NEW YORK -- Dave Matthews explained the inspiration for many of
his songs -- which ranged from an acid trip to something Oscar Wilde
once said -- during a performance for 200 lucky fans in a former
synagogue on Manhattan's Lower East Side Wednesday night.
The three-hour acoustic performance with frequent collaborator Tim
Reynolds, which was taped for an upcoming episode of "VH1 Storytellers,"
gave those fans a chance to see the performers up close. Very, very close.
One fan, John Lewis, said the show was as good as any of the other dozen
Matthews shows he's seen -- "except for the fact that tonight we were
20 feet away from him."
Matthews and Reynolds, who end an acoustic tour Thursday night (March
25) in Buffalo, used the occasion to play plenty of Dave Matthews Band
songs, as they've been doing on their tour. The band itself is set to
begin a national tour May 1, during which it will play amphitheaters,
arenas and stadiums.
The old synagogue, a 150-year-old building that now houses the Angel
Orensanz Foundation, had a few thousand watts of lights and amps brought
in for Wednesday's tapings, but otherwise bore no resemblance to anywhere
else Matthews may be headed on the road.
Just after 8 p.m., Matthews and Reynolds walked in and took their places
on a makeshift platform in the center of the temple. They were surrounded
on all sides by fans in folding chairs. VH1 had one camera halfway back
on a track, another Steadicam roaming around the altar and two cameras
in the back on tripods.
Reynolds stood and Matthews sat as they strummed the opening chords of
"The Stone," from the Dave Matthews Band's Before These Crowded
Between songs, Matthews told anecdotes, some related to the songs and
others seemingly off the top of his head. Between the opener and
(RealAudio excerpt), for instance, he talked about a hotel escapade
after he played with Carlos Santana and the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir at
a March 21 benefit in Marin County, Calif.
"We were staying at this really fancy hotel in San Francisco, and we had
a few drinks," Matthews said. The next thing he remembers, he said, was
waking up naked and needing to go to the bathroom. But he picked the
wrong door and ended up in the hallway, locked out of his room.
"Thank God for the complimentary USA Today outside the door," he
said. He fashioned the newspaper into a loincloth before calling security.
Reynolds began to show his chops on "Too Much," during which he made his
acoustic guitar sound like a mandolin. On the unreleased "Bartender"
(which some fans are calling "Reconcile Our Differences"), Reynolds
worked a wah-wah pedal; that song flowed into
(RealAudio excerpt) and even a bit of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is
"Tripping Billies," Matthews said, took its name from an episode years
ago when he took acid on a South African beach. No sooner had he taken
it than he decided he didn't want to trip.
"But the acid said, 'Too late!,' " Matthews said. Over the next
few hours, he saw his girlfriend's face turn into his mother's, watched
his hand melt and somehow lost his clothes. The dragon in the song, he
said, is a reference to the bum rap that Puff the Magic Dragon -- the
title character of the popular children's song -- once took for being a
"Christmas Song" came to Matthews after reading a quote by the Irish
writer Oscar Wilde: "If Christ was alive now, the one thing he wouldn't
be is a Christian." Some fans groaned at that, to which Matthews
responded, "Hey, I didn't say it; Oscar Wilde said it."
Heaven seemingly took its own revenge halfway through the song, when the
stage monitors began to feed back. Matthews abandoned the tune.
Though they were playing acoustic guitars, during "Warehouse" and the
blues classic "John the Revelator," Reynolds and Matthews made enough
noise to sound like a full band. Reynolds played lead, using effects,
while Matthews strummed rhythm.
Matthews began taking questions from the audience after playing "Jimi
Thing," from Under the Table and Dreaming (1994). He told a
female fan his favorite drink is bourbon, and accepted her offer to buy
him one after the show.
And what is a Jimi thing, anyway?
"A Jimi thing in some places is a condom," Matthews said. But for him,
he said, it was a temporary song title that stuck. "It was kind of
reminiscent of the early days of Jimi Hendrix, and we didn't have any
names for any of the songs, so we called it the 'Jimi thing.' "
The "Jimi Thing" question came from Jared Junge, 23, who said he drove
with a friend from school in Springfield, Mass., after winning a pair of
tickets from the DMB Warehouse Fan Club. He said he would try to make it
back to Springfield in time for classes Thursday, adding, "I hope my
teachers aren't too mad."
Matthews broke out a 12-string guitar for "Spoon," and on "Ants Marching,"
the set closer, Reynolds threw in one more fast and furious solo. After
a long break, the pair returned for two encores: "Say Goodbye," about a
one-night stand, and a classical-guitar piece, "Dancing Nancies."
The latter, Matthews said, was inspired by a scene he saw in a park in
Spain. He told his taxi driver, "Look at all those beautiful women in
the park. They must be prostitutes." Said the driver, "They're not women,
but they sure are prostitutes."
The show is scheduled to air on "VH1 Storytellers" June 6 at 10 p.m.,
according to VH1 spokesperson Kelly Rounds.