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Festival Review: CoS at Chicago’s Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

on July 11, 2011, 6:25pm
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Friday, July 8th

Dirty Dozen Brass Band- Slip Stage- 4:00 p.m.

dmbc 301 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

As one of the inaugural events of the weekend, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band had the unique honor of playing to a mostly-sober crowd. The seven-piece brought their straight-outta-Nawlins sound and their cool-dude attitudes, shouting, “You all ready for this here?!” before launching straight into some ferocious funk. A ripping bari sax solo was particularly impressive, booming around the basement of the low instrument’s register before soaring higher than this listener was previously aware possible. Somewhere someone lit up a joint, and the weekend was officially on.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- South Works Stage- 4:30 p.m.

dmbc 302 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

Edward Sharpe (aka Alex Ebert) took the stage to swooning wails from ladies in the audience. Dressed in a wife beater and a snazzy hat, Ebert smiled at the attention and waved, granting the audience’s screamed-aloud wish for “Jangling” as the opener. The band’s throaty, joyful folk rock filled the air, with folks streaming over from other stages to listen. Despite all the attention, the band was pretty low-key; Ebert announced that this was their last stop on a two-year album tour, and now “We’re gonna make some new stuff!” (First, it seems, they may need a nap). Always talented, though, even in repose, they blasted through cacophonous piano falls, tambourine beats, screaming vocals, like some wild band of art kids locked in the school gym with only instruments for entertainment. “40 Day Dream” drew a massive roar from the crowd, as did a “remix” of “Home”—“It’s not a remix, we just fucked it up.”

Ray LaMontagne- South Works Stage- 6:00 p.m.

dmbc 306 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

Did the crowd know what to expect from Ray LaMontagne? It’s hard to say. But when his wispy, scratchy voice came bellowing out over his acoustic guitar, the stoners and the meatheads stopped to take notice. Dressed in lumberjack plaid and starting on stage with just himself and a bass player, Montagne sang with the kind of quiet passion that stops traffic. He was joined onstage by a full band after his first number, but the focus remained on him: the dark, nuanced rasp of his voice; long, technical guitar jams in between verses; his face contorting with his efforts. Particularly arresting were “Repo Man”, with its crunchy guitar-and-cymbals beat, and “Devil’s in the Jukebox”, alive with country twang. Many tough-looking dudes were heard to declare LaMontagne’s set as “the best of the day” post-concert.

O.A.R.- Lakeside Stage- 7:00 p.m.

dmbc 307 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

By now, the well-sunburned crowd was thoroughly drunk, the falling-down-and-also-vomiting kind of drunk. This turned out to be the perfect setting for an O.A.R. set. They launched directly into “Crazy Game of Poker” and had the whole crowd singing along and raising their beers to the stage. A trumpet player and a trombone guy did some skillful solos, and the beachy, calypso stylings of the guitar and drums were the perfect soundtrack to summer. Did the crowd notice the band’s musical prowess? Survey says likely not. But who doesn’t like singing along to “Night Shift”?

Dave Matthews Band- South Works Stage- 8:05 p.m.

dmbc 317 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

It was more like 8:20 p.m. before Dave Matthews Band (DMB) got started, one of the only delays of the long day, but the wait turned out to be worthwhile. Dave Matthews himself walked alone with his guitar onto the stage before the screaming masses, the band filling in quietly behind him, and nailed a surprisingly epic opener with “Squirm”.  Most bands have to build up to that kind of power; DMB brought it onstage with them, rolled it on as easily as their sound equipment. Their sound and their lightshow filled the stage from floor to vaulted fabric roof, shooting beams and beats out into the mercifully darkened fest grounds. Anybody who wants to say that DMB was over 10 years ago needs to see them fill a whole damn park with sound before they continue that argument.

DMB staged their typical seven-piece line-up and played songs everyone was familiar with. For many fans, this was the third, the fifth, the dozenth show, and yet the whole thing felt fresh and vital. “Big-Eyed Fish” tore down the house, with plenty of fans screaming out the lyrics. Matthews, ever the consummate performer, acknowledged this with a barely-lifted eye, a mischievous grin towards the crowd, even as his face twisted and mouth stretched with the effort of hitting the notes. If ever a man gave 110% at a show, it was Matthews.

dmbc 318 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

The setlist this first night included “Don’t Drink the Water” and a steamy version of “Rapunzel” that started Matthews on his deep-performance rocking dance. Bassist Stefan Lessard smiled, looking no longer like a kid but a seasoned member of the band. Jeff Coffin, filling LeRoi Moore’s large shoes on sax duties, hit a wailing soprano sax solo that established him as a worthy second act. “What Would You Say”, “Tripping Billies”, and a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” rounded out a set so passionate that one was inclined to warn Matthews to save some for tomorrow (and the next day).

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