In my 31 years on this Earth, I’ve been to 62 Dave Matthews Band shows and counting. (This summer will get me all the way up to 64. Don’t judge. Okay… judge a little.) And if there’s anything I’ve learned in seeing DMB live, it’s that the tailgate is just as much a part of the experience as the show, for better or worse. (If you’ve been parked next to a guy who insists on peeing between his car and yours, it’s probably for the worse.)
That said, whether you’re a seasoned vet like myself or a newbie to the DaveHead scene (welcome aboard, youth, my hacky sac tricks are about to blow your mind!) there’s some etiquette when it comes to the pre-game scene. Yes, etiquette, dammit.
As DMB embarks on their 25th year on the road, fans from across the country will be packing up coolers and bowls to celebrate, we will. But before you head into the parking lot or the campgrounds you’ll be partying at before the show starts, these are the do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
DO: Be Neighborly
Whether you’re getting to the parking lot as soon as gates open, or simply strolling through the scene on your way to the venue, just, like, be nice to everyone around you. If the group partying nearby is drinking far more Natty Ice than water in the blazing heat, offer them some hydration (and some tips on where to buy better booze for god’s sake). If the car next to you doesn’t start after they ran the engine too long, give ‘em a jump rather than rushing off to go sit in exit traffic. Dave fans can get a bad rap for being douchey frat bros, but the truth of the matter is, it’s a pretty chill and friendly group. When it’s done right, it’s a fun, caring community. Show that side.
DON’T: Get So Wasted You Miss the Show
I’ve seen this more times than I can count. Someone goes way too hard on rum and/or weed wayyyyy too early in the day and they are passed out before the gates even open. This is stupid because, A. You could get seriously sick; and B. YOU JUST SPENT ALL THIS MONEY FOR A DAVE SHOW DON’T WASTE YOUR HARD-EARNED MONEY, JOSH. Even if you do make it inside and you’re overly inebriated, you could get booted by security, or worse, pass out and miss the sick rendition of “Halloween” you’ve been waiting years to see live.
DO: Sell Your Ticket At Face Value
Dave parking lots can be a hotbed of scammers and scalpers, so if you or a buddy can’t make it inside, for god’s sake, just sell it to a decent fan looking for a ticket at face value. Yeah, you’re gonna lose a few bucks on the obscene surcharges, but think of it as your own way of sticking it to the man.
DON’T: Blast Anything But Dave
Half of the fun of the pre-Dave buzz is anticipating what you’re going to hear that night. A huge part of the tailgate/camping scene is stereos playing various DMB albums. They promote sing-alongs, create the perfect soundtrack for your parking lot Frisbee and/or football game, and sometimes, if your heart is pure and fandom true, Dave will hear that you’re playing “The Stone” from the trunk of your Mazda and think, “Hmm, we should play that tonight.”
DO: Follow the Rules…Or, At Least, Be Smart About It
Yeah, it sounds lame, but trust me, the last thing you want is having your stuff busted. Red cups and vape pens were invited for reasons, and, no, not just because they are easy and hilarious punchlines and stereotypes. It’s to avoid fines or having to call your boyfriend to pick you up from concert jail. Nobody wants that. Just be smart. It’s really that easy, I promise.
DON’T: Hold Your Own Concert
The disdain for Guitar Guy at the Party holds just as much true, if not more so, for Guitar Guy at the Tailgate. We all know “Crash Into Me.” We know you know it, too. Let’s just leave it to the pros, shall we?
DO: Wait Until Later In the Night to Buy a Crappy Parking Lot Tie Dye Shirt
Look, you’re going to wear these shirts to the gym or another Dave show and literally nowhere else, so it’s best to buy these things at the end of the night when they’re desperate to get rid of them. Negotiate a reasonable price and ride home knowing you got a sweet new piece of memorabilia that will last roughly four wash cycles. Worth it.
DON’T: Pay $17 For a Pretzel Inside
When those doors open up, you’ll rue the day you didn’t opt to grill up some hot dogs or nosh on some chips beforehand. Food prices are outrageous in most venues, and honestly, as long as you abide by all the camping/parking rules, you’re bound to have a better dining experience outside anyway. The tailgaters at Dave shows know how to do it right, especially when it comes to having a full-on master class BBQ in the small radius of their parking spot.
DO: Throw Away All Your Garbage, Especially Glass
Trust me, the last thing you want to do is run over your own glass bottles and shred your tires before the two hour drive home. Plus, littering is a dick move.
DON’T: Drink and Drive
This is obvious. Have a designated driver. C’mon, guys. I shouldn’t even have to tell you this again.