By Christian Thompson
Since forming in Charlottesville almost three decades ago, Dave Matthews Band has become one of Virginia’s biggest-ever musical exports.
Beginning with 1998’s excellent “Before These Crowded Streets,” every one of the group’s studio albums since has hit the coveted number one slot on the Billboard charts. Their rapturous live performances have attained a legendary status, regularly selling out the largest of stadiums and arenas. Their undeniable endurance, creativity, and knack for showmanship have made them a worldwide success, beloved by millions of fans.
Yet, for some of the most ardent of these fans, this success is not without its downsides. Long gone, for instance, are the days when a Dave Matthews Band concert was what one could call an intimate experience. And unless concertgoers want to shell out most of their paychecks, they can count on taking in the show from a remote spot on some pavilion’s lawn, likely sharing the company of a motley group of underage drinkers.
Thankfully, there is an answer. For the past 10 years, Crowded Streets, a locally-based Dave Matthews cover band, has been bringing a replica of the DMB live experience to not only theaters and breweries around Loudoun, but also venues of all kinds up and down the East Coast.
Crowded Streets’ front man, Gabe Matthews (no relation) was drawn to the Dave Matthews Band at a young age. As a percussionist first, the group’s rhythm section impressed him, particularly the skill of drummer Carter Beauford. When Matthews began teaching himself guitar, he discovered even more to appreciate about the group.
“Dave was really one of the first mainstream artists to play in odd time signatures and apply unique chord voicings on the guitar,” said Matthews, noting how unique he found their sound compared to other popular music.
Dave Matthews Band’s songwriting and musicianship eventually inspired Gabe Matthews to form his own tribute group. The impressive six-piece band boasts the tight syncopation of the DMB’s rhythm section in addition to featuring the string and horn musicians that make band’s sound.
Matthews says he takes pride in recreating the DMB signature musical parts, but that Crowded Streets also leaves room for improvisation during their live performances. Matthews’ powerful vocals sound just like Dave’s, the band plays with a near-combustible energy, and Matthews is confident that his band’s playing can rival the real thing.
“I’m confident that we have the very best musicians in the Mid-Atlantic. This makes my job a lot easier as the front man,” he said.
Crowded Streets’ spirited performances have even made fans of Dave Matthews Band themselves. Matthews and the band have hung out with DMB backstage on numerous occasions and even spent a Super Bowl at Carter Beauford’s home a few years back. Matthews said it was “a dream come true” and noted how humble and friendly all of the group’s members are.
“In a way, we are the only Dave Matthews Band ‘approved’ Dave Matthews Band tribute,” Matthews said.
While Crowded Streets presence on the East Coast has been well established, Matthews looks forward to branching out into the West Coast soon. No matter what state the band is playing in, however, he said his and Crowded Streets’ favorite venue to play is Leesburg’s Tally Ho.
“The Tally Ho Theater is our local home base. They treat us like family and we consider the Tally Ho the same,” said Matthews.
Whether you’re a fan of Dave Matthew’s work or simply enjoy the art of performance and intricate musicianship, Crowded Streets is a show you won’t want to miss. Hearing the songs in a club setting will leave you with a newfound appreciation for Dave Matthews Band’s work. More importantly, it’ll make you a fan of Gabe Matthews and Crowded Streets.
Crowded Streetsplays the Tally Ho Theater Saturday, April 14. Doors open at 7 p.m.. Advanced tickets are $15 and are available at tallyhotheater.com Learn more about Crowded Streets and keep up with their tour dates at crowdedstreetsband.com.