Dave Matthews Debuts Standing Rock–Inspired ‘Song For Billijo’


Dave Matthews performs “Song For Billijo” at the Stand With Standing Rock concert held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 27, 2016.

Dave Matthews debuted his #NoDAPL-inspired “Song For Billijo” at the Stand For Standing Rock concert on Sunday at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

The sold-out show benefited Dakota Access Pipeline resistance efforts and featured special guests Neko Case, Graham Nash, Ledisi and Lakota Thunder, as well as headliners Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds.

Matthews played several of his biggest hits, including “Satellite,” “Two Step” and “One Sweet World,” saving “Song For Billijo” for his encore. The song was inspired by a kindergarten teacher named Billijo ― a name that Matthews made sure to mention was “pretty cool” ― whom he had met one day at Standing Rock Elementary School. Later that same day, he saw her again at the Standing Rock camp as a “water protector,” where he said she offered him a seat by her campfire. 

“I met a bunch of kids that were staying at the [Standing Rock] camp that I met at the elementary school,” he told the audience. “The whole experience kind of exploded my brain, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

YouTube user DMB4041 captured the performance (below):

The song’s lyrics (below) describe the currently freezing temperatures in North Dakota and Standing Rock’s threatened water sources. 

A cold wind blows over North Dakota
Billijo says, “This is my fire” 
“Come warm yourself by my fire”
She said, “Come, my friend, warm your soul”
The river flows in North Dakota
Billijo says, “Oh, this is my water”
”Come quench your thirst in my river”
Billijo said, “Come, my friend, warm your soul”
She said, “You are not alone, not in North Dakota”
Billijo says, “This is my home”
She said, “Come warm yourself by my fire”
Billijo said, “Come drink your fill of this water”

The show lasted nearly four hours and featured speeches from tribe members and traditional Standing Rock Sioux music by the group Lakota Thunder, interspersed with sets from its rockstar lineup.

During his opening statement, Matthews praised the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies:

They are standing up and saying, “This is our clean water. This is our land. These are our sacred places, and you can’t just dig them up to fill your pockets.”

Courtney Yellow Fat, Standing Rock Sioux member and lead singer of Lakota Thunder, discussed the purpose of the DAPL resistance movement in between songs.

“They call us protesters. We’re not protesting,” he said. “We’re trying to protect. There’s a difference.”

Watch the beginning of the show here: