As if anyone needed a reminder that the Dave Matthews Band can jam like nobody's business, the group's chops have been displayed to impressive effect during the group's 2015 summer tour.
For the third-to-last stop in the band's annual series of warm-weather U.S. gigs, Matthews and crew will play on Sept. 9 at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey's.
For the second year in a row, the group is presenting two full sets. At a recent performance in Florida, the ensemble braved a downpour to present an acoustic set followed by an electric set. Considering the Dave Matthews Band's improvisational approach, that's a lot of musical bang for your buck.
According to a review in Boca Raton magazine, the show demonstrated that the septet's musicianship is still "second to none, with a sound distinctly its own thanks to a precise weaving of brass and string instruments through tracks like 'Funny the Way it Is,' 'Crush' and 'What Would You Say.'"
For many longtime fans, catching the Dave Matthews Band is an all-American summertime rite, like seeing a baseball game or watching Fourth of July fireworks.
Though he found fame as an American musician, Matthews was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. When he was 9, he took lessons from a guitar teacher who shared with him a philosophy that still drives the musician's performances.
"I was a horrible student, but he told me, 'Keep your foot tapping whatever you do.' That has always stuck in my mind," Matthews, now 48, recalled in a 1996 Boston Globe interview. "If you miss a note or you miss a chord, as long as you keep the rhythm going, it really doesn't matter. Maybe I already knew it, but he verbalized the necessity to stay in the groove."
Matthews, the son of a physicist, was deeply disturbed by the apartheid that held sway in his home country until 1994. By the time he graduated from high school, he'd participated in numerous demonstrations and recalled those marches he joined in the Boston Globe article.
"There would be people singing the most incredible music in the face of police with tear gas and bats," he said. "The singing gives a sense of being completely invincible, which is not true, but it is in a way. It keeps the spirit of the people up. A lot of that hope and spirit is going to save that country, and has enabled the guilty people there to be forgiven."
It's not surprising that when it came time for Matthews to raise spirits through his own singing—a tenor that can shift from celebratory to melancholy— he eschewed external factors while selecting band-mates. Drummer Carter Beauford, one of the founding members of the Dave Matthews Band, is the son of a jazz trumpet player. He picked up the drums at 3 and by 9 had his first professional performance, backing a jazz-fusion outfit.
Another founding member, multi-instrumentalist LeRoi Moore, also had a jazz background. Along with playing saxophone for the Dave Matthews Band, he was a valuable collaborator, arranging music to lyrics by Matthews. Sadly, Moore died in 2008 from injuries sustained in an ATV accident.
There is no forgetting Moore, to whom Matthews paid tribute at the funeral, saying, "He would put that horn in his mouth and make the most astonishingly honest music that could knock you over, and it would sink right to the middle of you."
However, Jeff Coffin has been an able replacement, having honed his skills as a three-time Grammy Award-winning saxophonist for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He cites among his influences everything from New Orleans jazz to Indian Ragas to Gypsy music.
Bassist Stefan Lessard, nicknamed "Fonzy," is another of the group's original members. He grew up surrounded by jazz, thanks to his musician parents and was then exposed to bluegrass and folk by an influential music teacher. His dedication and skill was so great that he was asked to play with DMB when he was just 16.
Violinist Boyd Tinsley, who joined DMB in 1991, was likewise raised in a music-drenched atmosphere. His dad was a church choir conductor while his uncle played trumpet and bass in local jazz bands.
For years, DMB was a quintet, but over time a couple new members have been added, adding depth to the band's already rich sound. Newer additions include Rashawn Ross, a trumpeter who hails from St. Thomas, and Tim Reynolds, an acoustic guitarist skilled in genres ranging from rock to flamenco to reggae.
It all makes for a big sound that gets the band's hippy-ish fan-base dancing hard enough to soak their tie-dyed ensembles. While some insist you've got to see the group live to really get it, their studio efforts also have been exceedingly well-received. DMB's 2012 record "Way from the World" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. The band's five previous studio albums achieved the same feat, making them the only group that can boast six consecutive studio albums at No. 1.
And, the Dave Matthews Band has a new studio album in the works. "I'm just trying to come up with something that doesn't sound like the past," Matthews told a Relix magazine reporter in May.