Monday, June 27, 2011

Concert Review: DMB Caravan- Night 1 @ Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ- 6.24.2011

Just got back from Atlantic City.  I'm exhausted, musically satisfied, and still a little bit dirty.  To review all three days in one post, would make for a review that rivals the length of an epic novel.  Therefore, I decided to review each day on it's own.

It's always fun to enjoy music in a new venue, especially when that venue lies far from home.  Let me say this about Atlantic City, it makes sense as a host city for a music festival.  There's casinos, shopping, and the beach to keep concert goers busy before and after the music.  That being said, overall I was disappointed in the city.  They seemed prepared. Police were out in full force to accommodate the massive amounts of pedestrian traffic.  However, it seems that the city is in a depressed state.  As a former Buffalonian, I can certainly sympathize.  As this is the first event of this nature at Atlantic City's Bader Field, hopefully it brings similar events in the future that will help this city clean itself up and get back on it's feet.

Bader Field mirrored Atlantic City.  It makes sense as a festival venue.  I praise Atlantic City for using the space for something positive, as it had been an abandoned air field.  The sound, considering there were three stages, was very well done.  If you were there to see one band, you could not hear the others.  The vendors and bathrooms were well spread out and not terribly over crowded.  Brita had free water refill stations, which is a brilliant idea.  However, there could have been more, as these had the longest lines throughout the weekend.  The food and beverages were very overpriced, but really who's surprised by that.  It was clear that a lot of work went into getting Bader Field prepared to hold the event.  One of the steps necessary for getting the Field ready was burning the overgrown fields.  The results contributed to a dirty, gritty, sand-like dirt that ended up everywhere.  If you're going to a three day music event you shouldn't really expect to come up Scott clean, but for future events Bader Field may benefit from some freshly grown grass to cut down on the dirt.

On to the music (finally)!  We arrived at the field Friday in time to catch the last part of G. Love & Special Sauce's set.  He had the gathering crowd on their feet dancing, and was a great way to get the weekend started.  At 5pm on Friday I headed to the Atlantic Stage for what was one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend, The Head and the Heart.  I've been looking forward to hearing this band since if first heard them earlier this year.  They didn't disappoint.  The band had a whole lot of energy as they played favorites "Sounds Like Hallelujah", "Rivers and Roads", "Down In the Valley", and "Lost In My Mind" off their self titled album.  I can see this band picking up quite a following as they continue touring the country.  Teresa and I decided that we'll both be in attendance the next time The Head and the Heart is in the DC area.  Of all the bands I saw live for the first time this weekend, they were my favorite!

Next up was Ray LaMontagne.  I've seen Ray LaMontagne play live four times previous to this weekend, and each time he gets better and better.  His music itself is outstanding as the lyrics are heartfelt, and no one has a voice quite like Ray LaMontagne's.  Ray LaMontagne is notoriously shy and reserved.  Early on it effected his performances.  Not anymore.  Ray LaMontagne has found his stage presence. What's ironic about seeing Ray LaMontagne is that most of his songs are quite and laid back, and while he does an outstanding job with these songs live, it's his feet stomping, harmonica wailing, raucous performance of "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's A Shame)" that blows me away every time.  This song is what music is all about.  From most everyone I attended Caravan with, this was among our favorite song performances.  You can be looking for it be featured on the blog in the future.

After Ray LaMontagne, I headed back to Atlantic stage to watch Flaming Lips.  This was the performance I was most curious about before the weekend.  Flaming Lips has a reputation for having crazy, psychedelic concerts.  On stage with the Flaming Lips were a group of girls dressed like Dorothy from Wizard of Oz.  There were giant balloons floating through the crowd.  Most of the set consisted of songs from Flaming Lips album of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.  During "Money" they launched huge balloons of money into the crowd.  The set also consisted of songs from Wizard of Oz.  Truthfully, and I hate saying this, but I think I would have enjoyed The Flaming Lips a lot more if I was a bit more drunk.  I just wasn't into it.  Part of it could have to do with the crowd who largely were under some kind of influence.

After Flaming Lips came the main attraction, Dave Matthews Band.  I did have to miss the first part of the set.  My good friend Jan had quite the adventure just getting to Atlantic City and unfortunately forgot her ticket back at the hotel, so we made a quick trip back and missed the first few songs.  We made it back in time to hear "Corn Bread", a sure fire way to get a crowd into a concert.  Now, I've seen Dave Matthews upwards of twenty times prior to this weekend, so my review can probably go on forever, but I'll just hit the highlights.  The first highlight for me was "Jimi Thing" featuring David Ryan Harris who had played earlier in the day on electric guitar.  Between him, Jeff Coffin on Sax, and Rashawn Ross on trumpet, this song was outrageous.  Their solos carried the song to a new level.

Two songs after an outstanding "Jimi Thing" the band played "Buena" by Morphine, which was the first of three covers on night one.  Dave Matthews Band always pulls out surprises, and this was certainly one of them.  Next the band played a crowd favorite and fairly rare song "Shotgun".  "Shotgun" is one of those songs that is has a really sad and depressing but has so much emotion that it connects to nearly everyone that hears it.

The final highlights came during the four-song encore.  My favorite of the entire night was a Dave Matthews solo performance of Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale".  It was an absolutely beautiful rendition of a song I was unfamiliar with, and I can't wait to somehow get my hands on the version of this performance.  The crowd was in a near hush to take in the beautiful lyrics and Dave's lone voice.

After a "Stay or Leave" and a powerful "Grey Street" the night ended with a third and final cover, "Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times".  All three covers on night one were phenomenal.  It never fails to impress me how this band can take songs from other bands and make them their own.  This was a tremendous way to end the first night of shows.

Overall, day one was a huge success, but just a precursor to the excitement to come the next two days.  Come back tomorrow for day two of DMB Caravan!

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