This one's a little different, but I think it's important.
I was 9, in that blissful last stretch before puberty, skidding down California streets on my two-wheeler, Walkman clipped to my jean shorts. I may have started having crushes on boys, but they were undirected. I liked a boy named Noah, but if Noah had tried to hold my hand, I would have run screaming and climbed a eucalyptus tree like a goddamn koala.
Also, Noah didn't like chocolate or Disneyland, so that crush lasted all the way through computer playtime when I outlasted him on Oregon Trail.
But the biggest thing to happen that year was that the song "Crash Into Me" (off album Crash) hit the airwaves in our sunny town of Redondo Beach, and everyone was listening to it. I mean everyone. But more importantly, my brother and his cool friends were listening to it.
My brother had this one friend who was at least nine feet tall. He let me dance on his feet when the Chicago Bulls won their third straight championship and all those mysterious teenagers whirled around me in a swirl of laughter and energy. And as my brother detailed his white Toyota pickup, his friend would pull up on our street under the spreading leaves and would blast Crash.
I never tried to impress my brother's friend. I didn't know how. I didn't even know what that was. I would climb up the stucco wall of our patio and hide my face in my hands and peek and listen as Dave Matthews hit the high notes and my brother's friend laughed and talked about surfing, all the sounds and feelings as tall as the trees. I would go inside and steal my brother's copy of Crash and put on my headphones, starting to look into the murky future and wondering what it would sound like.
What I Think Now: I don't think I need to rip on Dave Matthews at this time. In all his iterations (the band, plus Tim Reynolds), he does very well for himself commercially and has outlasted most of those who shared the airwaves in the 1990s—perhaps because he created a sound not easily put into a genre. Not quite jam, not rock, not pop. His fans are easier to target: a tableau of yuppie culture, the inverse of the counterculture faction that was cool when his music flourished.
Dave Matthews dared to be chirpy, happy-go-lucky even, in a Northwest climate and time that bore Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, Beat Happening, and many other punk, grunge, and alternative bands. But Dave Matthews wasn't merely happy. He wasn't feel-good like jam bands. He wasn't political. He was chill—taken out of time and space, as though his music was written in an alternate universe where only the personal matters.
That's why people hate Dave Matthews.
But maybe, if you take away his fans guzzling Keystone Light and playing frolf, Dave Matthews was just a sweet behemoth of a band that took a little too much liberty with a saxophone solo. Maybe we can have Kathleen Hanna and Dave Matthews in the same state, just not in the same state of mind.
Was It Worth It: Yes.
I don't listen to Dave Matthews anymore, but I'm glad I did. Everyday and Crash were sweet albums to while away the hours to as a kid. He remains a constant, positive force in the city I love.
Though I'll tell you: I decided to sing "Crash Into Me" once at karaoke in my early 20s after not listening to it for a few years, and that song is dirty. Like, too dirty for a 9-year-old to be listening to. "Hike up your skirt a little more / And show the world to me"? How did my parents not figure that one out?
The '90s were a simpler time.