By: Jessica Grose
It’s true: I liked Dave Matthews when I was in high school, and to be frank, a song from Under the Table and Dreaming came on my iPod the other day, and I STILL liked it.
I don’t remember when it became so painfully uncool to like Dave. I think it was sometime between 1998 and 1999, when his music began to blare from every frat window and his fans were painted as upper-middle-class drunken white kids who spend most of their days playing beer pong. When I saw him play at the Meadowlands in 1998, I saw attractive, Abercrombie-clad masses making out with strangers like it was New Years’ fricken Eve. But Ben Folds Five was opening and DMB’s indie cred had not yet been completely annihilated.
Regardless of the cause, DMB fans became synonymous with lameass by the time I graduated from high school, and it points to the larger problem with indie rock in general: that you can’t just LIKE things, you have to like them for the right reasons. The only true indie rock nerd that I know who has no guilty pleasures is my friend Nadav. We joke that his favorite band is so obscure that they’ve only played one show in a shed in New Hampshire and their lead singer is, in fact, a hamster. It’s not far from the truth. Nadav paid three dollars for a CD-R recording of some dude from the Pacific Northwest reading the almanac.
Nadav and his ilk are therefore exempt from this discussion, but I swear that all hipsters liked Dave Matthews at some point. The hooks from songs like “Ants Marching,” and “What Would You Say,” were so unfailingly catchy and Dave’s voice so innocuously sweet that it was impossible to not be fond of the band. And I defy the majority of kids born between 1980 and 1985 to deny that they made out at one point to “Crash Into Me,” from the band’s second major label album Crash. I will not argue that his music is particularly deep, or staggeringly original, but for what it is, Dave Matthews did his shtick well.
I can’t vouch for their newer recordings because, as I said, after 1999 I was far too cool to listen to them. I saw Dave and co. on Good Morning America the other day and it almost made me glad. If you’re going to be perceived as so aggressively lame, you might as well go with it and make some money off appealing to the adult contemporary crowd. I wonder if it ever upsets him that he’s become somewhat of a punch line. I’d imagine that he’s glad to still be making music, in whatever guise is possible.