'Tortured,' 'shining' Moore remembered by Dave
As a soft but steady rain– the first in more than a month– fell on his hometown yesterday morning, friends and family of LeRoi Moore filed into Charlottesville's biggest church to remember the late Dave Matthews Band saxophonist, who died August 19 from injuries suffered June 30 in an all-terrain vehicle accident on his farm outside town.
Eulogizing Moore was the Rev. Dr. William Guthrie, the former rector of Moore's family church, Trinity Episcopal. Guthrie revealed that the accident had put Moore into a coma, but that he occsionally awakened to greet well-wishers, both in Charlottesville and in Los Angeles where he had a second home and was to begin a long rehabilitation program.
"In Los Angeles," said Guthrie, "he suffered a fatal embolism that would eventually take his life."
Though nearly 1,000 people turned out to say goodbye to Moore, only the four men seated in the center, together for over 17 years, knew him as they did; and each member of Dave Matthews Band coped with grief in a way oddly metaphorical to his on-stage role.
Drummer Carter Beauford was driving the rest of the band forward with ready smiles and handshakes. Bassist Stefan Lessard was steadily, stoically keeping from succumbing to his emotions. Violinist Boyd Tinsley, whose athleticism and on-stage exuberance have become legendary, was freely expressive, holding onto friends in long embraces.
The only bandmate not wearing the white pallbearer's gloves was the one who voiced their common message for their fallen brother.
"Roi loved people," said Matthews, "but he had the hardest time loving himself, and that was the most difficult thing about being his friend for me, watching him torture himself."
Matthews said the 46-year-old Moore was "a good soul, but he was a tortured soul. But he loved his family and he loved his friends. He was finding himself, finding the light inside himself, and it was shining more than it had for a very long time."
Matthews credited Moore's fiance, Lisa Bean, for his newfound happiness.
"I believe her unwavering love for him," Matthews said, "and her willingness to stand in front of him, as he was reluctant to love himself, and insisted on it, caused him to eventually see the light.
"It was so bright," Matthews continued, "that we could all see it so much all of the time, when he would put that horn in his mouth and make the most astonishingly honest music that could knock you over, and it would sink right to the middle of you."
Matthews– no stranger to performing in stadiums for tens of thousands– appeared slightly nervous addressing the hundreds assembled in First Baptist Church on leafy Park Street. Swaying back and forth, he introduced himself as "Dave Matthews, a friend of Roi's" and reeled off a pack of anecdotes, most of which centered on Moore's propensity to fall asleep anywhere.
"I saw him fall asleep onstage," said Matthews, to much laughter. "He was standing right there, and I'm not sure if I saw him fall asleep, but I definitely saw him wake up. He sort of caught himself, and then he thought he got away with it, but we have a little intercom system, and I said, 'Did you just wake up?'"
Moore's custom of wearing sunglasses, Matthews noted, sometimes made it hard hard to tell.
"He also fell asleep next to me in his old blue Volkswagen station wagon driving down 64 once," recalled Matthews, "and I only realized it when he started snoring."
However, not all of Moore's humor was unintentional. While he was soft-spoken publicly, Matthews said, Moore's ability to tell a joke was such that "he could have done that for a living, though it may not have been as lucrative.
"He told them with an honesty the same way he played," said Matthews. "I would tell him jokes, just so I could hear him tell them after me."
According to the Rev. Guthrie, Moore didn't just save his honesty for his friends in the band.
"LeRoi would engage me in animated conversation whenever I would encounter him at home or at church," Guthrie said. "More often than not, he felt that the music in the Episcopal Church left a lot to be desired."
Some of the men who most informed Moore's early musical sensibilities were on hand to pay tribute with their instruments. Trumpeter and early mentor John D'earth performed along with the Trinity Episcopal choir throughout the service and led a trio in "Goodbye, Sweet King."
Moore's jazz theory teacher Roland Wiggins played a stirring, improvised piano rendition of the spiritual "Keep Me From Sinking Down." Before playing, Wiggins shared his last encounter with Moore in the hospital.
"I stood up to leave, and he said, 'Hang on a sec,'" said Wiggins. "He was in his wheelchair, and he took the better part of three or four minutes to get his wheels locked, and he wouldn't let me leave until he stood up. He stood up and said, 'Thanks for coming.'"
In a way, Moore got to say that to everyone assembled. Following Matthews' remarks, a slide show chronicling Moore's life from a baby to a bona fide star was accompanied by his gentle sax showcase "#34" from DMB's major label debut Under the Table and Dreaming.
Following the service, Jamie Dyer, whose Hogwaller Ramblers were as much a part of the Charlottesville music scene as DMB in the early '90s, said the ceremony was in keeping with how he remembered Moore.
"Like all great musicians, he had great timing and a great ear," said Dyer, "and when you heard that piece from his teacher, you couldn't help but think of that."
According to Secileon Lewis, a family friend of drummer Beauford's, she couldn't help but laugh at Matthews' recollections of a somnabulent Moore.
"When Dave was talking about how he always falls asleep," said Lewis, "I thought, 'He did me the same way!'"
As mourners left the the modern brick sanctuary, they formed an impromptu reception outside under the white-washed concrete loggia, none in a hurry to leave. They were of all ages, all colors, perhaps apropos for a man who touched so many different kinds of people with his personality in the Charlottesville area, and with his horn throughout the world. They were drawn to Moore because of his ability to convey in music and demeanor a fiery passion that Matthews described by quoting a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay: