They say you should never meet your idols, but maybe "they" never had the chance. When I was offered the opportunity to see the Dave Matthews Band at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ, plus attend a post-show meet and greet with the man himself, I immediately said yes.
Our conversation drifted to what his headspace is like when he is playing live – whether he is aware of every moment or if it just flashes by.
This year is a special one for the band. After touring every summer for the last 25 years, they're reportedly taking next year off. With two generous sets per show and a playlist filled with fan favorites, it seems like Dave and his bandmates want to make the most out of this sprawling summer tour.
I arrived about 10 minutes before the doors opened and was greeted by thousands of equally eager Dave die-hards who were lining up at the entrance. By the time the lights went down, some 17,500 of the most devoted music fans in the world had trickled into the modern, outdoor amphitheater.
Dave and his band picked up their instruments shortly after 8 p.m. and played a high-energy set for nearly three hours, with hits like "Crash Into Me," "Satellite," and "Crush" filling the open air. "The Space Between" and "Grey Street" served as the encore and were the perfect ending to a flawless performance.
Once the band left the stage and the last notes faded into the air, it was finally time for my meet and greet with Dave Matthews himself – an experience that was offered exclusively to Citi cardmembers. I won't lie – it could have been awkward. Not just because of the "never meet your idols" thing, but also because there was a small group of us who didn't know each other, idling around in anticipation of Dave's arrival. But he put us at ease from the moment he bound through the door with a big grin on his face. You'd never guess he had just wrapped a three-hour set. "Hello, everyone!" he boomed. "How are you?"
Dave spent a couple of minutes speaking with each of us. When my turn came, I was surprised by how easy it was to talk to him, but rather than talking about himself – he's the famous one, after all – Dave asked me questions about myself: where I was from (my English accent gave me away), how long I'd been living in the U.S., and how I was enjoying my adopted hometown of New York City.
I happily answered his questions and couldn't help but pose a couple of my own: When he performs live, is he aware of every moment on stage or does the time flash by? Apparently, it's a little bit of both. He said that time usually feels like it's passing at the speed of light, but occasionally, he'll have a moment when he realizes what's happening and can soak up the experience.
Signed, sealed, delivered
After 45 minutes of conversation, there were autographs to sign and photos to take. Some brought records and memorabilia, and one super fan even asked Dave to draw on his arm (and then told him whatever he drew he'd get tattooed). I didn't go quite that far, but he did sign the back of my train ticket and made a frame-worthy drawing to boot.
Also going in a frame? The photograph I took with Dave, where he joked that he felt like he was my date to the prom because I was so much taller than him.
Autographed ticket and drawing in hand – and countless memories to savor – I hopped back on the train to the city. Whooshing down the tracks, I marveled at how hours ago, I went from being a speck in a sea of thousands of Dave Matthews Band fans to shaking hands and speaking with the man himself. Reminiscent of one of his all-time biggest hits, it was anything but a typical situation.