When people ask me what music I listen to, I’ll bury Dave Matthews Band in a list of several bands with better reputations: “Oh, I listen to Alabama Shakes, The Hold Steady, Dave Matthews, Jack White…” It’s kind of like saying, “My favorite foods are sushi, lobster, Hamburger Helper, and a fine porterhouse.” And I do that because people really… REALLY… don’t like Dave Matthews Band fans.
Prove it, you say? Fine. Type “Dave Matthews fans are” into Google. Seriously—go for it.
I know, right!? Pretty harsh stuff. “Dave Matthews fans are assholes,” “are the worst,” “are obnoxious, unwashed hippies who wear puka-shell necklaces,” etc. And that’s not just from comment-boards and Twitter. You’ll find things like: “The ultimate problem with Dave Matthews—and we all know this—is the fan base,” from the AV Club. You’ll find articles from SpikeTV cataloguing the worst fans in music (really, SpikeTV, DMB fans are only slightly better than Insane Clown Posse fans or the neo-Nazi fans of the British skinhead band Screwdriver?). You’ll find things on Buzzfeed, Reddit, NPR (et tu, NPR?).
So, what gives? When I tell people I love Dave Matthews Band, why do they ask if I wear puka-shell necklaces (I do—but only when I want to look really cool— and it’s none of your damn business anyway). When I told my friend Katy I would be following Dave Matthews Band on tour, why was her response “Oh jeezus” followed by some very insulting emojis? What gives?
Allow me to offer a small defense of DMB fans:
Before I get into it, though—here are two things you need to know:
1) Registering people to vote at a concert is a lot of fun—but it can be intimidating.
You see a group of twenty people having a great time in a parking lot, and you realize you need to approach them with your clipboard and your pocket full of loose pens, interrupt them, and try to get them to talk about politics. Sometimes people ignore you. Sometimes people tell you to go away. Sometimes people put you in a headlock and break your clipboard (this has never happened—but it is a possibility, I suppose). Registering voters can be intimidating.
2) Texans are loud.
This weekend the DMB Touring Team rolled into Dallas. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the parking lot was filled with pockets of Texans grilling on hibachis, sitting on lawn furniture, and playing tail-gating games. I approach to the first group of fans (eleven big, loud thirty-somethings with a stereo blasting “Don’t Drink The Water”). I am slightly intimidated.
Me: (presents clipboard) Hey, are you all reg—
Stranger: Hey, kid, can I get you a burger?
Me: (confused… retracts clipboard) Me?
Stranger’s Husband: Do you want potato salad?
Me: …and a burger?
Stranger: (presenting a plate to me) We also have chips and salsa.
This is unexpected. I eat the burger. Two loud Texans register to vote. I thank them and walk to the next group or tailgaters (even more people, even louder, more intimidating).
Me: (presents clipboard) Hey, are you—
New Stranger: You want some snacks?
Me: (retracts clipboard) …what is happening?
This happens every thirty feet. I am offered hot dogs, pizza, a piece of chocolate cake, fresh fruit, etc. (WRITER’S NOTE: It is worth noting, I am chubby. Strangers are more willing to give a chubby person food. I don’t know why. It’s like how banks will give loans to people who already have lots of money).
It’s not just food. I’m offered high-fives (dozens), hugs, chairs to sit down for a bit, a shirt (seriously), a kidney (not seriously), etc. They give me nicknames (kid, cowboy, big guy, etc.). I give them nicknames (hamburger lady, Captain America, guy with the cool mustache).
When the show starts, the food is packed away. Everyone gathers and sings. The sun goes down. The music continues. People dance. It’s incredible.
In Dallas, the touring team registered one hundred fans to vote. But, what was even better than that was just being with a group of joyous, generous, and lovely people. Dave Matthews fans are not terrible. Google can be wrong sometimes. Dave Matthews Band fans are great.
…do they wear puka-shell necklaces. Yes. Some of them. But, that can be forgiven, no?