Remembering Riverbend Halloween 2008
By Evan Vice
April 12, 2012
The 2008 summer tour was announced during an interesting time in Dave Matthews Band's history. The band was in the studio with Rob Cavallo, producer known for his work with Green Day and My Chemical Romance. The fan base become privy to the rumors that DMB had nearly called it quit merely a year ago, and then came the exciting announcement that long-time DMB collaborator Tim Reynolds would be joining the band on-stage again for the first tour in a decade. Combine that with the news that long-time keyboardist Butch Taylor left the band, and you have a wild off-season and a much-anticipated tour.
I had only been a "hardcore" fan for a couple of years at this point, and had still only attended a few shows in my life. When I heard that Tim was in and Butch was out (sorry Butch-lovers), I immediately made plans for multiple shows. Cincinnati was a given. The last couple of shows in the Queen City had been average, but with Tim on board, how could it not be special?
Fast forward to early August. A lot had happened since the early shows of the summer tour. Saxophonist LeRoi Moore was injured in an ATV accident. Water Into Wine was now a full-fledged 7-minute song. Older tunes such as Recently and Pay For What You Get had seen playing time. How could I not be excited for August 5th?
Answer: DMB was not going to have a sax player on stage with them that night.
We knew Roi wasn't going to be there. However, most DMB fans had assumed that Jeff Coffin would be there the rest of the tour. Unfortunately, he had a prior commitment to play with The Flecktones that evening, meaning that DMB was going to play a full show without a sax player for the first time since October of 1994. "Oh my God!" cried the fan base. "How are they going to play Ants? #41? Crush?"
Admittedly, I went into the show a little nervous. I was going with three friends, two of which were seeing DMB for the first time, and one who was seeing them for only the second time. None of them were big fans, and after hearing me talk them up all summer long, I was taking them to a show in which they were playing with a depleted lineup.
The show started off solid. Don't Drink the Water was powerful, as usual, and the absence of a sax didn't seem to affect the quality of it. One Sweet World was not as strong with just Rashawn playing the horn lines. So Damn Lucky was its usual solid self.
An Old Dirt Hill and Cornbread later, chants for Halloween had originated from the pit. We were toward the back of the pavilion, but it didn't take long to understand what song was being chanted for. The chants picked up. The middle of the pavilion caught on, and eventually the back was chanting too. It's funny seeing a show with three guys who have no idea what's going on. I was asked, 'What are they chanting?"
I explained what Halloween was, in a nutshell: a super rare song that we had no shot of hearing.
"How will we know if they play it?"
"Trust me. You?ll know."
The chants continued. Everyday started. Still chanting. A funny thing happened while the opening notes were being played. Boyd was sawing away like usual, but Dave was moving around the stage talking to his band mates like a quarterback changing a play at the line of scrimmage. I didn't know what was going on, but something was happening up there.
Like that, Carter hit his snare drum a few times. It took a second to realize what was happening. Well what do you know? We were hearing Halloween.
The pavilion erupted. I'm not sure how high I jumped, but I nearly landed in the row in front of us. My friends didn't know what was going on, but they knew it was special. People who had left the pavilion to piss during Everyday were sprinting back into their seats. It was pandemonium, and to this date, it is the most special concert moment of my life.
When the song ended, they went directly into Water Into Wine. Nobody seemed to notice. The pavilion was still buzzing from what everyone had just witnessed. My friend turned to me, "Was that Halloween?"
Before I could answer, another friend said, "Who cares? Whatever it was, it was awesome!"
The rest of the show turned out to be one of the more enjoyable concerts of my life. Despite no sax, we heard Crush, Tripping Billies, #41, Ants and Two Step, among many others. How many DMB fans can claim to hearing all of those songs, plus Halloween, in one show, saxophone or not? Probably not many.
The effects of hearing the rare song were felt over the next couple of weeks. It was played the next night in Virginia and then another three times after that. All of the sudden, the super rare song wasn't so rare. We saw it again in 2009 and 2010.
It spawned endless debate on the boards: does chanting work? Should we do it? Does the band like it? Was Halloween played that night only because they felt bad because they didn't have a sax player?
We could argue those questions for days, and we did, but who cares? 20,000 clowns out in Riverbend were treated to something special and unique that night, and it's a moment that I don?t think any of us will ever forget.
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