A Four Day Trip to Dave Matthews Band Caravan: Atlantic City

[Photos via]

I remember the night vividly. I was in Hartford, CT at a Dave show (last year) when I heard the rumors: Dave Matthews Band will be taking off from touring for a year, a year which also marks the bands 20th anniversary. I said to a good friend of mine who had traveled up to Hartford with me “I can’t wait to see what kind of spectacle they pull off in 2011.”

After months of anticipation, the band announced they would be hitting the road to honor their 20th anniversary in style: throwing four 3 day festivals across the United States. After the band released their first “Caravan” dates in Atlantic City, NJ, I came in my pants. We’re not talking that pre-cum shit after a few minutes in the sack – we’re talking full blown orgasm here, friends. Dave Matthews headlining 3 nights in Atlantic City, rumors of supporting artists later confirmed such as Flaming Lips, Guster, and Amos Lee all mixed in with drinking, drugs, and GAMBLING?!? Needless to say, I called my friends at Harrah’s to secure my lodging ASAP. (Obvious plug – Thanks Patty!)

Last Thursday the day finally came. I went down to AC Thursday evening to settle into the hotel room, and do some early gambling. After a few hours of poker (kept it conservative – still had 3 more nights) we called it quits. I won a few hundo and was in good shape for an early wake-up call (noon) to head over to Day 1 of the Caravan.

We got as close to Bader Field as possible by cab, and had to cross over a bridge to reach the former Air Strip that was hosting what I believe was its first concert. Day 1 had a killer lineup so we wanted to get there early. We also wanted to take advantage of the free alcohol in the VIP tent. After downing a few quick beers and a shot or 4, we checked out the landscape (Let it be known this is the last I’ll mention drinking. You don’t give a shit how many beers and shots I had over 3 days, {118} or how many joints and bowls I smoked {22}…What you should note is that there was not 5 minutes of the 3 days where sobriety kicked in). Back to landscape: Three stages on the perimeter (Boardwalk, Atlantic, Pacific) and an eco-village with tons of cool shit from sponsors. We picked up our commemorative water bottles courtesy of Warehouse and kept hydrated at the Brita stations.

We gave Sarah White and the Pearls a listen from the VIP tent, but went over to check out David Ryan Harris who was solid. A little John Mayer in that man which set the mood. We tried to hustle over to the Jeff Coffin Mu’Tet but swung and missed…little did we know of the Jeff Coffin treat some lucky VIPers would get a few hours later. Foreshadowing in a review: 2 points.

Being the guitarist I pretend to be, TR3 was high on my list of acts to get close to. We propped ourselves right in front of Tim Reynolds who was tuning his own guitar – I do have something in common with a living legend (although I suppose some of you who have met my old guitar tech Jacob could call my bluff here – big timing in an article: minus 2 points). Timmy did not disappoint, kicking off the set with an epic version of Kashmir and his fingers move like lightning. It really is a spectacle. And speaking of a spectacle, he is far from shy on stage. The man has sick moves.

I was bummed to miss the Delta Spirit set but it wasn’t feasible. If you know anything of festivals, sometimes decisions need to be made and the predetermined move was to check out G. Love and Special Sauce. They never disappoint and amidst a mostly Philly crowd, it was an extremely receptive audience. G threw in a few sick freestyles which made me miss good friend and former tour mate G. Curtis. The best part of the VIP passes were the private viewing areas we had at every stage. They were 40 or so feet back from center stage, just in front of the soundboard. Made it ideal to avoid the large crowds! We hung tight at the main stage to catch the Ray Lamontagne set which was a little too slow and mellow for my taste. Still great musicians sharing great music, and I’ll always appreciate that. The other thing I appreciated is when Jeff Coffin came out to the VIP viewing area with a gigantic camera to photograph Ray’s set. I hope he didn’t mind my company, as he is a great guy and was more than willing to share a word.

After a great meal, it was off to see the Wizard, I mean The Flaming Lips, who, from what I had been told, were going to share their rendition of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album. This may have been the highlight of my weekend, not because I’m a huge Floyd fan (I am), not because I am a huge Flaming Lips fan (I wasn’t before), but because the ambiance was extraordinary. The sun was setting over the casinos to the south, the temperature was perfect, and the set was filled with unbelievable precision and crazier antics!

