Last summer seems like an eternity ago, right? Back then, we were mostly all hiding, depressed, under the table and dreaming of what a two-night stand by the Dave Matthews Band (DMB) might look and sound like live again. And when the band’s 2020 summer tour was eventually canceled, it bummed us all out. But we had the wonderfully nostalgic DMB Drive-In streaming shows to keep us busy and 2021 to look forward to. And, man, have we ever cashed in on that dream. Not only will DMB return to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for two nights this September 17–18, but also, to whet our appetite for things to come, the band’s note-friendly lead guitarist, Tim Reynolds, will be performing a pair of rare solo shows at Saratoga’s Putnam Place, June 12-13, his only two-night stop on his tour (Putnam Place is owned by Saratoga Living‘s owner).
While we were all pining away this past year about those live gigs of the not-so-distant past, so, it appears, was Reynolds, who says he can’t really put into words what it’s going to be like getting back on stage again. “Whenever I practice, there’s always a moment where I feel emotional about it,” he says. “I’m so excited to go play some real gigs in front of people, and it’s just made me practice really hard.” The real sweet spot for him, though, will be the “interchange of energy between the music and the people—the moment when [fans] appreciate it,” as he puts it. “It’s all very authentic; there’s something about that in a club, where you can sense that energy in all these different ways and places. Even the same place, two different times, will have a different vibe.” Reynolds has clearly been thinking about playing for live audiences a lot. “You get used to it happening on the road,” he explains. “The good thing about it is, if you think you had a bad night, you’re going to have another night, which won’t be as bad. You always have another chance to do [better].” Reynolds says that doing livestreams during the pandemic made him a bit more self conscious about his playing, shining a spotlight on the various flaws in his playing, because, although he was playing for people on the other end of his phone, it was physically just him in the room, and he felt exposed. And artists are their own worst critic. “Once in awhile, I’d be done with a stream and think, ‘Man, did I just fuck up, royally?” When he’s doing it live, fan to guitarist, though, he doesn’t obsess on the missed notes so much. It’s all about that connection, “the beautiful energy,” as he puts it. So what’s it going to be like on that first night at Putnam Place? “I think it’s going to be supercharged,” he says.
Besides doing those livestreams, Reynolds also kept busy during the pandemic working on his art. He says he was the most creative at the beginning of COVID, right up until the new year, the reason being that right before it hit, he was supposed to go out on a solo tour, so he was in the process of putting together a bunch of new material. He was also digging into some of the longer improvs he’d done on previous solo records and saved as snippets on his phone, creating crib sheets for how to play them again (he’s not big on reading music). “Doing those livestreams, it made me look at all my music in different ways,” says Reynolds. He also did a few guest appearances on friends’ tunes, including one on a track by Saratoga native Peter Prince, whose band, Moon Boot Lover, has been on the national jam band circuit for nearly as long as DMB has. Additionally, Reynolds was fantasizing about arranging and playing this melancholy, dark, Radiohead-like number, the Moonlight Sonata, by this long-dead German cat named Ludwig van Beethoven—heard of him?—and he realized about halfway through that it wasn’t going to be such a walk in the park on solo guitar. But he kept at it. “Having done so much work learning my own improvs and writing them down, I thought, well, this is a five-minute piece, and it might take me a couple months to learn it, but it’ll be a great journey,” he says. “I think I’m brave enough to go out and play it this tour.” He actually arranged it for two guitars, because the last note of the piece is lower than the guitar, tuned in a specific way, he plays the majority of the piece on. So, if he plays it live in Saratoga, you’ll see him run over to the second guitar to play that final note. “It’s the soundtrack for last year,” as he puts it.
And, hey, if Reynolds wants to road-test a little Ludwig van, he’s come to the right place: Here in Saratoga, we dig our classical just as much as we do our rock. This will actually be Reynolds’ first trip to Saratoga all by his lonesome in awhile: The last time he played Putnam Place was in February 2017, when it was still called Putnam Den, and that night, there was a massive snowstorm that crippled the area. But ugly driving and snowdrifts didn’t get in the way of the guitarist making the club on time and melting the audience’s face off. “I remember that gig was very comfy and cozy and nice,” he says. At the moment, both shows at Putnam Place are a touch away from being sold out (you can pick up the last bunch of tickets here).
In terms of his other gig, the one that he plays across town at SPAC with that Matthews fellow, Reynolds says he’s got high hopes for the big rescheduled summer tour. It’s not lost on him how cool it is that he gets to play a tiny club and a massive amphitheater in the same town, four times in a single summer. “I feel fortunate to be able to take part in both levels of activity,” he says, “because I appreciate the differences and the energy. It just all makes for good music.” If you’re wondering, Reynolds says that DMB will be hitting their rehearsal space again in July, and a follow-up to 2018’s Come Tomorrow is reaching its final stages of readiness. Reynolds mentions that he and the band actually worked on it during the pandemic, taking multiple COVID tests per day to do the sessions and recording with tiny clusters of the band instead of the whole septet in the same room at the same time. There’s no street date for the new album just yet, but Reynolds is excited about the new music. “It’s going to be good,” he teases. “It’s some really different stuff for DMB and also some familiar stuff.”
If you happen to be at either show this September, you might be hearing some new material—but at least for Reynold’s money, when Carter Beauford starts that signature hi-hat line, and it melds together with Reynold’s and Dave’s guitars on “#41,” you can be sure that Reynolds will be back in that far-off, pre-pandemic place, brimming with joy, thinking how good it is to be back. And we’ll be thinking the same thing.