Our intrepid photographer Rory O'Connor spent all day Saturday at the Dave Matthews Band Caravan documenting the show. You've seen his images from the Caravan in Transmission over the last few days, but we thought you should view the whole group. Check them out below.
On the final day of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, the 64-year-old country legend played her afternoon set on the smallest of three stages, acceding to the vagaries of popular taste, but she stood out as by far the most historically significant artist of the weekend.
"One of my personal heroes," Dave Matthews said in a brief introduction before she took the stage Sunday, and it was hard to disagree after Harris and her superb backing band, the Red Dirt Boys, rolled through an inspired selection of bluegrass and gospel favorites with a few songs from her new album.
They might have been the oldest band at the festival, but we saw only the benefits of those 40 years of experience: Emmylou's easy command of the stage and rapport with the crowd, and the impeccable work by her bandmates on guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, violin, piano and accordion.
While some bands this weekend struggled to hold the audience's attention whenever the tempo slowed, Emmylou's clear, soaring voice was more than enough to keep fans from wandering off to the craft beer tent between Rickie Simpkins' virtuoso fiddle runs.
After the opening shuffle of "Six White Cadillacs," the set was loaded with haunting ballads, from Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl" to the Carter Family's "Hello Stranger" and the gospel standard "Green Pastures." The best of a strong bunch was "My Name is Emmett Till," an appropriately stark and powerful ballad about the Chicago teenager murdered in Mississippi in 1955.
Simpkins' mandolin riff on the bouncing closer "Get Up John" was still echoing in my brain as I headed over to the main stage to check out David Gray. I was ripe for a rude awakening.
I'll admit, I've never been the biggest Dave Matthews Band fan, but with a handful of not-to-be-missed artists (namely, The Flaming Lips covering Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety), I've been looking forward to the DMB Caravan more than any other music festival this summer. Still, I had my apprehensions.
Upon arriving Saturday afternoon, the first thing I noticed was the dirt. There wasn't any grass to be found, anywhere. Not that music festivals are known for their cleanliness, but large, sharp rocks scattered among the dirt made walking uncomfortable and sitting nearly impossible. The area directly in front of each stage was covered in wood chips, but if you wanted to relax further away from the stage, there were hardly any options, save a bench or two in the middle of the field.
The advantage DMB Caravan has over the other big summer music festivals in Chicago is space. I never had any issue whatsoever walking from one stage to the next in 10 minutes or less. The large festival grounds also afforded room for a plethora of non-music related activities, from the giant ferris wheel in the center of the festival to some sort of off-roading track at the side of the grounds.
The weather has been good, the music has been great and the mango Starfruit with blueberries has been a revelation. But after two days at the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, it's clear Chicago has major work to do if it's going to host more massive events at the former site of the U.S. Steel South Works.
One problem is the fairgrounds themselves: a dusty dirt field, half-covered in mulch and scrub brush, strewn with rocks, tree roots and stumps and lingering bits of steel wire. It's potentially dangerous and inescapably filthy, especially with no running water available to clean yourself up. But this is the inaugural event, and that all can be fixed for next time with a little effort.
No, the major problem is getting to and from the site. It's not the raw number of concertgoers; we handle 30,000 or 40,000 people all the time without much fuss. It's the massive difficulty the Chicago Transit Authority has had getting to the show whatever large percentage of the crowd is using public transportation.
Whether their arrivals are staggered throughout the afternoon or they're leaving en masse at the end of the night, fans at the DMB Caravan have seen huge wait times both on the Red Line and the inexplicably-not-free shuttle buses running loops from the 87th Street station to the festival grounds. It's tens of thousands of people pinned in by the lake with only one escape route.
I've never entirely understood the animosity so many people have for Dave Matthews Band.
Ten-plus years past their chart-topping peak, they are loved by a core of diehard fans, enjoyed by a few, and virulently scorned by just about anyone else who follows popular culture even slightly. If you don't like them enough to buy a ticket to one of their concerts, you wouldn't be caught dead at one.
Maybe you never saw the appeal, and grew to hate Dave Matthews Band as they became inescapably popular in the late-90s.
