Fall 1998 remains my all-time favorite Dave Matthews Band tour—the band at its creative zenith with, to these ears, its best studio album (Before These Crowded Streets) just out, and blowing the roof off of arenas every single night with setlists that on paper looked short only because every song was a multi-layered jamfest. There were possibilities untold and musicianship unbound, and the DMB backlash among those in and outside the jamband community were not yet palatable.
No coincidence, perhaps, that the Flecktones were the opening act and nightly collaboration foil—and that Dave’s longtime guitar-slinger pal Tim Reynolds was tearing it up as a full-time touring band member. There are still great DMB shows to be seen in 2008, sure, but night after night of all those expansive ’98 readings of "#41" "Jimi Thing," "Minarets," "Crush," "Lie In Our Graves"—I’m not sure the band has ever been that daring.
To see the inscrutably exciting, relentlessly inventive Reynolds on tour with Dave Matthews Band full time again this summer, 10 years later, is a little jarring—and a little nostalgic. Jarring, perhaps, because DMB at present is a touring lineup that includes Reynolds, trumpeter Rashawn Ross and Flecktones sax ace Jeff Coffin, but no Butch Taylor, and, disquietingly, no LeRoi Moore, who continues his hospitalization and recovery from a recent ATV accident. But times of internal band challenge can also yield some really unique nights on tour–and having had a listen to some recent bootlegs, here’s thinking 2008 will stand as the most adventurous and remarkable DMB tour in at least five years. Certainly one of the most exciting, and just wait til Roi gets back.
Reynolds himself is having a banner year. After years of solo tours and spot projects, he’s not only back in the spotlight with DMB but has revived TR3 (if not former members) in a new configuration. The new TR3 formed with bassist Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier shortly after Reynolds moved to North Carolina’s Outer Banks from New Mexico in 2007, and as he told us in a recent interview, there’ll be plenty more from them in the near future, too.
Tim, when we last connected in March, you were readying only to open a few dates for DMB with TR3. What prompted you joining the band for the whole tour?
We were in recording [DMB’s new album] and it just sort of went from there. I got back into the hang of it, or something like that. These things aren’t always planned for, and you’ll have to excuse me, I’m a little spacey at the moment from being on tour so much!
It has to be a little jarring for the DMB community to be without LeRoi Moore right now. Can you give us an update on how he’s doing?
He’s doing a lot better. He still has a lot of healing to do but he’s doing a lot better and he’s got a great spirit and he’s going to be good. Jeff from the Flecktones is doing such a great job. I mean, he’s all over it and I know he was familiar with a lot of the [DMB] tunes already. Plus, Rashawn is really clued in to the parts and he’s able to keep Jeff up to date on all that. But yes, we’re excited for Roi to come back, too. He’s not only great but he’s such a presence in the band.
You’re in an interesting position to comment as someone who’s been involved with Dave quite a bit over the years but not a DMB band member. The last time you toured full-time with the whole band was 1998. In your observation, what do you think has changed most about the band chemistry in the past decade?
Well, I didn’t always see them in those ten years and can only draw on what I remember from ten years ago, but everyone’s a little more mature. Not that people were immature back then but in a musical sense, everyone hears more clearly and the music has more clarity. That happens naturally when musicians have tne more years of experience. It also seems to be more fun—not that it wasn’t then, it was, but now playing with them I can draw on the memory of playing certain songs before and add more than I did then.
In some DMB songs you add more subtle color and shading, whereas in others you dig really deep and jam and play straight into the core. Do you have a particular song or songs you really look forward to playing because it means a possibility for that outer space level of improvisation you really seem to enjoy?
All of them have a certain dimension of that at times, and each brings different feelings and sounds depending on the night. I guess “#41” because I just love that, those chord changes and those feelings—that song has so much soul. We play that a lot and the audience always gets really into it. It’s not as much wild improvisation as some other songs but it’s so soulful I go blank in the mind when we play and then it’s over and I’m wondering what I just played.
Why do you think you and Dave connect so well as people and as musicians?
It’s the music ultimately, but maybe the lightheartedness. Dave has a lightheartedness that isn’t a shallow lightheartedness, and also a seriousness, too, that isn’t an overriding darkness. As you get older, it’s tougher to find lightheartedness in the world the way it is right now, but it’s there to be found, and taken back.
You mentioned back in March you’d be recording with TR3 and gigging a lot more extensively with the trio, too. Still the case?
TR: Absolutely. We recorded a CD and we’ll be doing a few dates, including opening for DMB in Cincinnati and playing at the 10,000 Lakes Festival. Then we’ll go on a big fall tour. The CD will release hopefully this fall and if not that, early next year. It was fun to go into the studio with these guys because when you go into the studio for the first time with someone it’s like going into this great laboratory. We have a lot of experience playing together now but in that environment, you listen to everyone’s parts a lot more and get even more out of the songs.
What type of stuff are you recording with TR3?
I have some early TR3 songs from the 80s that were never released, and then we have some new stuff and some all-instrumental stuff. Some of it is us really using the studio and others it’s us playing live in the studio and just recorded really well. But to be in there, some of these songs really have a lot of space in them and you find things to inject right at the moment and all that gets recorded. Plus, we’ve got these great-sounding three-part harmonies we can do now and other things to move into the live performance. It’s spacey.