Dave Matthews looked out into the crowd two songs into his performance at Les Schwab Amphitheater on Tuesday.
“I hope I have a good time tonight,” he said, as the band launched into the jazzy, horn-heavy “#41.” As Matthews hit the chorus hook, the 7,326 fans filled the venue with a thundering “yeah!”
That release was a long time coming for fans. Dave Matthews Band returned to the amphitheater for the first time since its sold-out debut there in 2014. This show also sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale in February, and the city of Bend curfew was extended to 11 p.m. to accommodate the jam band’s three-plus hour performance.
Dave Matthews Band has been a fixture on the modern jam-band scene since the 1990s, known for its marathon tours and high level of musicianship as well as radio hits such as “Ants Marching,” “Crash Into Me,” “I Did It” and “The Space Between.” The group released its ninth studio album, “Come Tomorrow,” earlier this summer.
Matthews and company returning to Bend is a big deal. The band’s first performance at the venue was a game-changer, opening the doors for subsequent Les Schwab shows by Phish (which shares management with Matthews’ band), Widespread Panic and Paul Simon, venue director Marney Smith said.
The concertgoers came to Bend from across the state and country and ranged from small kids to senior citizens, according to Smith. Smith estimated a roughly 50-50 split between local ticketholders and visitors, although official numbers from the fan club, Warehouse, were not available by press time. Warehouse ticketholders made up about half of those in attendance, Smith said.
By the time the gates were supposed to open at 5 p.m., three massive lines snaked toward the entrance, with the band’s fan-club line on the Old Mill side nearly reaching the footbridge. Fans were not allowed in until after 5 p.m., however.
Bree Johnson, 20, and Deven Lujan, 22, of Klamath Falls, stood at the front of the general admission line. They arrived at 8 a.m., but most people began filing in around 12:30 p.m., they said. However, some fan club members arrived as early as 4 p.m. Monday, Smith said.
This was their first Dave Matthews Band show — an admission that prompted a few “oh, my goshes” from folks just behind them in line.
Lujan was looking forward to what he called “the full performance.”
“I heard he’s a great performer — not just singer, a great performer on the stage,” he said.
Jason Bradley, 41, of Salem, was at his first Dave Matthews Band show since 2006. A fan club member from 1998 to 2002, Bradley used to follow the band up and down the West Coast. When he and his wife became parents, they couldn’t attend concerts until their children were old enough to leave with babysitters.
“People can babysit older kids and whatnot,” he said. “So we’re now getting back out and seeing shows. It’s gonna be a little different with several of the members not around anymore.” Bradley was referring to violinist Boyd Tinsley, who was fired by the band this year after he was sued for sexual harassment.
By about 6:30 p.m., the venue was packed, making it difficult to move around freely. People clutched beers, milled about or surreptitiously smoked marijuana — the telltale smell was all over. The band took the stage late, at about 7:20 p.m., but no one seemed to mind, judging from the roar that greeted the septet as its members filed on stage.
Another longtime fan, Lindsey Hanna, traveled from Lake Oswego for her first Dave Matthews Band show since 1999. It was also her first time at Les Schwab, though not in Bend.
“I love it, this is fabulous,” she said. “Open air, it’s not too big. It’s perfect.”
Smith called the Dave Matthews Band fans “professional concertgoers.” Everyone was happy, and no issues came up, she said.
“(Dave Matthews Band) wouldn’t come back to play here unless they enjoyed the audience and really enjoyed the venue,” Smith said. “It’s a treat for the artist to be that close to the audience, and based on what we hear from the super Dave fans, they don’t get the chance to be three feet away from Dave Matthews at other venues, and it’s really energizing to them.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7814, firstname.lastname@example.org