Me, Lady Parts, and Mr. Matthews
While watching the Grammys the other night and I caught Dave Matthews’s performance. Seeing him brought back a lot of memories.
When I think about high school, I think of Dave Matthews Band. Sure, most of the songs sound the same. They sound like adolescence, like the hardest decisions I would have to make would be which boy I should have a crush on and whether I should wear my red hippie skirt or my Oshkosh B’Gosh overalls. I had not yet discovered the magic of hip hop or R&B or clothes that didn’t have previous owners. I hadn’t learned about real heartbreak or the frustration of being out on my own.
I went to countless Dave concerts and they were all awesome but all the same. The band would play and we would sing every single word because we knew them all by heart and they would jam for hours. It was like a Grateful Dead concert without the counterculture. I imagined if I ever met Dave Matthews that he probably wouldn’t fall in love with me—I rarely had that effect on people—but at the very least I would make him my best friend.
One summer my friend Jackie and I went to see Dave Matthews at the Mann Music Center in Philly right around my birthday. She had gotten tickets from a friend of hers who worked at the Mann and we were front row center. I remember swaying to the music, looking up Dave’s nose, and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. If he would just play “Seek Up” I could die happy, I thought to myself. During the second encore he did and I can’t remember if I cried or peed myself a little bit or both. The song wasn’t quite finished when Jackie whispered in my ear, “come on.”
“But the song isn’t finished …” I said, exasperated. Was Jackie not the real fan I thought she was?
“Trust me,” she said, pulling me with her. And since she was several years older, and we had had some interesting adventures together, I let her lead.
“So I think we can get backstage,” Jackie said, laying out her very limited plan. “My friend who got us the tickets also got us catering badges. I think we can meet him.”
I tried to focus on walking but I had lost the ability to function. “Meet him? You mean Dave him? Oh my god! Oh my god! What will I say? What will…”
“Calm down, Em. We’re not backstage yet. But if we’re going to do it, I need you to keep it together.”
I took some deep, calming breaths. She was right. The only way Dave could become my best friend was if I could relax.
She gave me a badge to put on and I tried to look like a knowledgeable caterer. It was surprisingly easy to get backstage and we stood together in the back of the room, trying not to seem excited. And then Dave Matthews came out. And I was kind of awestruck. Jackie went to walk up to him and I couldn’t seem to uproot myself from my place. Apparently I was the only stationary one, because all the other people in the room flocked to him, squealing, chattering, arms outstretched with writing utensils and a dream. Jackie pulled me along again when she realized I wasn’t behind her and we wadded into the sea of fans, not getting anywhere. We realized that to the right of where Dave was signing autographs there was some space. So we stood to the side, just close enough to him that it wasn’t creepy and waited patiently for him to finish.
We stood there for a good hour. Every so often he would look over at us and smile and I tried not to faint, but we waited. And when the crowd finally thinned considerably, he turned to us.
“You girls have anywhere to be,” he asked, his strange southern twang drawing out his words.
“Just waiting for you,” Jackie said.
I just nodded, as my voice box had stopped working.
“Well, thanks,” he said. He gave Jackie a hug and she passed him something to sign. She was tall and he didn’t have to bend over to hug her, but he noticed that she jolted a little.
“You okay?” he said to her, as he leaned down to give me a hug. He smelled like sweat and patchouli. I tried not to attach myself to him like a blood-sucking leech.
“Well,” Jackie said, looking a little embarrassed, “I just had surgery, so I’m a little sore.”
“Oh, no! I didn’t mean to hurt you. Was the surgery serious?” he asked.
“Ah, sort of? It was a breast reduction.”
“Nice. Congrats,” Dave twanged. He managed to do this without giving her the once over the conversation called for, which made me like him even more. He leaned down to hug her again, this time around the stomach to avoid any sensitivity.
“If I tell you I had surgery, do I get another hug, too?” I blurted out. “Oh my god, sorry, that was assholic.” And then I was even more mortified because I had said ‘assholic’ in front of Dave Matthews. (Note: My mother argues that that was not the most “assholic” thing I have ever said in front of a celebrity. She felt that the time that Larry Brown, then coach of the Sixers, came into the Starbucks where I working and I told him that I “liked his work” took the cake for idiocy.)
“No sweat. I like hugs,” Dave said, and he leaned down to give me another hug.
And then we stood there for a while and talked about hospital food, and Dave’s time in South Africa, and his funky shoes that were made out of hemp. And I imagined Dave adopting me and we’d have conversations like this all the time.
“Man, do you girls have to get back to work?” Dave garbled, eyeing our badges.
“Not really,” Jackie and I said, exchanging glances.
“Well, I have to go, but it was nice meeting you girls.”
“You, too, Dave,” we said casually, like we hung out with him all the time.
And as we walked away I gave Jackie my own hug around her waist. “That was kind of amazing,” I said. “I can’t wait to see what you do for my birthday next year.”