The History Of DMB: Chapter V
By Jake Vigliotti
July 24, 2007
Arguably the biggest thing to happen to DMB began in 1995. It was hit and miss for a few shows, but it had a profound effect on fans. Soundboard feeds were no longer supplied. Prior to that, a fan with a recording device could simply plug into the soundboard, and he’d get a crisp soundboard recording. As shows became more popular, fans would daisy-chain off each other’s devices at some locations to get the sound board feed. All that ended for one reason: bootlegs.
Independent record stores always sold fan recordings of DMB after they gained popularity. But after Under The Table And Dreaming the sheer volume of bootlegs increased expediently. Just for a little retrospect, this was 1995: Computers may have had CD-ROM’s, but burners for CD’s were close to $1000 (that’s for x1 speed). CD recordings of shows were therefore rare. Clever bootleggers would copy shows on poor quality CD’s to keep costs down, and sold them off to record stores, who would in turn sell them as ‘Imports’ for up to $30 a pop. DMB facilitated the FBI in raids of stores, and for a short time became the scourge of independent record stores. Some even refused to carry DMB cd’s (legit ones). All because DMB protected their product and stopped the illegal sale of discs.
Some major repercussions from that: Fans were no longer allowed feeds from the sound board (which cut down on bootlegs), but also made the cost of taping rise. A taper’s full gear in 2007 can easily run over $1000. The quality of shows decreased in terms of early taping. Fan recordings from 1995-96 pale in comparison to those of today (and the past 5 years at least). 1995 was especially rough, for tapers that didn’t get the word that soundboards were verboten.
Also, at that time, DMB Management (and sometimes DMB manager Coran Capshaw personally) asked some tapers to not distribute their tapes. Most obliged until after the bootlegging subsided (1).
DMB embarked on their largest tour yet toward the beginning of 1995. A co-headlining tour with Big Head Todd and the Monsters would travel almost the entire country. In areas where DMB was better known, they’d be the main act, and out west where Big Head Todd had a bigger following, they would play last. At least that was the plan. Only a few shows in it became clear that DMB was the main act on the tour. It’s not so much that they were more popular – both had about the same popularity nationwide – it was more that DMB simply was a better live band. Nothing against BHT, but DMB was well versed in touring and knew ho to put on a show. By the time the tour hit the west coast, DMB was the main act, and Big Head Todd opened all the shows, despite being less-well known there.
As well as touring went is as poorly as business went for DMB, and especially Dave. His old friend Ross Hoffman sued for partial control of assets of Dave’s songwriting (dating back to a 1991 contract between the two). They did eventually settle (2), but out of that tough experience came one of DMB’s most popular songs; #41.
Early in the year, prior to the co-headlining tour, DMB showed the strength of their abilities by performing a number of acoustic shows. The first were in Richmond with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra. Long time friend of the band John D’earth orchestrated the DMB songs for the Symphony, and DMB played two nights of beautiful compositions (3). Due to the limitations of the Orchestra (they could only learn so many songs), these two shows are the closest DMB came to performing the exact same setlist.
DMB also did an acoustic show in New York (at the Academy – with a poor copy of it in fans hands). It was that show where arguably the most popular least-performed song debuted; #40.
The most famous #40 occurred at one of the most famous DMB shows of all time. While on tour with Big Head Todd on the West Coast, DMB did a radio show in promotion of the tour. On a non-descript Wednesday afternoon, DMB traveled into Oakland (from San Francisco – where they were on that tour) to do a show before a small contest-winning crowd (in conjunction with KFOG). Dave was feeling under the weather (4), but despite his hoarseness, the band, with acoustic equipment, traveled to a trendy sushi/bar called Yoshi’s.
Sometimes, despite a sick Dave and an overzealous radio host, the stars line up and DMB puts on a great show. Of all the shows, this could be the greatest. The soft sounds applied to Jimi Thing, Tripping Billes, and Recently surprised fans. The encore of #40 (considered the greatest #40 by 99% of fans at least) and new song Don’t Burn The Pig ended the mellow afternoon.
Later in May, DMB made their first stop in Las Vegas. They opened for The Grateful Dead for three evenings. Despite the short sets, DMB mixed it up, and won over some new, old fans. These shows also put DMB on their largest stage – never before had they played to such a large crowd.
