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 took place in Charlottesville with a night of music, joy, and love. 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.
With the exception of Matthews himself, who moved to Virginia from South Africa, every member of the band was born and 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,” violinist Boyd 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.”
“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,” Tinsley continued. “Even as a kid in the Seventies and Eighties, it was still a very progressive place.”
Tinsley and the rest of the band 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, 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.”
As the benefit concert came together, the musician began to see 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,” he said. “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.