Dave Matthews Band Donated $50,000 to an Environmental Group After Dumping 800 Pounds of Human Waste Off a Bridge Onto a Tour Boat

Legendary music group Dave Matthews Band is no stranger to wild performances. They’ve made a name for themselves for being one of those bands that just sound better live, in no small part due to how they like to mix it up while on stage. However, this sense of danger doesn’t typically apply to what goes on after the performance, save for one really crappy incident from several years ago.

Dave Matthews Band performing on stage
Dave Matthews Band | Andrew Lipovsky/Getty Images

DMB’s tour bus contaminated a river

DMB was going strong back in 2004. Less than two months out from releasing The Gorge, the band traveled to Chicago on their way to a special two-night show in Wisconsin. Things went just fine on the first night, but while they were traveling around the city before the second event, things took a bit of a turn.

The band’s driver, Stefan Wohl, drove one of their five buses onto the Kinzie Street Bridge above the Chicago River. Without warning and certainly without authorization, he let loose the floodgate on the bus’ septic tank. This allowed an estimated 800 lbs of liquid human waste to come pouring out straight into the waterway.

As contaminated as the Chicago River normally is, it’s certainly not a free pass to start pulling stunts like this. Human waste is an obvious health hazard for both people and the animals that live in the river. Both illegal and an ecological nightmare, things were made all the worse given that the driver just took off like nothing had ever happened once he was done.

More than just the Chicago River were affected by the stunt

Dumping a bunch of liquid excrement into a river is bad enough, but that’s not where things ended that day. Turns out, Wohl had inadvertently timed his sweet release with a local boat tour scheduled by the Chicago Architecture Center. Normally, these tours are a great way to see the city via the river, and the open-roofed seating makes it all the better. This was not a normal day, however.

The one-in-a-million chance created the perfect you-know-what storm for the tourists that day. Described as a “brownish-yellow” rain, the contents of the tank soaked close to two-thirds of the passengers. It absolutely ruined their clothes and their days and even ended up making several people sick.

A quick-thinking tour guide tried to tell everyone it was just water, but virtually no one believed that. At the time, the only clue to the identity of the fecal bandit was the eyewitness reports of two tour buses on the bridge above.

The band tried to make amends after getting caught

While no one was sure of who to blame for this disaster at first, people eventually connected the dots. Thanks to reporting by the Chicago Tribune, the reported buses were eventually traced back to DMB.

Several months later, in March of 2005, Wohl pleaded guilty to the charges that had been filed for that day for reckless conduct and dumping into the river. As a result, he had to serve 18 months of probation and do 150 hours of community service. As for the band themselves, they apologized for their driver’s bone-headed move.

They’d go on to donate $50,000 to the Friends of the Chicago River charity and the Chicago Park District to make up for it. There was a separate lawsuit filed against DMB for this, too, but they settled out of court for $200,000. Overall, everyone seems to have moved on from the incident, despite Wohl and the band being caught brown-handed as they were.

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