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Dave Mathews Band Caravan: Chicago

Posted Jul 11 2011 8:57pm

The Dave Matthews Caravan has and will stop in only four cities this summer: Atlantic City, Chicago, New York City, and George, Washington (home of The Gorge). In lieu of a full tour (typically 50 shows), they decided to celebrate their 20th anniversary by taking a bit of a break and playing four festivals., with three shows per fest. The Chicago location was closest for us but with a new job and a tight work schedule, we could only make Saturday, missing Friday and Sunday’s shows.

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We left last Friday after work, heading right to bed when we got to our hotel. We arrived at the grounds around 1 p.m., right when doors to the fest opened. The location was an old, abandoned steel mill in a rough neighborhood – not the ideal location for a festival celebrating every suburban frat boy’s favorite band, but security presence and festival workers did what they could with the location, and made it work.

As we walked through the parking lot, we almost immediately ran into old DMB friends. DMB has a huge network of fans – most I’ll only see once or twice a year but when I do, it’s like we never left the show. And almost all these friends were in Chicago last weekend!

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The festival used three stages, vendors, and a ferris wheel to entertain guests. The vendors offered unique fare, including food from local farms as well as craft brews from near and far.

I do have to say, while the beer was plentiful, there wasn’t nearly enough water being sold or given for free. There were three Brita water stations (the fest encouraged attendees to “go green” and use their own water bottles) but the lines for each station were well over an hour wait.  And by mid-afternoon, the lines to purchase bottled water were the same. Not a pleasant experience, but we endured.

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Also, it was hot. Really hot. A nice breeze from Lake Michigan helped, but the sweating ensued, as did massive amounts of sunscreen. Half the grounds were covered in woodchips, and the other half with a black dust/dirt. It was so dry that the dust ended up everywhere, including in my nose. My allergies still aren’t right!

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Despite the heat, dust, and lack of water, you can’t not have a great time surrounded by your once-a-year best friends watching set after set of amazing musicians. First up? Cornmeal .

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This is Allie. She is awesome. How can any adorable girl that plays the fiddle be anything but awesome?! I highly recommend checking them out if you in any way like bluegrass!
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Next up: Yonder Mountain String Band another bluegrass/rock hybrid that has a great following and always delivers.

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After Yonder, we hiked it over to the other stage…

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For my very first Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds set! Dave and Tim have played a ton of shows together but I’ve never been able to catch one. They only played for about 50 minutes but we heard some great tunes, including Blue Water (for those DMB fans, this is a rare treat!).

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(My camera has an amazing zoom – this is where we actually stood!)

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After D&T, we headed back to catch the moe. set, then to see Umphrey’s McGee . I have seen them plenty of times and they never disappoint. In fact, a little birdie tells us they’ll be playing in St. Louis over New Year’s Eve!

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As the sun started to set over Caravan, we found a spot for the final act of the night – Dave Matthews Band.

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It was crowded. I believe they estimated 30,000+ people in attendance.

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The show began and honestly, we had a great time. Overall, the setlist wasn’t anything to write home about and there were no major surprises (if you want surprises, check out the setlist from the Sunday night show!), but the company made the trip well worth it, and both Matt and I had an amazing time.

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DMB could have read the phone book for three hours and it would have been 100% worth it. Why? Because of these people:

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Just a portion of my once-a-year best friends (I’m in the grey dress in front, by the way). It was hot, we were sweaty, but that didn’t stop us from dancing up a storm and hugging it out. This is what music can do, folks. This is what music can do.

Stay tuned – we’re back to our regular food posts tomorrow!

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