This past weekend was the annual Dave Matthews Band two-night run in Hartford, and this year they came with support from The Head and the Heart. My brothers and I were not going to let ugly clouds and nonstop rain keep us from a good time. Pizzas were purchased, beers were on ice, snacks packed and the pop-up tents were in tow. En route to the show, I had declared that I was hoping for a “Watchtower” at some point during the evening. Now, it takes a special kind of fan to be able to understand the patterns a band makes when choosing their set list. As one of those fans I realize that it was the first of two nights and for these guys it was very unlikely that they would deliver my “Watchtower” request. Despite all of that, I also had with me some hope. We arrived at the parking lot and despite the buckets of rain, we got a pretty solid pre-show buzz on and enjoyed the tailgate scene. And what a scene it was.

Fast forward a few hours, and I was stage-side ready to take on the evening. Finally, Dave Matthews himself arrived on stage to introduce the opening band. “Hope you are not wearing blue jeans. Blue jeans suck in the rain,” he said at random (and I agreed making a frown face while looking down at my soaking wet blue jeans.) “Please welcome The Head and the Heart!”. Who is this band he spoke of? They are a six piece band from Seattle Washington and they know how to play music. They took the stage donning wool sweaters, button-down shirts and winter caps. As they sang, you could see their breath. The air was cool and the sound was mellow. Their sound was delicate and folk-like; a very beautiful set. And it had made me forget all about the rain as my bones started to really warm up.

During the set break, the stage-hands worked quickly to set the scene for DMB. There was a round lighting rig with a large white sheet draped from it that sat about five feet off of the stage. It was reminiscent to a classic theater curtain, but it looked more like an over-sized shower curtain. While waiting, a photographer friend of mine had said out loud that she was hoping also for a “Watchtower”. So we decided to combine our positive vibes and continue to hope for the best. The adrenaline was racing through our veins as the band slowly took their positions on stage. We, in the pit, were instructed that as soon as the curtain dropped we could run front and center. And then it happened…and ran in, we did.

The band came on strong with a “JTR” opener and considering all of the rain, it was an absolutely fitting first song.

“Rain, rain, rain down on me
Again and again
Rain down on me”

From the faint sounds of #34 pre-curtain drop to now this, I had a really, really good feeling about this show.

For the second number, they broke into “Warehouse” and I found myself caught up in a moment. It was amazing to think that these words once meant one thing to me and now, 18 years later, they mean something altogether different. This band has been a part of life for so many chapters of it and I am woman enough to admit that all of the thoughts and feelings brought a few tears to my eyes. It was great being directly in front of them. Their facial expressions are priceless and they truly put their heart into every song they play. And Dave’s feet!!! Watching them so up close and personal was such a treat. The way he moves back and forth around stage is certainly one of his signatures.

The setlist was nothing short of marvelous. Highlights to include an astounding “Bartender” with an incredible penny whistle solo by Jeff Coffin that made me really feel that the spirit of the late and great LeRoi Moore was right there with us. “The Song that Jane Likes” I cannot say for certain if I have ever heard live before. Odds are that I have, though I enjoyed the hell out of it as if it was the first time. “Lie In our Graves” lasted at least ten minutes and Tim Reynolds nailed it with a great moment under the spotlight. They even pulled out “Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty, which was so incredibly on point, you might have thought Petty himself were there with them. There were traces of some Pink Floyd teased during the end. Nearly three hours after it started, they closed the show with the ever-classic “Ants Marching”. But we wanted more…

So back on stage they came and indulged us with a two song encore. “Drunken Soldier” kicked of the beginning of the end. Left me to wonder what they would actually close the show with–it could have been any number of things. Then it happened. Stefan Lessard took the spotlight and laid into a pretty tight bass solo and the band slowly moved into “All Along The Watchtower” a Bob Dylan cover. Annnnnnnnnnd my evening was complete.

Many that know who I am understand the excitement that I get from any kind of live music. In the now vintage AIWA boombox that is still functioning and set up in my living room, there are two cassette tapes in the decks. One has a bootleg Phish show from Fort Collins in 1990 and the other is a DMB show from Pittsburgh in 1993. If I had to say which of the two I have seen more times live at this point, I couldn’t be sure one way or the other. The difference between the two for me is that while I have seen a ton of Phish in my recent past, I grew up with the Dave Matthews Band. I have been watching them perform live for close to 20 years. I can say that come rain (literally) or come shine they always deliver a solid performance and make for a very happy me.

In theory, the second evening of a two night run tends to always be better…from my experiences, at least. And the first evening of this run was incredible. I was not present at night two, but from the set list below, it looks better than incredible. Slow clap for the band. RIP LeRoi.

Comcast Theater, Hartford CT, 6.7.13
JTR (with a #34 tease to start)
Broken Things
The Idea of You
(Kill The Preacher)
Why I AM
Belly Belly Nice
Big Eyed Fish
The Song That Jane Likes
Lie in our Graces
Runnin Down a Dream (Tom Petty cover)
The Dreaming Tree
Rhyme and Reason
Ants Marching

Drunken Soldier
Al Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)

Seek Up
Proudest Monkey
Don’t Drink the Water
Spoon (first time played since 11.19.10)
Shake Me Like a Monkey
The Riff
Grey Street
So Right
Jimi Thing
The Best of What’s Around
Funny the Way It Is
Pantala Naga Pampa

Blue Water
Two Step