Yet, all was not what as it seemed…

In late January/early February of 2011 the Dave Matthews Band fan base became abuzz online. Emails were being sent out to select Dave Matthews Band fan club members advising them to save the dates of June 24-26, July 8-10, August 26-28, and September 2-4. The announcement was mysterious and rather peculiar considering the band’s publicized decision to take a one year hiatus. As the rumors began to grow wings so did the fan sites as new people joined (who caught wind of these mysterious announcements) to find out what was going on in the ‘DMB universe.’ As March rolled around the announcement finally went public. The Dave Matthews Band sent out an email stating that everyone should save the dates that they posted as the band announced plans for a four-stop, multi-day festival that would celebrate DMB’s twentieth anniversary. The venues were soon announced as Bader Field in New Jersey, Southside Chicago, Governor’s Island in New York City, and the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington. To go along with the big announcement, the band included a grand title for their Caravan adventure. What was going to be a year off from touring became a summer of fun!

The Caravan tour will feature a plethora of musical acts to accompany the Dave Matthews Band. Depending on which stop you go to, you will be treated to a diverse lineup of stars. Groups such as Gogol Bordello, The Flaming Lips, The Roots, Dispatch, David Gray, Kid Cudi, Emmylou Harris, Ben Folds, and many, many more will perform alongside the band. Although, what is a festival celebrating the twenty years of DMB without the very band that is funding the festival tour? Fans can rest assured as the band will be headlining all three nights of the festival. Fans will also be treated to a few select side projects from the band. Dave Matthews and electric guitarist, Tim Reynolds, will sit down at each festival and treat the crowd to an acoustic performance of a few of their hits. Carter Beauford, the band’s drummer will also be featured in a special all-star musical collaboration. Needless to say the DMB fan will not be left wanting. The musical lineups also beg the question of the possibility of guest appearances by the band with other musical acts.

The Caravan tour also features something fairly new to the sporting and entertainment world. With this tour comes the introduction of payment plans that allows one to pay for one of the three-day festival pass. Patrons can pay the $195 entrance fee, plus fees for the three-day festival pass or a three-day VIP pass for $825, plus fees. This puts the power into the hands of the fan, allowing an individual to tailor their payment plan option into their own unique experience. The payment plan involves a system of preset payments that occur in three increments. Each payment is for $65, plus fees for the regular ticket and $275, plus fees for the VIP ticket. The payments being upon first purchase of the ticket and two more payments are spaced out a month apart from each other after the initial payment. This payment plan option allows the concert-goers to work out a more feasible plan, which might otherwise be unprepared. Still, the payment plan beckons additional questions. First off, should someone be attending these shows if they can’t afford the ticket, up front, in the first place? Second, are these payment plans in direct response to the economic decline the United States has seen within the past years? And lastly, is this just the beginning of many other types of events, products, etc. to include payment plans as an option? One thing is for certain, the avid DMB fans will make it there one way or another! Additionally, the fans should not have to worry about getting there. Many of the festivities will be held in remote locations such as Governors Island (located off of Lower Manhattan). Lodging and transportation to each venue will be offered through advertisements. A premier package is currently being sold that will cater to the fans looking for the ultimate experience. According to the band’s website, “premier Travel Packages are designed to enhance your Caravan experience even further and include three or four-night stays at select hotels, shuttle transportation to and from the festival each day, a limited edition souvenir item and dedicated event staff at the hotels and Caravan site,” (www.dmbcaravan.com). The website has links set up for folks to gain access to free ferries and buses to the four locations across the globe, although many of these devoted fans will likely get together and make the trip on their own accord.

How devoted is the fan base, you ask? Yours truly has been on a lifelong DMB-trip and can vouch first-hand that the community is beyond explanation. The fans have a connection to one another and have a tendency to look out for and take care of each other. They have been known to raise funds to allow less fortunate friends to travel to concerts and enjoy the experience. The band encourages this environment and helps promote these communities by advertising stories on their band’s official website. One fan website in particular, AntsMarching.org (created January 9, 2001), was “put together as a fan site dedicated to the Dave Matthews Band that would provide an accurate tour archive of their shows, a news information site dedicated to the band, and message boards for interaction from fans in one location,” says Jake Vigliotti, co-owner and administrator for AntsMarching.org. The site is still active and continues to be a source of community and friendship for fans of DMB. AntsMarching.org was one of the first to be featured as a supported website of the band and a popular one at that, as fans continue to join in order to follow the band. Jake Vigliotti says of the situation, “all bands lose and gain fans throughout their playing time, but the amazing thing about DMB is that they have managed to keep a very dedicated fan base for a very long time. Fans seeing shows in 2011 have seen shows in 1993. It's not uncommon to find fans that have seen over 100 shows. So as the band continues to find new fans, they also have an incredible retention record.”

So what’s it to you? The band is only playing in New Jersey, Chicago, New York, and Washington State and you live nowhere near any of these locations. Well, if you are any sort of Dave Matthews Band fan then you wouldn’t miss it for the world! “You're going to get a chance to hear perhaps 70-80 different DMB songs in 3 nights. That has high appeal to people,” says Jake. Who can blame them anyway? Fans like Craig Parks are getting ready, “so pumped [for Governors Island].” Others are a bit skeptical on the matter such as Ricky Hartsell, “these shows are going to be such a pain in the ass. The more I think about [it] the less I even want to deal with it.” Regardless of your opinion, the options are virtually limitless and available for anyone to jump on board the Caravan and ride on through twenty years of musical history in a three-day weekend with whispers of “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!”

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