Dave Matthews Band Caravan Pulls Into Atlantic City

First of four three-day festivals also features the Flaming Lips.

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — For the first stop on its traveling roadshow, the [artist id="814"]Dave Matthews Band[/artist] Caravan brought a rootsy collection of friends to dusty Bader Field on Friday. And even after a career-spanning set that included “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Satellite” and “Why I Am,” DMB still have plenty of hits to draw from for the next two headlining performances of their inaugural three-day festival.

Matthews gave nods to almost all of the day’s supporting acts, mentioning Delta Spirit, Carolina Chocolate Drops and The Head & The Heart, and saying, “It was a pleasure to share the stage with Ray Lamontagne.” David Ryan Harris, who played Friday afternoon, joined the band for perennial crowd favorite “Jimi Thing” from their 1994 debut, Under the Table and Dreaming.

Grammy-winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin proved his chops early, tearing into “You Might Die Trying.” Coffin has played with DMB since LeRoi Moore’s 2008 ATV accident and death. His Mu’tet ensemble was one of the first acts of the day.

Also pulling double duty was guitarist Tim Reynolds, first appearing in the afternoon with TR3. Reynolds will also join Matthews for an acoustic set Saturday afternoon (June 25).

A memorable aspect of any DMB show is the quirky frontman’s non sequiturs, and Friday night was no exception. Matthews shared these gems: “Facial hair is so transformative” and “Too much morphine will make you constipated,” after debuting a version of “Buena” by ’90s alt-rockers Morphine.

Matthews unleashed his impressive wail on “Grey Street,” and the show took a romantic turn when the band followed “Crash” with “You and Me” and “Shake Me Like A Monkey.”

Returning from a break, Matthews warned, “I think we might f— it up, but we’re gonna try anyway,” before his acoustic adaptation of Procol Harum’s 1967 classic “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

Another cover closed out the set, as the band stunned the audience by playing Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” for the first time ever in concert. Though not exactly channeling Robert Plant, Matthews did sound oddly unlike himself on the vocals, in a rendition highlighted by a deft guitar solo.

And though, rather than returning for a second encore, the band ended 30 minutes shy of their scheduled 11 p.m. ending time, most in the audience, anticipating another two long days capped by three-hour DMB sets, seemed relieved to be shuffling off the grounds.

Previously that evening, the Flaming Lips proved it’s never too early for them to bring the weird. Flanked by sunglass-wearing, bopping Dorothys, Scarecrows, Tin Men and Cowardly Lions, they shared their ultra-psychedelic take on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, playing the album in its entirety, interspersed with choice selections from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Those looking for something lighter found instrumental jam band Lotus keeping it groovy as the sun set. An ocean breeze brought welcome relief from the hot and humid day as seagulls cruised overhead.

O.A.R., Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Thievery Corporation join the caravan Saturday, while Sunday’s festivities will feature David Gray, Dr. Dog, Bassnectar and Michael Franti with Spearhead.

The party travels to Chicago in July, returns to the East Coast in August for a weekend at New York’s Governors Island and wraps up at The Gorge in Washington in early September.

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