There was a time not so long ago when Dave Matthews Band was the biggest group on the planet.
At least in some circles.
Definitely in my high school.
During my high school and college years, there wasn’t a bigger act than Dave Matthews. Each summer, Dave Matthews Band (AKA DMB or just “Daaaavvveeeeeee!!!!”) would invade the state for a three-day concert set that rivaled any other annual event in Connecticut.
Probably 50 percent of the cars in the high school parking lot were blasting some track from Under the Table and Dreaming. Keep in mind this wasn’t too far removed from the grunge era, right in the middle of hip hop’s heyday.
Dave was everywhere! MTV even created a new channel just to play “Crash into Me” on repeat 24/7.
I personally wasn’t the biggest fan of the band, nothing against it but just not my cup of tea. Some of the songs were catchy sure, “Too Much” was a fun ‘lil ditty, but I never got the insanity surrounding the band.
I figured the whole craze was based around the fact his concerts were a big party. For many, Dave concerts were their first experience with drinking and partying with no parental supervision. Once college started, Dave remained an annual tradition that brought everyone together to party like the ole days.
But to many DMB loyalist, the bands popularity was due to much more than the party scene. Most of their fans would defend Dave and his crew to the death, placing Matthews as one of the greatest song-writers of all time, comparing Tim Reynolds to Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and some of the other pantheons of guitar. In their defense, fans would also tout the energy of a live Dave show as a performance, their improvisation ensuring that nobody ever hears the same song twice. In that regard they were sometimes compared to the Grateful Dead, quite a comparison for high schoolers to be making (by the way the living Dead members are playing a few shows this summer in Chicago with Trey Anastasio).
The band has continued to tour on and of again for more than a decade but despite that fact, as Dave heads out on his 2015 Summer Tour, he’s seen a significant drop in his popularity.
Take a look at the bands CD sales:
|Under the Table and Dreaming||6,000,000|
|Before These Crowded Streets||3,000,000|
|Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King||1,000,000|
|Away from the World||500,000|
*based on RIAA designation
After the band’s sophomore attempt sold more than seven million records, each subsequent release has sold fewer and fewer albums. Sure record sales as a whole have dropped since 1994, and that is undoubtedly a part of it. In fact, Dave has held up better than most as far as record sales; their 2012 album Away From the World debuted number one on Billboards, their sixth consecutive #1 debut. But maybe they debuted at number one because their fans still buy CD’s.
And it’s not just CD sales, his online popularity has waned as well:
Dave Matthews Band Google searches in the US.
And this only goes back to 2004, if Google was around in 1995, my guess Dave would be close to One Direction levels.
Dave compared to Phish and Pearl Jam, the closest and most visible peers in terms of loyal fans famous for seeing every show they can.
Dave compared to other bands that peaked in the 90s.
It seems like the search volume of DMB’s contemporaries has stayed more consistent.
So where have all the Dave fans gone?
Popular culture has for the most part always been a revolving door. No matter how bright the newest star shines, at some point they’ll fall back to earth. Few can stay in the limelight in perpetuity (Tom Hanks and Brad Pit notwithstanding). Pet rocks, Gushers, cargo pants, troll dolls, not a one survived the test of time. Could we expect a rag tag team of of musicians to do any different?
Was it inevitable that Dave’s popularity would wane? Has his music gotten worse? Has the audience changed? Perhaps the fans that swore allegiance in their formative years are too busy with careers and families to see the show. Maybe live music is a young man’s (or lady’s) game.
On the other hand, maybe he’s just as popular as ever but people are streaming his music, not buying it. Maybe his fans don’t have a need to search for him, they can just dust of the old CD collection.
Or maybe, like this one time diehard fan, they’ve fallen out of love with the band: “Thirteen years later, I now know something important. An inconvenient truth: Dave Matthews Band isn’t very good. In fact, they’re terrible. Dying-pets terrible. No-bacon terrible.”
What do you think? Did Dave fall off? What happened to the massive crowds he used to command? Do you plan on seeing him this summer?
Sound off below!