By Rami Abou-Sabe

On Sunday afternoon Dave Matthews Band, Justin Timberlake, Chris Martin, Arianna Grande, and Stevie Wonder responded to the white nationalist violence that rocked the city of Charlottesville with a night of music, joy, and love.

RELATED: Boyd Tinsley Talks New DMB Album, Steve Lillywhite, And LeRoi Moore

Billed as a Concert for Charlottesville, the benefit show took place at University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium and was free to the public, with ticket priority going to C-Ville residents and UVA students. The concert came together in just a few weeks, and while every artist received a warm welcome it was the hometown heroes of Dave Matthews Band who were greeted with a huge roar from the packed stadium.

Back in 1991, Dave Matthews met drummer and jazz session musician Carter Beauford alongside founding sax player LeRoi Moore while bartending at the famed Charlottesville watering hole Miller’s. Soon after, a high school-aged Stefan Lessard joined the group on bass at the urging of his father. The final piece to DMB’s unique sonic blend was manic violinist Boyd Tinsley. With the exception of Matthews himself, who moved to Virginia in 1986 from Johannesburg, South Africa, every member of the band was raised in Charlottesville.

“We were a majority black band from the beginning, but no one ever thought about that. The color didn’t matter because we all played with different musicians of all colors in Charlottesville anyways,” Tinsley told Mix 104.1 before the show. “The only time we ever thought about it was when it was brought up in interviews. It’s never been an issue. I’m not saying Charlottesville is the most perfect place on earth, but it’s pretty close.”

Despite a rocky racial past in the southern city, 53-year-old Tinsley’s experience growing up in Charlottesville was not troubled. “When it comes to race and growing up, that wasn’t something that was really on my mind. Because it’s a very diverse place. Even as a kid in the Seventies and Eighties, it was still a very progressive place.”

Tinsley and the rest of the group were understandably shaken by the events that took place in their hometown on August 12th, but it was the news coverage in the aftermath that was truly heartbreaking, ultimately inspiring the band to mobilize.

“To see what happened here on the news, and then to see Charlottesville be equated with ugliness, and hate groups, and terrorists, it’s almost like the name of this city had a bad connotation,” Tinsley said. “That’s the thing… When they say ‘Charlottesville,’ they weren’t talking about the town they were talking about the incident. So that to me is one of the most troubling things. Charlottesville was getting all this attention, just for the wrong reasons.”

“Everybody expressed the desire to do something,” Tinsley added about his bandmates.

As the benefit concert came together, the musician saw a silver lining in the whole ordeal. “Sometimes events really bring us back to love. And what happened in Charlottesville last month, you had so much hate brought somewhere that is so beautiful and loving… That degree of hate, it really brings out the love in response,” recalled Tinsley. “So we have a choice, either to hate or love, or to be positive or negative… And I just choose to be loving and be positive.”

For much of the Concert for Charlottesville, a large LOVE sign hung above the stage; a beacon of hope, and a message from the artists to the crowd and those watching at home.


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