By Jesse Ulrich
It is one of the saddest facts in life. We all grow up, we are all disillusioned, we all have regrets. From some it is a gentle slop, slowly progressing as time passes. For others it is a cliff. A single moment that seperates childhood innocence and adult cynicism. I have always fluctuated between extreme optimism and the cynthism of an 80 year old man. But there was one moment, a clearly defined moment, when my “childhood” ended, a moment where nothing would be pure again, where my obsessive nature and devotion to people, or franchices, or bands would never be the same. It was Februay 27th, 2001, the day the Dave Matthews Band released “Everyday.” Hold on…I need a moment. Come on Jesse, you can do this! SHUT UP! I don’t need you to tell me what to do! WHO ARE YOU TALKING TOO?
Sorry about that. Let me set the scene. It was a simpler time. A time of mix CDs, Napster, before everyone had a Mac Laptop, where Windows 2000 reigned supreme (at least amongst my peeps.) The Harry Potter movies had not yet come out, people still watched the news, people still read newspapers. I had and still have a massive CD collection. I don’t know how many people who are younger than me (I’m 32) are going to read this, but this time would seem almost quaint to you know. We used to spend a good 20 minutes working on our AIM away message, our cell phones looked likes this:
So yes, while it was only 13 years ago, it seems like it was 25 years ago. Then and now, I have never been one to like things. I LOVE things. I don’t like a band, or a song, or a food, or a movie, I LOVE it. I get obsessed. A year and a half ago, I knew nothing nor had I seen any Doctor Who. 9 months after watching my first episode, I was waiting outside the San Diego Convention Center ALL-NIGHT to get into the Doctor Who Comic-Con panel. I have issues, for sure. So imagine a teenage High School Jesse, with lots of free time on my hands. Back when people had to use a dial-up modem, I would spend hours downloading videos and sound clips concerning one specific band, the Dave Matthews Band.
As briefly as I can, let me give some context to why, 13 years later, I am still angry. By the Year 2000 ( DMB (let’s just use the abbreviation ok?) had released 3 studio albums and one independent album. The studio albums (Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets) while fans continue to debate which one is the better of the three, things were pointed in a positive direction. Each album showed growth, experimentation, while still maintaining the essence that was this strange configuration of a folk singer, a jazz saxophonist, a child bass player, a bluegrass violin player, and one of the greatest drummers I have ever seen. Before These Crowded Streets was released in 1998, and by the winter of 1998, the band was playing with a ferocity unknown up to that point. The next summer, my first time to see them (What’s up Bonner Springs Kansas!) they had shifted to slower and more jazzier way of playing the same songs. Here’s an example, here is a song called "Rapunzel" the first one from 1998, the other one from the next year. The song is quite different.
So as 1999 turned to the YEAR 2000! and tidbits of info started to leak out about them recording their next album, I was excited. When they came to Dallas, Texas in September of 2000 and I got to see them two nights back to back, with opening band Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, it was surreal. To this day, those two shows were some of the best I have ever experienced, and the best part was getting to hear them road test some of the songs that were to appear on the next album. Songs such as "Grey Street," "Raven," "Sweet Up and Down," "Busted Stuff" and "Bartender." These songs were all fantastic, they were unique and they were DMB songs. Some were fast, some were slow, some had epic jams, some were lyrically fantastic. Bartender, Big Eyed Fish, Captain and Grace is Gone are some of the most beautiful and melancholy songs DMB has ever done and in my mind they are some of the best songs they have done. It appeared were were going to get their best album to date. Sigh.
When I was young, my family used to take vacations in Colorado. If you drive to Colorado from Oklahoma, you get to spend a lot of time starring at the Rocky Mountains, they seem so close, yet they are hundreds of miles away. The closer you get to them, the more grand they appear. Some of the mountains are short, while some appear to reach the sky. Those tall mountains is where the expectations for this next album was for me and for the entirety of DMB fandom in the spring and summer of 2000. The most amazing part was that the songs they were road testing were matching those expectations. So we waited. We knew that they had planned to release that year and it was delayed, but that was fine, “take your time,” I thought.
