Remembering RFK 2000
By Eric Wallace
July 19, 2000 is a key date in my history as a fan of the Dave Matthews Band ? it was the night of my first show. A night that was a few years in the making, and happened by chance, in a way.
In 1998 or 1999, one of my friends who was attending the University of Florida in Gainesville told me how she and some friends drove down to West Palm Beach for a DMB show, then immediately drove back. I was a fan of the band, having first heard them in 1994 or 1995, and having bought several of the CDs. I had not yet seen them in concert (although I wanted to), but the lengths they'd gone to seemed a little extreme (at the time).
Fast forward to the summer of 2000. I was bound and determined to see DMB live. Once I found out I'd be in DC for the summer, I nearly bought a ticket to the July 19 show at RFK Stadium. But I wasn't sure if my work schedule would be a conflict, so I held off. Sure enough, I had an event that night, and didn't think DMB was to be.
On the morning of the show, I woke up, and heard a local radio station announce that there were still tickets left; only $45! At this point I'd realized that I could make the show ? I'd just miss the openers (Ben Harper & Ozomatli). After my event, I took a cab through the rain to RFK, and got my ticket, section 204, row 11. Not bad for a walk-up! On my way to my seat, I picked up the T-shirt for that night's concert. When I say "for that night's concert," I mean it. it was specifically for the RFK show, unlike the tour-long shirts we see these days. Think of the money they made back then off people who went to multiple shows on a tour...
I think I heard the first notes of JTR as I was still trying to get to my seat. I don't think I recognized it, because I hadn't gotten into trading shows yet, but I knew it was time to hustle into the stands! Once I got there, I think I was just in awe; here was a crowd of roughly 50,000, all enjoying the live music of the band I'd grown to love, and finally, I was in that crowd! Listening to the tape now, I can hear that Dave's first words that night were "again and again, it rains down on me", a sample of the song that was to come, as well as the rain-themed songs and Davespeak that awaited us all night long. It was pouring.
About halfway through the set came Dave's next injection of rain-themed lyrics, with Grey Street. It's a memorable version for me for two reasons: first, it was three verses (ahh, the 2000 versions). Second, the lyrics alluding to the night's downpour: "Oh, the rain pours down all over// the flooding hasn't really stopped " maybe there's a Noah here among us // who can build a great big ark for all of us?. I don't know how much of the rain Dave was feeling under the cover of the stage, but I think he was feeling for all of us who were stuck out in it.
A few songs later came another "rain" moment of the show. This one was more literal than lyrical. The band was about to start a cover of Long Black Veil, but Dave wound up strumming the intro chords for a while, because crew members were trying to get large puddles of rain off of the stage's canopy. Dave tossed in a "let it rain, let it rain" while all of this was going on, before flowing into the song.
At this point, we're now about an hour and a half (maybe a little more) into the show, and the whole crowd's been in the middle of a summer downpour the entire time (or longer, if you were out there for the opener). When they started playing Bartender, I was a little lost, having not heard any of the summer's tapes. But that gave me an opportunity to change out of my soaking wet polo shirt and into that tour shirt I'd just bought. It definitely made me a little bit drier, for a little while at least. That was probably the best $25 (or $30) I've ever spent on concert merchandise.
Then, my epic moment of the night. Two Step. It had been my favorite DMB song for several years, and even more so after hearing the Listener Supported version. If there ever were a song to get a shot of rain-inspired lyrics, this would be it:
there they stood
crowded mound of fifty thousand
all sitting all waiting
rain it fell like oceans coming down
and so like all this
building they all stood together
it began to float
up to the stars
and all of them
they float away
I think I may have started jumping up and down during the intro, I was so pumped. (Anyone who knows me and is near me at a show during Two Step now knows to get out of the way, because I'm jumping like mad...). Two Step blew me away that night. It was the song that made the show for me. And we still weren't done! Ants closed the set!
During the encore break, I stood there, screaming, not quite knowing what would be happening next. The gap probably seemed a lot longer than it was, because even with a new T-shirt, I was soaking wet, and getting cold. Although I think the rain had FINALLY stopped at this point.
Once they came back out for the encore, it was time for Grace is Gone, and All Along the Watchtower. It was a special one that night, with Ben Harper on the pedal steel guitar.
And just like that, the show was over. But the next chapter of my DMB fandom was just beginning. At that point, I knew I'd have to go to more shows. And sure enough, I have ? 50+ over the past 12 years. Some have been almost as rain-soaked. But that first show will always be special.
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