Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This Is Sad News

LeRoi Moore, saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band, has died of complications stemming from injuries sustained in an ATV accident back in June.

As some of my readers know, back when I was in college and graduate school, I was a die-hard fan of the Dave Matthews Band. I attended so many of their shows that I actually lost count (including all three nights of their historic "Gorge at George" performance),was actively involved in "tape trading" (DMB was one of the few bands around who actively encouraged fan-taping and trading of their shows, up to and including the selling of special "taper tickets" near the sound boards), and possessed somewhere in the range of 250 thus-taped "bootleg" shows. Hell, I even picked up a guitar for the first time just to play their songs. Everybody needs a hobby.

One of the side effects of listening to show after show after show is that, in some way, you get to know the performer. This is especially true of Dave Matthews, who engages in what fans call "Davespeak" quite often in between songs, particularly during his own solo (or duo with guitar-god Tim Reynolds) shows. So it became increasingly clear that the lead singer, and the band itself, drifted leftward from an already considerably left-ish starting point, following the WTC attacks on September 11th -- clearly Bush Derangement Syndrome at work. It was never as shrill as most lefties; Mr. Matthews and the band were always adamantly supporting the troops, and not even in a " bringing them home" way, so they have that in their favor. But clearly they were never "mugged by reality" in the way that most sensible converts (read: "dreaded neo-cons") were. And unfortunately, this drift began to pervade their music, made manifest in particular with their 2005 release "Stand Up", many of the songs on which contain not-so-thinly veiled jabs at the Bush administration and the situation in Iraq.

This "social conscience" also seemed to effect the quality of their music, which had been in steady decline since the "Lillywhite Sessions" debacle of the previous few years. In short: the band had produced a stellar album full of crowd-tested songs back in 2001, which was then completely scrapped, and their long-time producer, Steve Lillywhite, was sacked. Then the band got together with uber-pop-producer Glen Ballard, who churned out an "album" of all-new material in less than a month, which was uniformly reviled by all long-time fans. Shortly thereafter (or maybe shortly therebefore; I can't recall the exact timeline), a fan illicitly obtained a copy of those originally scrapped studio sessions, which were then swiftly released onto the internet as "The Lillywhite Sessions" -- an amazing compilation of great, soulful songs in the finest tradition of DMB. Two years later, "Busted Stuff" was released, which was a soulless re-mastering of many of those same songs, by a different producer. At any rate, I mostly stopped listening and completely stopped attending concerts and tape trading around 2004. Their music has been total dreck since then (the rumor mill reports that their current tour is, albeit missing LeRoi Moore, back to form), and I have not been bothered to listen to them or follow their career for several years because of these factors. Of course, I still listen to the "good old stuff" from time to time.

But despite having "fallen off the wagon", this strikes me as very sad news. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.


Anonymous Marty said...

I'm too old for DMB. Always impressed me as "date music".

It's always sad when a young person dies needlessly.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

I assume you're baiting me, so I'll bite and say it: he was 46. I guess by your standards that IS young, though.

I know you don't believe me, but apart from their scant radio hits, there was some depth there too.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

Like I said, it was an impression. I've not plumbed the depths of DMB.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

I can help with that. From their most superlative studio album (Before These Crowded Streets, the closest thing they've done to a fully-integrated "concept album") to some particular concert highlights (incl. their 1999 show at the Dallas Starplex Amphitheater, my "first time" with them, which features a 30-minute jam of a single song in which Bela Fleck and each of his Flecktones solos during the thing), I can supply you with a decent sampling right here in my office.

Just sayin'.

10:38 AM  

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