The first sign of trouble
On the hilarious earlier 2000s website you can see that in early November it was announced that DMB had scrapped the album with the songs I had already come to love, dropped one producer (Steve Lillywhite) and quickly recorded an album with an new one (the never forgiven Glen Ballard). At the time of this announcement, I was luckily entrapped in the Lord of the Rings, which up I had waited to read till I got to college on the advice of my father. As November turned to December, I was busy. I had my first semester of College finals, and I had the adventures of Frodo of the nine finger and the ring of Doom! (Go watch this youtube video, I will wait) But it is almost hard to realize at the time, but I so believed that DMB could do no wrong. I believed they were artists, whose only goal was to make the best music possible. I believed they wanted to push themselves, that they could withstand the sometimes dark places that artists have to seek in order to find inspiration. That is what the songs like "Bartender and Captain" were, they were sadness and loss and depression, they were amazing. But Pre-Everyday, I had hope, I trusted, I believed things always got better. Well, sometimes life has to take you down a peg.
In January of 2001, DMB did something no other band had done at the point, they released their first single on Napster. The song was titled “I Did It.” Sometimes I wish I could encapsulate the confluence of these two particular emotions: Deep Soul Crushing Disappointment and Intense Hatred. Lets go with disappontread, no maybe Hatepointment. You chose. The first notes of the song perfectly demonstrate how inferior, how bad and how silly this album would be in comparison to what could have been. I could post a youtube link to it, but I won't, because I am that petty.
For 6 weeks I worried, maybe this song was just some new funky thing they were trying and maybe the rest of the album would be better. On February 27th, 2001, I went the Hastings in Norman, bought Everyday and listened to it in my car. Still to this day, I remember my first run through of the whole album, at first I hated every single song. Over time I would come to appreciate a few of the tracks on this album, at least as they are performed live, but what will never change is the album’s lack of soul and heart and all the things I loved in a Dave Matthews Band song.
In retrospect it almost seems like Dave Matthews and Company were trying to annoy their fanbase. For example, one of my favorite songs on the album they ditched for Everyday (Known as the Lillywhite Sessions and later some of the songs were redone on the album Busted Stuff) was called "Grey Street". Luckily, they did not stop playing this song, but what they have done over the past 13 years is completely neuter it, like you would a dog or a cat. How can you netuer a song you ask? Well I will tell you.
On the Lillywhite Sessions, "Grey Street" is 5 minutes and 53 seconds long. In concert from 2000-2001 it averages anywhere from 6 minutes to 8 minutes with at least 3 verses and an awesome saxophone solo. When the band re-recorded some of these songs for Busted Stuff, "Grey Street" was 5 minutes and 6 seconds long, and during the 2002 tour it maxed out at 6 minutes. These was acceptable but still annoying to me, as song went from a powerhouse to standard, but I could live with that fact. Then, in December of 2002, the cut out the third verse of the song, and it has never returned. The song is barely 5 and a half minutes now, and it lost all of its wonder and power.
Well, that is only one song you might be thinking, it is not that bad. Well here is a much better, and by much better I mean worse, example. On the album Everyday there is a really bad love song called "Angel." It is 3 minutes and 58 seconds long. So, you would think that played live it would be maybe 4 and a half to 5 minutes long. You would be mistaken. They turned this short, crappy love song, into a 12 to 15 minute long snoozefest. I didn't want to post this youtube link, but it is necessary. Just skip ahead to somewhere around the 6 minute mark. Ugh.
WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? WHO?
What made it ten times worse was that a month or so after the release of Everyday, the album that was dumped for the crap you just heard above, leaked onto the internet. We had actual proof that they recorded and released a pile of shit and decided to withhold pure awesomeness. I am sitting here, thinking about it and my hands are shaking from rage.
You know, the real, truly, worst part of this is that it didn't stop me from being a fan. I have seen at least 1 Dave Matthews Band concert almost every summer since 1999. Even thought, after Everyday, they released worst versions of the Lillywhite songs on the album Busted Stuff, spent 3 years road testing new great songs, which they dumped and released an even worse album in 2005 "Stand Up." Yet I remained a fan, defended them to my friends, discussed them on messageboards. It was not till 2008, with the death of LeRoi Moore (he is still missed), dumping their keyboard player Butch "Puts Michelle to Sleep" Taylor, bringing on the great electric guitarist and long time friend of the band, Tim Reynolds and releasing an album of good-to-great songs on the album Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King that I realized how long I had been disappointed with DMB.
So enjoy your Bar Mitzvah Everyday, you have been and always will be the Worst.