Highlights from Lips Darkside of the Moon set (not including the weather):

  1. The 20 or so beautiful girls dressed as Dorothy, and some guys dressed as the other Wizard of Oz characters all dancing on stage throughout the set.
  2. Lead Singer Wayne Coyne firing Confetti guns and throwing huge balloons filled with money into the crowd during “Money.”
  3. “Let’s drop acid and jump into the river”- that’s not a river Wayne, that’s the bay of the Atlantic Ocean but still a good idea!
  4. The picture montage at the end of “Dark Side of the Moon” which featured 4 photos. I’m pretty sure it there was an eye, a vagina, an asshole, and a cigarette being smoked, but they were cycling so quickly and I was extremely baked.

After the set and the collective “wows” being shared by the lucky people who didn’t mind being late to Dave, I went over to the main “Boardwalk” stage for the first DMB set of 2011. Now I’m a straight shooter, so I may disappoint you: the set was pretty weak. There were tons of covers, the band had their moments of greatness but also had unsound moments as well. Here is the setlist from Friday night’s show:

Don’t Drink the Water
You Might Die Trying
Proudest Monkey
Corn Bread
Funny The Way It Is
Jimi Thing
(Sexy M.F.)
Crash Into Me
You and Me
Shake Me Like a Monkey

A Whiter Shade of Pale
Stay Or Leave
Grey Street
Good Times Bad Times

A few set highlights courtesy of our friends at

“Captain” was played for the first time since 2004, “Shotgun” was played for the first time since 2009, and the band played 3 covers all of which were played for the first time: Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” was a solo job by Dave, and the band played in full to “Buena” a Morphine track and Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”

David Ryan Harris made a guest appearance during “Jimi Thing” which didn’t really add anything to the song, and that’s all I’m going to say about night 1’s performance. Getting out of the venue and back to the hotels was a disaster. Kudos to Atlantic City Public Transportation for realizing there was going to be 50,000 or so drunks flooding the streets at 11:00 pm and doing nothing about it. Enjoy your street closures and massive traffic stalls over the next 2 nights Atlantic City: a town clearly run by morons, for morons.

Highlights during my 3 mile walk back to the hotel:


Day 2: I struggled to get out of bed. I think we gambled from 2-6 AM and we decided we’d wake up to see Dave and Tim. Did I feel bad missing the Vusi set? Yes, but I knew I’d see him later on “Everyday.” Dave and Tim naturally drew the biggest crowd, and for good reason, they were splendid. It was a quiet set filled with sick Timmy acoustic riffs, and Dave let Tim have the spotlight on “Betrayal.” They sounded better and better as the set went on, and they may have set the record for shortest encore break ever: 58 seconds from exiting stage to coming back on stage. Setlist is below. Just know it was epic, and 30,000 people were all describing it just as that.

Grace is Gone
Save Me
Old Dirt Hill (Bring That Beat Back)
Eh Hee
Where Are You Going
Betrayal (Tim Reynolds solo)
Lie in Our Graves
Encore:  So Damn Lucky

We had a solid listen in on Thievery Corporation while we ate dinner back at the tent. They were rocking the main stage. I should note my favorite bands growing up were DMB and Guster, so having a day starting with Dave and Tim, then moving on to Guster, then closing with DMB was a dream of mine since I was 16. All I can say is that it was awesome. Guster killed it! They crammed as many songs as they possibly could into their set. They played a good mixture of old and new. Highlights for me included the hot blonde jumping around in front of me, a slowed down rendition of “Airport Song” featuring ample piano (nice touch), “Demons” and “I Spy” to close it out. I left some of my friends who wanted to stay for O.A.R. I can’t say I’m a fan of theirs, but for what it’s worth, those who stuck around said they loved the performance, so well done O.A.R. for delivering a good show.

On my walk back to the main stage to catch the end of Damian Marley and secure a rail spot for Dave, I ran into some new friends from Hofstra University. If you’re out there reading this guys, this one’s for you:

It’s people like you who make it easy to wake up and write, so I thank you.

Night 2 of Caravan was sick! Although the band had its ups and downs, we knew we were in for a few treats. For starters, with Vusi, Warren Haynes, and Damian Marley taking the stage earlier in the day, it was obvious there would be a few guests. It did not disappoint. See the setlist below and my highlights next to the songs.

