For the longest time, I thought “Dave” and “Dave at the Gorge” were phrases that only my friends and I used to describe Dave Matthews Band and his annual weekend extravaganza at the Gorge Amphitheater in central Washington State. Turns out, these two abbreviations are used everywhere by everyone who knows anything about Dave.
I do not know many full-blooded American adults, aged 18-48 ((approximate figures, of course)) who do not sing along to the lyrics or break out in sway-like dance moves when a Dave Matthews song is playing. My early college years are when I began my romance with his albums. My bestie Erica and I went to see Dave perform twice during those college years – once at SPAC ((Saratoga, NY)) and once at Penn State. Both shows were smashing, but since moving to Washington state seven years ago, I knew I had to make the two and a half hour pilgrimage to the Gorge to see him perform at such a spectacular venue.
Six years and six Labor Day weekends came and went. With Andrew working in retail management during that time, it was near impossible he would ever have a day off during such a busy American shopping weekend. And Dave at the Gorge is not something I wanted to do by myself. However, 2013 was the year it would happen…I just knew it. We were still in the planning stages of our quit-work-and-travel-for-close-to-a-year happenings when I insisted Andrew and I depart Washington state after Labor Day and quit our jobs prior to Labor Day so I could go see Dave at the Gorge. Tickets were quickly purchased for the first night of Dave’s three-night schedule plus a camping pass so we could stay overnight. Done and done.
Knowing next to nothing about the venue or what a ‘Dave at the Gorge’ weekend was all about, I wasn’t exactly sure what to anticipate or how to prepare. I knew I was excited, but it was a bit muted because of said lack of experience. We arrived at the Gorge Friday afternoon from Seattle on a sunny, blue-skied day. We were then directed to park the car in a massive field converted to a parking lot/campground, and set up our small tent directly behind my car, and quickly greeted and began chatting with our new neighbors. It was a sight to behold. So many cars, tents, RVs, campers, and people. To our left were two girls from Spokane with a rasta-painted pop up camper they purchased from Craigslist for $400. To our right were three incredibly nice college-age gentlemen from Salt Lake City, and to the right of them were two childhood female friends from the mid-west who now live separately in NYC and Arizona but decided to meet up for a friend-cation weekend to see Dave at the Gorge.
As we started chatting with our friendly new neighbors, we realized they ((and a lot of other campers arriving)) were not just staying for one night. They were staying for two or three. The whole entire weekend?? Three nights of Dave Matthews Band?? Meh, I thought, that sounds alright, but we will just take our one night, thanks. Boy was I very wrong about that.
We purchased what turned out to be ideal seats for the show, just right of center stage. The seats were used only to hold our jackets and bag once the band started to play. I don’t sit still during live music. In fact, I break out my best swaying or dance moves and sing along to the lyrics that I know. I was hoping Dave would play ‘#41’ which he didn’t the night we were there, but I was pleased with the set list nonetheless. Andrew kept naming random words as songs he wanted to hear – he knows nothing about Dave and does not consider himself a fan, so it was pretty great he came along with me anyway. After it was finished, we walked back to our site and recapped with our neighbors before turning in for the night and falling asleep to the hum of a lively post-show campground.
Between befriending Brian, Carter and Aaron ((the guys from Salt Lake City)), the community atmosphere, and the concert itself, I begrudgingly drove away from our parking spot/campsite the next morning and couldn’t help but begin wishing we had planned to be there the entire weekend. It was so..much..fun. The guys even taught Andrew a new game called Spike Ball, and played an epic match the morning before we left. I hope we remain in touch with these guys in case our paths cross again, and also because we are going to need the finest tour guides when we finally make a visit to Salt Lake City.
Now that Dave at the Gorge has been crossed off the initial “to do” list, I am adding a new entry to the list: an entire weekend of Dave at the Gorge. And I intend to convince some friends and family who are fellow Dave fans to join us for what will surely be another unforgettable experience.