Maybe you never cared much, but used to be a fan, buying their CDs and going to a show every summer because that's what everyone in your high school did.
Maybe you loved them deeply and passionately for a few years and now feel vaguely embarrassed, as their music stands in for everything you can't believe you liked when you were too young to know better.
So it is that I wince whenever it's revealed -- because no, I don't broadcast it -- that Dave Matthews Band always was and still remains my favorite band. I'm right now fighting off the urge to deflect with a joke along the lines of "Feel free to disregard everything I ever write about music."
My usual response, or at least my instinctive, screaming desire, is to make sure the person to whom I've revealed this shameful secret understands that I'm not one of those DMB fans:
I'm real. I'm authentic. I'm more sophisticated and savvy and worldly than I was as a suburban teenager in the mid- and late-90s, and you just don't understand, man. It's great music, and hey, if you don't like it, that's fine. Just give it a chance.
But if you're typically annoyed by bros in ball caps and cargo shorts, preps in boat shoes and polo shirts or willowy girls in long, flowsy dresses, steer clear of the South Side Lakefront this weekend. The Dave Matthews Band Caravan rolled into town yesterday for three full days of rock/country/pop/folk/blues at the vast former site of the U.S. Steel South Works plant, and yes, most of the usual suspects are out in force.
The festival kicked off Friday with 14 acts, most of which Transmission missed entirely because Friday is a weekday, even in July, and we have Actual Work Obligations. But stay tuned for full coverage of Saturday and Sunday, during which I will be joined by colleagues who will help me suppress the urge to burden you with 3,000 words on Carter Beauford's drum kit.
The complete line-up has been announced for Dave Matthews Band Caravan, the inaugural event to be held at steel plant-turned-music venue Lakeside July 8th - 10th. Among the previously announced Ray LaMontagne, Kid Cudi and The Flaming Lips, new additions include jam bands Umphrey's McGee and moe. Single day tickets as well as 3-day passes are available to purchase here. Check out the full schedule below.
Friday, July 8
Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R., Ray LaMontagne, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Amos Lee, Drive-By Truckers, Soulive, Soja, Daniel Lanois' Black Dub, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Blind Pilot, Jeff Coffin's Mu'tet, Gary Clark Jr., and Bobby Long
Saturday, July 9
Dave Matthews Band, Kid Cudi, Umphrey's McGee, moe., Yonder Mountain String Band, Cornmeal, Ben Folds, G. Love and Special Sauce, Liz Phair, Vieux Farka Toure, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, TR3 and Bombino, plus a special performance by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
Sunday, July 10
Dave Matthews Band, David Gray, The Flaming Lips performing Dark Side of the Moon, Emmylou Harris, Michael Franti &Spearhead, Gomez, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Jayhawks, Mariachi El Bronx, Alberta Cross, The Wailers plus a special performance by Carter Beauford
Tickets (on sale to public on 4/15/11) will only be sold as 3-day passes and start at $195 (plus fees) up to $825 (plus fees) for a VIP package. They're also offering payment plans.
Getting there is another challenge. The site is ten miles south of the Loop. Parking will cost $50 (plus $5 fee) for a 3-day parking pass. The festival's site says they will also be arranging a ride-share program and long-distance shuttles (my guess is that those will likely run from nearby cities like St. Louis, Milwaukee, maybe Detroit). Public transit is going to be interesting as well. The nearest CTA train stop is the Red Line's 87th street station, which is three miles from the site (the fest's site says that shuttles will be in place from the station). Metra stops much closer, but requires at least one transfer when coming from the Loop (perhaps too complicated and not as timely as the CTA trains).
Time will tell whether this new summer festival can sustain itself, especially in a city which already has three wildly successful summer music fests planted, as well as (what remains of) stellar free music offerings by the City of Chicago. Hopes are that this new festival location might infuse the South Side with some much-deserved commerce and national attention.
Announced lineup (which of course includes the Dave Matthews Band itself) follows the jump:
"It'll start picking up around doors, which is at 8:30 or 9," the bartender assures me as I solitarily sip on a Revolution Rosa. Of course, she turns out to be right. It's a Free Monday, after all. This is the Bottle's weekly time to shine in the vibrant Chicago live music scene.