Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on "Storytellters"
Date: 3-24-99

Dave Matthews explained the inspiration for many of his songs -- which ranged from an acid trip to something Oscar Wilde once said -- during a performance for 200 lucky fans in a former synagogue on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The three-hour acoustic performance with frequent collaborator Tim Reynolds, which was taped for an upcoming episode of "VH1 Storytellers," gave those fans a chance to see the performers up close.

Just after 8 p.m., Matthews and Reynolds walked in and took their places on a makeshift platform in the center of the temple. They were surrounded on all sides by fans in folding chairs. VH1 had one camera halfway back on a track, another Steadicam roaming around the altar and two cameras in the back on tripods.

Reynolds stood and Matthews sat as they strummed the opening chords of "The Stone," from the Dave Matthews Band's Before These Crowded Streets. Between songs, Matthews told anecdotes, some related to the songs and others seemingly off the top of his head.

Between the opener and "Crush", for instance, he talked about a hotel escapade after he played with Carlos Santana and the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir at a benefit concert in California. "We were staying at this really fancy hotel in San Francisco, and we had a few drinks," Matthews said. The next thing he remembers, he said, was waking up naked and needing to go to the bathroom. But he picked the wrong door and ended up in the hallway, locked out of his room. "Thank God for the complimentary USA Today outside the door," he said. He fashioned the newspaper into a loincloth before calling security.

"Tripping Billies," Matthews said, took its name from an episode years ago when he took acid on a South African beach. No sooner had he taken it than he decided he didn't want to trip. "But the acid said, 'Too late!,' " Matthews said. Over the next few hours, he saw his girlfriend's face turn into his mother's, watched his hand melt and somehow lost his clothes. The dragon in the song, he said, is a reference to the bum rap that Puff the Magic Dragon -- the title character of the popular children's song -- once took for being a pothead.

"Christmas Song" came to Matthews after reading a quote by the Irish writer Oscar Wilde: "If Christ was alive now, the one thing he wouldn't be is a Christian." Some fans groaned at that, to which Matthews responded, "Hey, I didn't say it; Oscar Wilde said it." Heaven seemingly took its own revenge halfway through the song, when the stage monitors began to feed back. Matthews abandoned the tune.

Though they were playing acoustic guitars, during "Warehouse" and the blues classic "John the Revelator," Reynolds and Matthews made enough noise to sound like a full band. Reynolds played lead, using effects, while Matthews strummed rhythm.

Matthews began taking questions from the audience after playing "Jimi Thing," from Under the Table and Dreaming (1994). He told a female fan his favorite drink is bourbon, and accepted her offer to buy him one after the show.

And what is a Jimi thing, anyway?

"A Jimi thing in some places is a condom," Matthews said. But for him, he said, it was a temporary song title that stuck. "It was kind of reminiscent of the early days of Jimi Hendrix, and we didn't have any names for any of the songs, so we called it the 'Jimi thing.' "

Matthews broke out a 12-string guitar for "Spoon," and on "Ants Marching," the set closer, Reynolds threw in one more fast and furious solo. After a long break, the pair returned for two encores: "Say Goodbye," about a one-night stand, and a classical-guitar piece, "Dancing Nancies." The latter, Matthews said, was inspired by a scene he saw in a park in Spain. He told his taxi driver, "Look at all those beautiful women in the park. They must be prostitutes." Said the driver, "They're not women, but they sure are prostitutes."