music. love. memories.

Posted on Mar 4, 2012

Nearly 20 years ago to the day, Charlottesville’s own Dave Matthews Band marked its first big gig, playing the Van Riper’s Music Festival in Afton, Virginia.

DMB opened up for Blues Traveler, playing an 11-song set that led off with this early version of Two Step.

It was the largest crowd for which DMB had yet played— as Dave admits somewhat nervously in this clip, “This is definitely the biggest bunch of people we ever collectively stood up in front of.”

The sloped green field before the makeshift stage was packed with people, most of them University of Virginia students and fans from nearby Charlottesville who had come to enjoy the Band’s regular Tuesday night appearances at Trax Nightclub.

An old warehouse next to the railroad tracks on 11th Street in Charlottesville, just a few blocks from the UVa grounds,  Trax was arguably the place to see live music in Charlottesville in the 1990s, offering such notable acts as 10,000 Maniacs, The Band, The Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, George Clinton, Arlo Guthrie, The Neville Brothers, Phish, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Leon Redbone, Warren Zevon— and of course, The Dave Matthews Band, which had played its very first gig there on Thursday night, March 14, 1991.

Just over one year later, as this video shows, there they were, standing in the middle of a field in front of “the biggest bunch of people” at Van Riper’s.

It was Sunday afternoon, April 5, 1992.

A beautiful spring day.

The sky was so incredibly blue.

I remember it well.

I was there.

I had the distinction (if you can call it that) of being the only guy in the crowd wearing a suit and tie.

My then-girlfriend had picked me up from the airport (business trip), and we’d rushed right out to the show. She and I were early fans of DMB and regulars at the Tuesday night Trax concerts.

She drove us out 250 west then south on Route 151 into Afton at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We got the cooler from the car and waded into the crowd.

Found a spot near the stage, where many of our friends were waiting for us.

She handed me a beer and smiled.

I quickly lost the tie.

DMB took the stage.

We started dancing in the grass.

And her long blonde hair fell down over her face.

***

Trax Nightclub was torn down ten years later, in 2002.

Charlottesville is still full of incredible local talent and some fantastic live music, though it costs a bit more these days.

Like nearly every beautiful woman I’ve had the honor to date, I was sure that lovely blonde was the one.

I was wrong about that too.

But I was right about one thing.

I was right— and everybody dancing out in the field on that beautiful spring day 20 years ago was right— because every last one of us was thinking the same thing: this band is unbelievable! they could really go places!

The Dave Matthews Band has since gone places indeed, far beyond that field in the Blue Ridge and far beyond the streets of Charlottesville, becoming one of the world’s most celebrated and talented musical performers.

“We’re the Dave Matthews Band. This is definitely the biggest bunch of people we ever collectively stood up in front of so…we’re a little excited on such a nice day. Very nice to meet y’all.”

Here’s to music and to love and to memories.

Peace.