A Fuse Doc Preview
By Jake Vigliotti
It’s not that the Dave Matthews Band are shut-ins, it’s just that they pick and choose their times to reveal their true feelings. They’re not the type to just open up just because Charlie Rose is conducting the interview. Nothing against Charlie Rose; but this is a band from a small town that grew up playing shows with people resting their beers on the stage. It’s going to take a bit more of a personal touch to get them to open up.
Sam Erickson is a fan of the Dave Matthews Band. He’s known Boyd since his High School years – being a few years behind Tinsley. His Driver’s Ed instructor was Roi’s father. He grew up going to see Cosmology - John D’Earth’s band, and TR3 - Tim Reynolds eponymous group. He recalls seeing Down Boy Down and later hearing Boyd Tinsley rock out on the future DMB song True Reflections with BT’s Boyd Tinsley Band. It was actually with the old BTB that Sam did his first professional photography work – doing promotional photographs for the band. In November 1991, Sam was in a quarter-full Trax in Charlottesville to see his first Dave Matthews Band show. He has attended almost every recording session in some manner for every album. Sam knows the band.
The documentary airing on FUSE TV June 2-5 (8 pm ET each night – total of two hours between all 4 segments) is the, “most comprehensive biography ever done on the band”, according to Erickson. Let’s put it this way; if you’re reading this, it’s the type of doc you’d want to make. The story starts and ends in the present – focusing on the forthcoming Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, but the middle features some of Erickson’s personal collection of photos, videos, and recordings of the band. Most are exclusive photos, never seen before.
If you grab your copy of Under The Table And Dreaming, pull out the insert and turn it to the last page, you’ll find a grainy photo of the band. He took that. He’s the first name listed in the credits under Additional Photography. He took still photos and video from every session from then until Big Whiskey. You know that photo from Before These Crowded Streets with the working titles, including MacHead? He took that photo too. He’s literally known the band for 20 years, and the band feels obviously comfortable around him.
Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King is more in line with the old DMB. The fan reaction, and critical reaction, is already sanguine. The documentary captures the entire process, from the early writing sessions in Charlottesville, to Seattle for more song building, to the final recording process in New Orleans. Fans get to see a very personal and inside look at the creation of a DMB song. You’ll get to see Shake Me Like A Monkey, Why I Am, and Seven go from chords and ideas to full-fledged songs before your eyes. The whole reason for the documentary is for the new album – in fact, each “chapter” is named for a lyric from the Big Whiskey album, “Snake In the Woodpile” is one of ‘em. But it’s Erickson’s knowledge of the band, and his vast array of footage and photos that makes this gel.
“It’s very gratifying to showcase 20 years worth of material that I have.” That is the understatement of the month. How great is the treasure trove of material, you ponder? There is some stuff that is out there in the hands of fans, but certainly not common by any stretch. Typical Situation from what we refer to as the Rutabega Demo, a more personal, hopeless version from what is played today. How about those popular Van Ryper's videos that you can find on Youtube? There’s some of that too. And you’ll hear and see some rarely seen stuff from 1993 (Irving Plaza) and some video from 1994 as well. In terms of “never seen before” material, Dave plays an early version of Captain during the Before These Crowded Streets at the Electric Lady Studios in New York. It’s during those same sessions that you’ll get a chance to hear an early, unique performance of the beloved Dreaming Tree. There are also some recordings from the road-testing of songs prior to Before These Crowded Streets. In other words, it’s your dream documentary. In a more humorous moment, Dave plays a little bit from Sugar Will and comments on how fans often ask for songs yet he can’t recall their lyrics, Sugar Will being one. He even mentions how fans ask him to play a specific #40 (referring to The #40 from Yoshi's), but he just adlibbed the lyrics for that one, so it’s lost to time to him. That section could have segued into the never-heard before MacHead, but despite a clean video recording of an early working of the song, it did not make the documentary.
The interviews were mostly captured during the spring tour, with live footage from the last four shows of the tour, New Mexico, Arizona, and two from Las Vegas. In a unique look and listen of the band, there are also some portions that feature sound checks from those shows, and In Ear Monitor (IEM) discussions among the band during the show. It’s truly a unique look at the DMB.
You don’t see many documentaries on bands that have a portion dedicated to the crew. That speaks to the uniqueness of DMB, you even know the crew. You probably already know the name Fenton Williams (of “Do it for Fenton!” fame), but you’ll also learn some of the other people who have been there from the early days. As Erickson puts it, “They can shed light on what it was like to ride around in the red van”, the infamous oft-broken down van that DMB took to all their outside-Virginia shows.
Truth be told, there’s just so much footage, that there could easily be another doc, or two. There’s nothing in the works now, but it’s nice to know that there is unbelievably unique footage out there, and there’s a true fan that can put it all together.
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