Big Eyed Fish – Great opener!
Bartender – The band came in huge with little break from BEF. Was a monster and crowd went crazy!
Why I Am *
Write A Song *
Crush *
Break Free – Played for the first time since 2006.
Gravedigger – One of my favorite tracks, and the band did not disappoint.
Alligator Pie * – Welcome back
Dancing Nancies *
Spaceman *
Everyday *+ Vusi Mahlasela- If you’ve never seen Vusi check him out. He has so much fun with that booming falsetto of his!
The Idea Of You *
#41 Featuring Warren Haynes- Dueling guitar solos with Tim Reynolds during the jam. In the words of Dicky V- “It was Awesome with a capital A BABYYYY!!!”
Black Jack *
Time Bomb *
Stay (Wasting Time) *

Sister – Dave Solo
Cant Stop  *
Two Step + Leon Mobley of Damian Marley rocked the bongos. There were a few patches where the band was just a tad bit off, but overall it was an Epic end to an EPIC DAY 2.

We had to walk through a pretty shady area of Atlantic City after night 2, and after fearing getting mugged, being approached by several dealers on bicycles, and the passing “heyyy boys, wanna party” from hookers, we were happy to make it back to our hotel in one piece. Once again, we partied hard followed by a gambling session that went through the wee hours of the morning.  Being up nearly $400 after night 2 was a sign of good things to come Day 3.

Day 3 was a jam packed day filled with plenty of talent. I decided on this day, it would be best to try to see as much music as possible and that is just what I did. I floated from stage to stage seeing the likes of Alberta Cross, Amos Lee, Big Gigantic, Dr. Dog, David Gray, and was even able to squeeze in Michael Franti & Spearhead in addition to Bassnectar during their simultaneous sets. There was one group Day 3 that really set it off for me. I checked out Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, as several people instructed I do. She was playing over at the Atlantic Stage, and she was tearing it down!! There was a ton of energy and charisma in the performance. I couldn’t name you one song, but you bet your ass I’ll be downloading their albums this week! She brought the rock show to Caravan, and I was happy it arrived just in time before the Caravan would come to a close a few short hours later. Plus, Penn State’s own Jake Wagner, emerged from the crowd during the set, which had me going wild! If you don’t know Jake Wagner, he is this guy rocking a “We are Penn State” chant on stage at the Blitz and Beatz tour 2010.

The sun was still in mid position as the band took the stage for the final performance of the AC Caravan stop. The Boardwalk stage region was packed, although there were considerably less people in attendance than Day 2. There were reports of people complaining about the previous two nights’ setlists (Remember I only complained once) but all complaints were put to rest night 3. If you saw what I saw, then you saw one of the best Dave concerts perhaps of all time. A jammed pack set of classics and sweet emotions including an impromptu Halloween clearly added to the set at the crowd’s request. See my set comments below:

Seek Up – Great song to kick off a memorable night!
Warehouse – In the words of the great Charlie Sheen #winning
What Would You Say – 3 for 3
Kill The King – first time since 2006!
Granny – Hello how are you doing today?…5 for 5
Lying In the Hands of God – Sweet as ever
Digging a Ditch
One Sweet World
Tripping Billies – Was done big, bold, and better than I ever heard it before!
Dive In – Welcome back since 2009
Raven – Loved by all, thanks for stopping by! Back to back rarities- nice touch DMB
So Much To Say  – Look at these 3 songs…
Sweet Emotion  – Yes the Aerosmith classic and it was FUCKING SICK!
Too Much – Seamless transition, and it was HUGE!
All Along The Watchtower – Standard…


Some Devil * – Dave Solo, his voice is aging, but its raspy touch carried this one out well
Halloween  Thanks to the crowd, Dave SCREAMED this one home
Ants Marching – Can someone say Concert DVD?? I think we can!
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) – Well Done!

We left in a trance that was not a result of the music, or the drugs, or the exhaustion, or the sex I didn’t have. We decided it would be best to book one more night at Caesars and have a relaxing trip home Monday afternoon, which is just what we did. The 3 days could be summed up with one word, EPIC. A word I’ve thrown around a lot in this weekend+ in review, but shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ll be talking about this Caravan stop for a long time to come. I was just interrupted by my mother whose call I have finally answered. She asked how the festival was…My response: Tired, I’m a little high…Gonna go to bed.”

See you soon!


Tags : Atlantic CityDave Matthews BandFestivalsMusic