Jason Wells has traveled to New York and Virginia to see Dave Matthews Band. He'll only need to go downtown to see them Friday.
Wells may be the biggest DMB fan in Des Moines.
The 27-year-old e-mail marketing manager for Meredith has seen Dave Matthews 56 times - yes, we said 56 - since 2000. Friday's sold-out performance at Principal Park will be number 57.
"Some people may think that's a little obsessive, but he definitely has a passionate fan base," Wells said. "It's like being with an arena full of your closest friends.
"My friends kid me that I'll see 99 shows and they'll stop touring. I don't put a lot of thought into it, but I'll be out there as long as they're playing music."
Where it all started
The first time Wells saw Dave Matthews Band was in 2000 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
"I wasn't exactly blown away the first time I heard them. Their music is more of an acquired taste - it's not like a pop song you hear on the radio and can't get out of your head," he said. "But afterwards I started listening to them more. Seeing them perform live again after that just added a whole other element."
A day-long celebration
"If the show starts at 7 p.m., we don't get there at 6:30 p.m.. We get there at 11 a.m.," Wells said. "It's more of a cultural event. We like to tailgate and hang out with thousands of other friends in the parking lot."
Wells usually goes to shows with his two younger brothers, who live in Chicago. This year, he's excited to share the experience with other friends, since his brothers can't make it. He's a little nervous about the general admission seating, though.
"I'm surprised it's not assigned seats," he said. "Does Principal understand how passionate Dave fans are? We'll be outside the gates that morning."
The price of being an uber-fan
Wells has traveled to 10 states and spent an estimated $9,000 (on tickets, travel and tailgating) to experience that "whole other element."
"Yeah, the money I've spent would probably buy me a car," he said. "Everyone has something they spend their discretionary income on, though, and this is what I spend mine on. My thought is never, 'How much am I spending?' My thought is, 'I'm going.'"
After fees and shipping charges, Wells spent $78 to see DMB in Des Moines. He's a member of Warehouse, the official fan association. A $35-a-year membership gets him access to advance tickets. Wells said if he doesn't get tickets through Warehouse, he'll get on a DMB message board and see if anyone has tickets.
A show he'll never miss
Wells has traveled as far as New York and Virginia to see Dave, but his favorite place to see a show is at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin.
"It's their favorite place to play, and the fans are unbelievable," he said. "There would have to be a really good reason for me not to see a show there."
Talking with Dave
Wells has never met Dave in person, but he did get a direct response once on Twitter. "He wrote something about tattoos, and I commented that I've had the famous DMB fire dancer on my left arm for seven years and haven't regretted it. He replied that someone should start giving out the pain without the piercing or tattoo as a result. It made my whole week."
Wells said some people wonder why Dave fans are so intense, why they're some of the most devoted fans in rock n' roll. "It's because the concert isn't just about the stars on the stage. It isn't just about the music, it's that feeling you have after the show."