Dave Matthews Band and many other artists rocked the deep south side of Chicago on the first of a three day long music festival bearing the headliner’s name. Dave has put together quite the assembly of artists, which was very apparent on the first day.
A quick note about the site: it is located off of 87th street in Chicago, about 10 miles south of downtown, on the shore of Lake Michigan. Yesterday was about as crystal clear as it could be weatherwise, yet the skyline was still barely visible in the distance. Also, considering the site was formally a steel mill, and since its closing has been abandoned for nearly 20 years, they did a good job cleaning it up. There were a few rocky areas that made for rough trekking, but other than that it was very comfortable. They hauled in many, many tons of soft woodchips, which made it easy on the feet for standing and watching a show. The only problem was the water refilling stations; two stations and only three watering holes at each station made for extremely long lines. I waited for nearly an hour to fill my water bottle.
The shows themselves, however, were phenomenal. Soulive performed a very high energy set, complemented with astounding keyboard and lead guitar play. They jammed themselves out very well; when few lyrics are sang, it can sometimes be difficult to keep the attention of the crowd, but their stellar musicianship more than made up for lack of tunes with which to sing along.
Ray Lamontagne performed on the main stage as DMB’s “opener,” and probably drew the largest crowd aside from DMB. I had not heard very much of him before this, but he had quite a few songs that were very impressive. “Repo Man,” the single from his new album, was the highlight of the show. Emphasizing his pedal steel guitar man, he brought the funk on that song. While he showed his ability to cross musical genres, including funk and blues, most of his other songs were very slow country type tunes. He fit in well with this music scene, but it seemed he would fit in better opening for Kenny Chesney and the like. His voice is very catchy though, as his raspy voice deeply emulates a younger Bob Seger.
Dave Matthews Band performed a fantastic set over the course of about two-and-a-half hours. They played 21 songs, including a five song encore, which I’m pretty sure the full band has done only a few times in its existence. They pulled out “Joyride” after a more than four year absence, which pleased the self-titled “Dave Heads” in the crowd (and yes, that is inspired by “Dead Heads.”) Violinist Boyd Tinsley shined tonight, with highlights from solos in “You Might Die Trying,” “Louisiana Bayou,” and “Tripping Billies.” In fact, he was feeling it so much that Dave urged him to take a much longer solo than usual during “Jimi Thing.” His smile and enthusiasm absolutely lit up the crowd. Dave also debuted a new song, “Sweet,” which he said he had written the morning of the show, and was about his young son learning how to swim.
Overall, the first day was a huge success (how could it not be with a ferris wheel and merchandise tents selling five dollar sunglasses?) I expect no different from the next two. Until tomorrow…