Dave Matthews Band Caravan Chicago: Day One

July 8th - July 10th, 2011

Words By Andrew Veerman
Photos By Jay Miller
(Gaian Eye Photography)

Set on the grounds of what was once a steel mill, the Dave Mathews Caravan had plenty of room for their three-day festival on Lakeside Chicago. The stages were set in a triangular jam session with all of the stages spaced out well enough so that no one stage over powered another. I arrived on Friday, July 8th around 2:00 PM, and the gates had opened around 1:00 PM with the first bands going on at 1:30. The first band I stopped to see was Blind Pilot.

As I walked up on the Lakeside stage, Blind Pilot was mid song and really having fun with it. Kati Claborn (Banjo) worked with Ryan Dobrowski (drums) on the same drum set to deliver a funky sound that had the crowd really stirred up. I could feel the excitement from the stage as Kati was bouncing back and forth while keeping the tom drum booming. The crowd was responding and furiously dancing in circles when Israel Nebeker (guitar & vocal) broke into song to spice up the crowd's soul. Traveling from Portland, Oregon, Blind Pilot definitely brought their groove with them.

Next I headed towards the Slip Stage to catch Alberta Cross. I walked up around 3:15 and caught their song "Rise from the Shadows", which Petter Ericson Stakee (vocals & guitar) coined as a gospel tune. I could feel the church essence that was implied by Stakee, and also sensed a large grunge undertone which created an interesting mix. Their rock sound hit hard but it was ambient back tones that carried the crowd through a journey of the trials of life.

With a very brief moment spent with Alberta Cross near the close of the set, I was ready for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to start up at the Slip Stage. It was one of the most anticipated sets of the day. My friend Lori, who was at the Slip Stage to see DDBB for the first time and is a New Orleans enthusiast, was overwhelmed when she heard the band take the stage and jump right into the marching sounds of New Orleans. Bringing the vibe of Bourbon Street to Chicago The Dirty Dozen brought with them some of the best grooves the band has to offer. While Kirk Joseph (tuba) and Terence Higgins (drums) carried the rhythm section, Gregory Davis (trumpet and vocals), Roger Lewis (Baritone sax), Kevin Harris (tenor saxophone), Efrem Towns (trumpet and flugelhorn), and Jake Eckert (guitar) took turns lifting the crowd to new heights with their solos. Dirty Dozen played a crowd favorite “Hey Pocky Way”, originally by Leo Nocentelli and The Meters, that had the crowd jumping around and signing along. The relatively short lived set on the Slip Stage soon came to an end.

With only thirty minutes after Dirty Dozen Brass Band before Soullive would take to the Slip Stage, I stepped over to South Works Stage and check out Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros for a minute. I was only able to catch one song which showcased female vocalist Jade Castrinos on the big screens to both sides of the stage, singing a serene song that drew the crowd as well as myself in. As the band strummed the smooth song, it gave me the feeling of slowly riding a raft down the river.

Back at the Slip Stage, Soulive was tuning up for their set. Brothers Alan Evans and Neal Evans were joined by third band member Eric Krasno and started out the with a very quick build in energy followed by a sudden drop, like a defibulator pulsing the heart of the crowd. The energy built once again and was then sustained by the two brothers Alan (drummer), and Neal (Keys). Eric (Guitarist) took this opportunity to solo and raced away on a jazz-influenced riff that really showed his style. Neal nailing the organ keys, Eric wailing on his guitar, and Alan adding the jazz-inspired drumming gave a surprisingly funky sound that was well received by the audience.

Before Soulive had finished their set, it was time to make my way to the Lakeside stage and catch SOJA. I walked up and was surprised to hear a big band sound that had the crowd frantic. The song ended and they transitioned into the reggae sound that is a large part of the rest of the set. Jacob Hemphill’s (lead vocals & guitar) raspy voice carried with it the sound of an old soul with much to tell. Bobby Lee (bass) came in with backup vocals periodically that gave the lyrical part of SOJA’s set an all new sound. Rafael Rodriguez (trumpet) gesturing to the crowd had everyone in attendance pumped. This band had consistent good vibes and by far was one of crowd favorites for day one. The energy from the crowd really elevated the musicians to push harder, and that only made the crowd energy stronger.

After grabbing two slices of Connie's Pizza, I then went and sat down to listen to Ray Lamontagne at the South Works Stage. The band was composed of Eric Heywood and Greg Leisz (guitars), Jennifer Condos (bass), and Jay Bellerose (drums) of Pariah Dogs. The song I came in on was a slow jam that built with Ray whose voice was like a whisper in the wind brings much peace to the song. They brought a great end to this set with a driving song that had a lot of heart. With a classic country rock sound, it was easy to see why they were booked on the main stage.

I was within ear shot of Ray for just a brief moment but wanted to get a front row seat for Drive-By Truckers. They started playing before I made it to my spot as the raunchy guitar ripped through the Slip Stage crowd as I arrived. By the time I reached the front of the fairly large crowd, the oversized bass drum set up behind the drummer already had my rib cage rattling. Patterson Hood (vocals & guitar) poured his every last emotion into the microphone as they tore through their first song. Mikey Cooley (guitarist & vocals) stepped up on several occasions to add his own brand of vocals to the band’s heavy rocking and city street blues sound. Having never seen Drive-By Truckers before, I was taken aback by the sound I had been missing out on. I recommend checking them out anywhere you see their name on the bill.

It was hard to leave the Drive-By Truckers, so much so that by the time I made it over to OAR, it was already ten minutes to Dave taking the stage and I knew if I wanted to get close for that show, I would have to keep walking and miss OAR. The crowd at OAR was impressive and probably the biggest one I had seen all day at the Lakeside Stage. As a band that has been around since 1996, it was easy to see that many people bought a day pass just to come and hear this band continue to rock through their second decade of music.

I took stage right at the South Works Stage for Dave, and even though I didn't have full view of the stage, the two giants screens once again allowed everyone including myself to see what was happening onstage. After a short time passed, Matthews hit the stage a few minutes later than scheduled, and for all his fans his message was clear as he played "Open Up Your Head", lending to the whole experience of his caravan.

"He played a lot of his new songs, I was hoping for more of his older works", says Michelle Thomas, an avid Matthew's fan. She was not too disheartened because the next two nights were going to finish with three-hour sets of Dave.

A great kick off to this caravan and things were in motion with everyone hoping the next two days would keep the festival moving as well as it had the first day.

Jay Miller’s Day One Photos



DMB Caravan Day Two

DMB Caravan Day Three


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