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Dave Matthews Band: Helping Make a Better Earth
Taking a stroll through the concourse of a Dave Matthews Band show this summer, fans have got a chance to check out more than just posters and tank tops. Those who are willing are given the chance to learn how they can improve their world.
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The skillfully scattered tents attract concert-goers with free giveaways – from eco-friendly programs to autographed CD’s – and then hit visitors with something much more valuable: information. Aiming to make the ever-expanding live-music scene a force for positive change, artists and fans alike are encouraging the growth of social consciousness. Music shows are quickly becoming a place not just to dance, but also to learn and to grow.
At the helm of this revolution is Dave Matthews, a seemingly quite guitar player turned cultural icon, who has long inspired his listeners to live good lives, through his lyrics as well as his actions.
Since his band played their first gig on a Charlottesville, VA rooftop in 1991, Matthews has used his growing popularity to the benefit of people throughout the world, quickly becoming one of the most philanthropic bands in the modern music.
“It’s important to give back,” Matthews told the Cape Times in South Africa this month, on the heels of his band’s new studio album Big Whiskey & The Groo Grux King.
Since 1999, the Dave Matthews Band has raised more than $4 million for their own Bama Works Fund, which annually dolls out grants for projects supporting disadvantaged youth, the disabled, environmental protection and the arts.
The organization, which works largely in the band’s native Charlottesville area, recently expanded their reach to the global population. In 2005, Bama Works announced their Village Recovery Fund, which partnered them with the non-profit CARE to help those victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka regain control of their lives. The band graciously matched, dollar-for-dollar, the donations posted to their website. “We were able to make a real difference by empowering local organizations to help people recover their lives and their dignity,” Matthews told the Cape Times.
Though music has throughout history been a catalyst of social activism, the fire that raged so hard in the 1970’s dulled to a small flame in the decades that followed. In recent times, the fire is being rekindled by Matthews and his cohorts – such as U2’s Bono and Willie Nelson. They have for many years encouraged fans to do something to help others, simply by attending their shows. Matthews’ free Central Park Concert in 2003 raised money for New York City Public Schools. In 2001, he joined the Board of Directors for Nelson’s Farm Aid, which in 24 years has raised more than $17 million for American farmers.
Now, the tents set up nightly outside the shows of Matthews and many other performers are a testament to the fans ability to do something for themselves. They are manned by volunteers from a number of non-profits, which have, in the past decade, emerged from the live music scene.
With the help of Matthews, The Dead, Jack Johnson and many others, the Conscience Alliance has delivered hundreds of thousands of tons of food to hungry families, and HeadCount has registered more than 100,000 new voters before last year’s election.
Fans have been given the opportunity to go to a show, join a community and truly make a difference. It’s about providing information and inspiring people, not just to give their money, but to change their habits and give of themselves as well.
The interactive Eco-Village set up outside each of Matthews’ 63 shows this summer offers fans the chance to expand their environmental consciousness by introducing new green technologies and eco-friendly products. The village is also host to local non-profit organizations, giving those interested the chance to connect with the people who are making an immediate difference in their own communities.
The village is sponsored by Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, whose role extends far beyond fan outreach to include the logistical greening of the entire tour – from biodeisel fueling to composting and the consumption of local foods. Since Guster frontman Adam Gardner and his wife Lauren Sullivan founded Reverb in 2004, the organization has hosted more than 1,400 environmental groups and reached over 7 million fans.
These non-profits exist because artists like Dave Matthews welcome them into their shows, and do anything they can to make their mission a successful one. Fans are attracted to an issue because it also interests their favorite artist; they take the time to register to vote because Dave Matthews tells them to at the end of his first set.
Musicians have a tremendous power to influence the masses, and thanks to artists like Dave Matthews, that influence is pointing people in a positive direction. As parts of the world seem to fall apart, at least they are doing all they can to make sure music holds us together.
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