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Angora Holly Polo and Poppy Helena Van Liquer doing the damn thing

I used to write occasionally for one of my favorite sites that has ever existed, The Donnybrook Writing Academy. A site dedicated to the finer things in society, each author had a nom de plume that communicated a certain joi de vivre and other French things (fromage). Mine was Poppy Helena Van Liquer. Under this pseudonym, I told people what the sexiest song ever was, reviewed some shows (but all classy and stuff), interviewed Daniel Johnston, and confessed something very deep and dark.

Donnybrook is shutting down, which is OK. Things run their course, and as the editor and my much-missed friend Erin Barnes explained- it’s good remember what Donnybrook did, and how much fun everyone had doing it.

In memoriam, I have decided to put the aforementioned deep, dark secret on my personal blog. Here it is, taken straight from the Donnybrook archives. Published on April 4, 2011.

Confessions of a Secret Dave Matthews Fan

By Poppy Helena Van Liquer

There are things that a discerning music appreciator has learned are
just perennially “uncool.” Some of these are, but are not limited to,
hippie dancing with dippy arm movements, actively loving 99% of Top 40
radio, lower back tattoos, yelling “free bird” under any circumstances
(including at a Lynyrd Skynyrd show), attending a Lynyrd Skynyrd show,
that one Iz medley with Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and loving any
Dave Matthews singles.

It’s become an easy hobby to hate The Dave Matthews Band. Almost as
easy as hating their fans. A big smelly mass of people chanting along
the words to Dave’s distinctive croon, pausing only to sway in an LSD
laced communal wave to sickly smooth sax solos and to upchuck the Bud
Light sucked out of Camel Backs snuck onto the muddy festival grounds.
There are some Dave Matthews’ fans who will do this multiple times in
a summer, following the warbling messiah all around the country to
relive all the overembellished strumming and practically meaningless
lyrics that make up almost all songs (Please reference the lyrics for
“Big Eyed Fish.”)

But I have a confession to make. Under all this seeming disdain for
DMB and his band of loyal, if not usually passed out, fans…I’m
guilty.

I’m guilty of it all.
I like a Dave Matthews song.

And not some deep cut. Not some live recording with Stevie Wonder that
really showcases how Dave is a real songwriter of songwriters.

It’s “Crash into Me.”

I didn’t realize how irrevocably I loved this song until today. I work
at the Apple Store, you see. As a business, Apple does wonders with
computers and typefaces and clean lines. When it comes to the
corporate playlist, however, I am forced to listen to not one, not
two, but three Boston hits, and everything Jack Johnson has ever
lethargically mumbled into a microphone for eight hours a day.

The store had gone quiet toward the end of the night, and I was
standing in the unusual quiet, when the song I had heard four million
times since it was released in 1996 came on with its precious bright
intro and deceivingly innocent little melody. (Really, at nine years
old I was completely oblivious to what Dave was singing about when he
sang all those falsetto “crash into me”s.)

And I filled up with something akin to silly joy. The song built with
its notoriously great percussion, and equally as notorious
over-instrumentation, and I just loved every damn sentimental second
of it. This called for some self searching.

“Crash into Me” has been the most successful single Dave Matthews has
ever released. This is Dave Matthews we’re talking about. The man
earns money whenever he idly hums on the toilet. There is an entire
double platinum record “The Toilet Hums; Dave Matthews featuring Tim
Reynolds One Urinal Over.” But “Crash into Me” was the most played,
highest grossing, most loved.

Why do I hold a torch for this symbol of all that is overplayed and overdone?

Probably because when I heard it first, I wasn’t quite as ironic or
desensitized as I am now.

“Crash into Me” was played at all my middle school dances, which in
retrospect totally went against all that abstinence campaigning
schools were doing. My older brother was the biggest Dave Matthews
fan, which I only use against him occasionally now, and played this
whole album loudly while being infuriatingly older and cooler than I
was. I rode my bike past places blasting this song on hot California
days, infusing the building snares with ocean breezes and the feeling
of pedaling faster, faster down sun scorched pavement.

I heard “Crash into Me” tonight at work and for the first time it
brought me back to before I had been conditioned to care about what a
song had become to everyone, or even what it really meant, and back to
when I made music work for me, and only me.

For the gangly little kid Poppy, “Crash into Me” wasn’t an
overplayed supernova of a hit about flimsy euphemism…it was about a
sparkly melody that made me feel something buzzing deep in my gut. I
hadn’t really connected emotionally with the songs I had learned up to
that point (not that I didn’t know all the words to “Kokomo” by The
Beach Boys), and it just sounded like…growing up.

Not to mention, it had guitar in it, and I was just learning that
guitar was cool. All the older kids liked guitar, and some of them
played guitar. None of them played flute, which I should have taken
into consideration when picking my band instrument…but the past is
past.

The song talks about a seemingly very complicated big relationship,
and a boy was clearly singing it to a girl. Dave seemed to really like
this girl, too, and I was getting to the age where the idea of a boy
singing songs with tinkling chimes about me wasn’t so repulsive.

And let’s be honest here, Dave Matthews has a voice that I love. As I
make fun of his sudden choirboy leaps, his vocals are always
expressive. They aren’t necessarily pretty, but for all the stacked
harmony I love…I am drawn a voice that’s just a little bit off.
That’s why a nine year old could love the song without really getting
how graphic it was. Because Dave always sounds like he means it. Even
the unbearably cheesy stuff. You just know that Dave believes what
he’s singing, even if no one else in the entire world gets it
(again…see “Big Eyed Fish”). His voice feels intensely personal,
connective and deliberate. It makes sense, actually, that people would
get so attached to this guy.

When the song ended and I left work, I realized that maybe I only
dislike Dave Matthews so much because I’ve been conditioned to. Sure,
I may not connect with all his music the way I might connect with The
National or Joan Baez, but that doesn’t call for a blanket ban on DMB.
Because while all of us young folks fighting the man think tearing
down the most successful, highest paid artists and their fans makes us
come out hip, unstoppable musical mavens, I’m thinking we’re all
tools. For one, it’s too easy, and we’re smarter than that. But more
importantly, hating other music doesn’t make the music I like any
better. And often times it’s just that type of cynicism that takes
away from what makes music great, which is an innocence I understood
more when I was nine years old and hadn’t read Spin or Pitchfork yet.

Because I think loving music for how it resonates in the chambers of
my own temporal heart is the most radical way to appreciate it. It’s
not owned by anyone, then. It’s just yours, and just mine, even if it
does have a four minute tenor saxophone solo and too much “mmm”ing.
Because, really, no one can bully you into thinking your taste is
lame.

Unless you like Blues Traveler.
C’mon.

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