. They also played on the H.O.R.D.E. tour, exposing their sound to new fans, and traveled through Texas for a tour (5). All this time, DMB worked up some of their new songs (#41, Proudest Monkey, Don’t Burn The Pig) in preparation for their second album.
Again, as DMB had done in the past, they took major chances by performing brand new songs on the road. The gift to fans of this is to truly see the maturation process of their music. #41, for example, debuted on 4.7.95, and by the time they finalized the album version (and the current style we know now), the song changed greatly. Rather than hide their song, or just soundcheck them, DMB was out every night trying them out.
This actually has another effect on the music; it allows fans to hear early versions and facilitate which ones work. When an early version of a song works, fans want to hear it again. Of course, the downfall is that when fans love a specific version (like #40), the other versions don’t measure up. So is the paradox of DMB music; fans not only have favorite songs, but favorite ‘versions’ (aka recordings) of songs.
As the summer came to a conclusion, DMB headed back to the studio to attempt their 2nd major label album. Again, upstate New York would be the recording venue, but this would be different than the previous attempt. The band would recycle some old favorites (6), but also had some brand new songs to try.
Also in studio, DMB wrote some songs. This was pretty-much a first for them (7). Crash Into Me, Deed Is Done, and Too Much all came from that writing session.
While they were in the studio, the band played an impromptu show to road test some songs. Since this second album would be the first where DMB actually wrote songs in studio, just to make sure they were working, they tried them out in Woodstock in October. Early versions of Too Much and #41 highlighted the show, along with Deed Is Done, which unfortunately did not make the album (8).
The sessions were different in other ways from the UTTAD sessions; a great number of songs were tried out in studio. DMB basically tried out everything in the catalog, and even tough the album session was in September-October, 1995, the final release did not occur until February 1996. Old favorite Tripping Billies made the cut, when the original plan was for the European release only. True Reflections - a song sung by Boyd and popular with fans then – was a late scratch from the album. Another song fans expected but ultimately cut was #36. This song of course unfortunately morphed into Everyday. DMB really had enough for a double-album, but eventually narrowed it down to what we now have as Crash.
DMB followed up their session with a late fall-early winter tour – featuring some songs from the new sessions (including those that didn’t make the cut). As had occurred in the small towns, fans took immediately to the new songs, and DMB’s reputation grew.
After 1995, what little chance of DMB remaining a small, regional act, were officially dead. Their popularity was now nationwide, and sales of Crash (in early 1996) would reinforce that notion. What started with a skinny kid with an accent approaching two established musicians with a tape of songs turned in five quick years to a band playing major venues. There were plenty of highs, and the lowest of lows. Despite all of that, and the lineup changes, musical changes, and legal matters, DMB survived; they made it. The DMB was now officially a big-time band.
(1) Tapers generally waited till 2000-2001 to release their shows, which is why a great number of unknown shows surfaced around that time. Some tapers are still holding onto recordings from as early as 1991.
(2) The details of the settlement are confidential. The basic issue was the formation of a new distribution company for DMB’s music, making Colden Grey Ltd., the former company owned by Matthews, Sabec, and Hoffman, obsolete. The settlement did however sever all the ties between the three, although Dave has mentioned Hoffman by name in interviews in the past and hinted at a possible reconciliation.
(3) The RSO shows are actually the property of the RSO, not DMB. So, all recordings of the show(s) in fans hands are technically illegal. There was some indication that one day the RSO would make the shows available for sale, but that never happened. Rumors have accompanied the shows that say the RSO was not happy with their performances.
(4) Dave’s voice was so scratchy, that when asked by DMB mgmt to release a recording of that show for a KFOG release, DMB substituted a recording from Philadelphia, PA instead of the Yoshi’s recording.
(5) Although this should be their second trip into Texas, Peter Griesar has told people of a ‘Texas Demo’ recorded in 1992, somewhere around Dallas. It was another failed attempt at a studio album. No known copies of that recording exist in fandom.
(6) So Much To Say, Two Step, Drive In Drive Out and Tripping Billies were all songs from 1992 or older. Billies was originally intended for the European release only, but at the last second it was decided to be included on the US release as well.
(7) It’s likely that Let You Down and Get In Line may have been written in studio during the UTTAD session, but not performed until much later.
(8) for a complete list of the Crash Sessions, see here.
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