We've all done it at one point or another putting on a record to get through troubled times be it getting dumped or losing a loved one more permanently. The Dave Matthews Band on Friday at the Gorge used their own tunes to draw out their own feelings of loss for their former sax man LeRoi Moore who died just last week.
As I arrived at the Gorge a few hours early to tailgate and catch the feeling of the crowd, two guys came over to our car passing out fliers with the lyrics of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It had detailed instructions of when this fan tribute organized on Facebook would take place. It was supposed to go down during the encore break. Darren Szpak of Alberta, Canada and Jake Escobedo of Sacramento said it was a long shot, but they were doing all they could to pull it off.
Well it never did, at least it wasn't audible from my position, but something far more magical took place when shortly before the encore Moore's image popped up on a huge video screen behind the band.
Rumbling chants of "LeRoi ... LeRoi" followed and then, all at once, starting from the top of the amphitheater, thousands of fans hurled glowsticks toward the stage. The glowsticks made their way down the steep slope of grass in a cascading waterfall of neon light as each fan below picked up a stick that fell near them and threw it until they made their way to the stage. This spectacle lasted for about 10 minutes with the stage lights completely dark and Dave Matthews frozen in amazement.
I hate hyperbole, but this without a doubt was one of the more stirring tributes I've ever witnessed. It was like a psychedlic dream sequence. Or like a scene in a legendary concert video that has yet to be captured.
Phew, and I haven't even gotten to the music yet.
DMB opened the show with "Bartender," then followed with a great rendering of "Proudest Monkey" with fill-in saxophone player Jeff Coffin showing his place and at the same time how much the instrument means to the band’s music with a blaring, sweaty solo.
They also took their time meandering through "Satellite" and "So Damn Lucky." Through the first half-hour they might have only gotten through four songs in their eventual 20-song set.There was never a time where the sellout crowd of 20,000 was sedate, often filling any dead space with impromptu LeRoi chants, but when DMB broke into a cover of the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House," the decibel level of the crowd was definitely amped up. Matthews then brought it back down, with "Lover Lay Down," "#41" and "Crash Into Me," before trudging out another cover in Pink Floyd's "Money."
The band also put together their own tribute to Moore with a photo montage of the musician’s life played on the big screen set to his rolling sax line on "#34."
They closed with "Grave Digger" and "Don't Drink the Water" in their encore.
I'd find it hard to fathom that the atmosphere on Friday would carry over Saturday and Sunday as it was so emotionally charged and cathartic for the band and the crowd. But if you're there, I'd love to hear if I'm wrong.
"You all miss my friend, huh" Matthews said at one point during the show.
Yeah, I'd say so. And there's probably 5,000 glowsticks strewn across the amphitheater's floor to prove it