Traditions become traditions for a reason.
For one, they typically mark a special occasion or experience. For another, they’re, usually, just plain fun.
Which perhaps explains why Dave Matthews Band has made performing at the Gorge Amphitheatre during Labor Day weekend a long standing tradition since its 1996 debut at the outdoor venue overlooking the Columbia River.
After taking a break from the road last year, Dave Matthews Band is back at the Gorge, Friday through Sunday.
According to live music website JamBase, this weekend’s trio of shows will bring the band’s Gorge show count to 58.
Fans of the band mirror Phish fans and Deadheads in their dedication, with many taking in all three shows year after year.
“We only have like 35,000 fans, and they just go to every show,” Matthews joked with iHeartRadio’s Nicole Mastrogiannis in June.
During live shows, the band – drummer Carter Beauford, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, bassist Stefan Lessard, singer/guitarist Matthews, guitarist Tim Reynolds, trumpeter Rashawn Ross and keyboardist Buddy Strong – is known to play both crowd favorites and deep cuts from the band’s catalog.
This trio of shows should be no different, only this weekend, the band will also perform songs from its new album “Come Tomorrow,” its first album since 2012’s “Away From the World.”
The band recorded the album, which was released in June, in studios in Seattle, Los Angeles and Charlottesville, Virginia, with producers John Alagia, Mark Batson, Rob Cavallo and Rob Evans.
Though most of the tracks are new, a few, “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin),” “Can’t Stop” and “Idea of You,” have been in rotation for more than a decade.
The band has also performed a longer version of the 27-second “bkdkdkdd” live under the name “Be Yourself.”
On “Virginia Rain,” Matthews sings about the passage of time, lamenting that “Summer always ends too soon.”
And in “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin),” Matthews and crew celebrate the birth of a child.
On the title track, Matthews and Brandi Carlile sing about letting the children “run the show.”
“Yeah, as far as I can see/We should let the children lead the way,” they sing.
“It’s louder, it’s softer,” Matthews said, describing the album to Mastrogiannis. “I don’t know if I’ve finished an album and feel, in me, so good about it… I don’t think I’ve felt this right about an album, just because I feel like I did something.”
While the album includes moments both dark and light, Matthews said “Come Tomorrow,” overall, is about love.
“It’s a love of the future, it’s a love of hope, it’s a love of family, it’s a love of the planet, it’s a love of lust, it’s a love of attraction,” he told Mastrogiannis. “It’s a lot of loves on it. But it comes from love, because some of the songs are really sad. (There are) songs about loss as well, and about death, but that’s all love too. It’s all love.”
Judging from reviews of the band’s summer tour, these new tunes are fitting along nicely with the band’s older material.
“The joy continued throughout the set list, which featured Matthews’ smooth vocals in songs like ‘She’ and ‘Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)’ from the band’s newest album ‘Come Tomorrow,’ alongside ‘Ants Marching’ and ‘Satellite,’ songs from its earliest albums,” The Sun Chronicle’s Jessica Zandan wrote in a review of the band’s Mansfield, Massachusetts show earlier this summer.
And the band, known for never playing songs exactly the same way twice, seems to understand that onstage, facing a crowd of dedicated fans, is where the magic truly happens.
“I think something our fans (know is) you won’t find anyone else like us,” Matthews told Mastrogiannis. “We’re weird. We don’t look that weird, we’re a little weird. We’re surprising. A lot of times you’re like, ‘What is going on up there? What are they doing?’ If you don’t like it, you don’t have to come back.”
But Matthews and the band have nothing to worry about; as per tradition, the fans will keeping coming back.