Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band is using his employer’s hiatus from touring in 2017 as an opportunity to pay it forward. Tinsley, who serendipitously decided to learn to play the violin with a split-second decision (he actually thought he’d signed up for a chance to learn guitar) on his first day of sixth grade, has been touring instead in support of his side project, Crystal Garden.
The dreadlocked and well-muscled fiddle player might appear to be an intimidating force on the Crystal Bay Casino stage, but in fact is one of the kindest humans you could ever hope to meet. So it’s no surprise that he lends his time and support to draw a crowd to expose his hand-picked and produced rock band to fans across the country.
October midweek shows in Tahoe can be a tough draw and sadly the crowd for this show could be only described as a smattering of DMB fans there to get an up-close view. The advertised 9 p.m. show began closer to 10 p.m. with Tinsley joining for the first four songs. “People” and “Devil Woman,” from the band’s debut album “Let The Rocks Cry Out” opened the show with the latter giving fans some of what they came to see with an extended soaring jam of familiar licks from Tinsley’s violin and shaking dreads.
After the opening stanza, Tinsley introduced the band, Mycle Wastman (guitar & vocals), Charlie Csontos (bass/vocals), and Matt Frewen on drums for a seven-song set of their own which produced some shining moments from each. Wastman, who appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2012, provided clean, soulful vocals. Csontos was a bundle of energy playfully bouncing around laying down bass lines with Frewen hammering the skins to root it together.
But here’s the thing. While it was enjoyable, I didn’t find anything special about this band. I kept trying to figure out who they reminded me of and couldn’t quite place it. I even asked people around me. Nada. Maybe it was the feeling I had that Wastman was a talented pop-singer miscast fronting a rock/jam band. Maybe they were just missing an element — a horn section, a keyboardist, or a featured guitar player. The songs were solid, but often fell a bit flat in places the energy should have taken off. Some tunes could use a bit of air in them, allowing for some buildup and crescendo. The potential is there, and hopefully this trio is open to letting their live performance, currently in sapling form, grow organically on the road much the way their benefactor’s band has done for more than 25 years.
Tinsley returned to lend his substantial talents for last 30 minutes before launching directly into the planned encore sans break, covering “Shakedown Street” with some inventive violin effect supporting the rhythm parts and Tinsley’s own “True Reflections” to close the show.
Boyd Tinsley then did what he does best, remaining near the stage door to connect with fans, saying hello, posing for photos, and doing something that makes him really different. A Boyd Tinsley hug is not your typical rockstar-to-fan connection. They’re long, close embraces whether he knows you or not. He’ll hold you in his hug and won’t release you until you relax, and acquiesce to it. The man is all about love. One thing is certain. He’ll give all the love he can to Crystal Garden to help them succeed.