The least exciting part about DMB Caravan … was DMB. As opening day of the weekend fluttered between artists such as Blind Pilot, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Alberta Cross and Soulive, Dave Matthews Band became a borderline sappy red rose in a field of exotic plants.
And although this field is metaphorical, the literal garden of DMB Caravan Chicago was not full of greenery but wood chips.
The Lakeside Caravan event (the second of four locations for the traveling festival), was underwhelming in its execution. Though it was the first ever event to be held at the now vacant lot of the demolished South Works steel mill and managed to book divine bands, the backstage mechanics could have used a lot more oil — the staff members were clueless as to the location of the Media Tent, green grass was nowhere to be seen and the line to refill water bottles was thirty minutes too long.
A colorful ferris wheel opened up the venue’s space, which lay a ten-minute walk from the parking lot, and offered three stages: Lakeside, The Slip and the main stage, South Works.
My day began with simultaneous spicy fries and sunshine consumption as Blind Pilot’s frontrunner Israel Nebeker ripped into “Go On, Say it,” “3 Rounds and a Sound” and new tracks — my mouth could find no disposition but upturned.
Across the vast space sprinkled with white-topped tents, Amos Lee took the main stage at three in the afternoon, serenading a mass of accepting human beings with both classics and songs from his latest album Mission Bell. At this time it seemed that Friday’s lineup was a bit more focused on the demographic of young twenty year-olds in touch with their feelings, more so than at other popular summer music festivals or even in comparison to Caravan’s following days where artists like Kid Cudi and The Flaming Lips perform for a more intense crowd.
Next to take the South Works stage was the band of 10 loving hippies, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Having seen this group perform live twice before, it was startling to see such a passive group of listeners — even for their most popular song “Home” (which they did a more rooted, reggae rendition of), no one cared that I was standing on a chair, because they were just holding their spots, drinking their Budweiser, posted up for DMB to take the stage and complete their devoted souls for the night.
The young and the old DMB followers continued to stand their ground through the performance of Ray Lamontagne and his supporting band now referred to as the Pariah Dogs. The grizzly beard, sharp nose and plaid shirt were as present as his unmistakable rasp and guitar/harmonica mojo.
As Lamontagne concluded his set, the sun was letting up, but the headliner fans were not. The teens and undergrads pre-gamed harder and the oldies cemented their butts to their prized proximity to the stage or swooned into their spouses with more giddy anticipation.
All I have to say is that what caught my attention more than Dave Matthew Band’s acoustic breakdowns and the return of “Joy Ride” was the sign language interpreter stage right. Exuding more love than any famous performer, she signed the lyrics for the deaf concertgoers with full-body and full-heart, softening the vibe of the Lakeside performance into a beautiful Friday evening.