Being relatively young compared to most at tonight’s Dark Star Orchestra's show you would be correct in assuming I was never able to see the Grateful Dead in their entirety. I have however seen every reincarnate band that has come to fruition since Jerry’s passing in August of 95 and I’m fairly confidant in saying that DSO is the premier Grateful Dead cover band. So whenever I get a chance to grab some of the nostalgia of the Grateful Dead I do. It is still so incredible to see the masses that assemble at these gatherings. It speaks volumes about the Grateful Dead and it carries along a story of what was, and offers young lads like myself a glimpse of what is was like back when Jerry was around. Each time I see any Dead cover band I’m stupefied with the amount of people that still travel to see a cover band. Its also part of the reason I love going. Pre-show conversation never fails to stimulate. I love hearing about old Dead shows, stories from the road and the like.
DSO has been recreating Grateful Dead shows song for song since 1997. They present, on most night (except for tonight), the original setlist in order from any of the Dead's shows performed over their thirty-year tenure. I haven’t seen them a couple years, during which they underwent a significant change. John Kadlecik used be their lead singer/guitarist, their Jerry until he got his ‘call to the majors’ in the sense that he is now touring with Furthur along side original members of the Grateful Dead. Jeff Mattson who has been the guitarist in the ‘Zen Tricksters’, also another more or less Grateful Dead cover band.
Entering Revolution at about 8:30 I knew I was in for another sardine can-esq atmosphere. Being a local I’ve unfortunately become accustomed to this. It isn’t a big venue and usually it’s oversold and unless you have a press pass your going to be able to tell what your neighbor had for dinner. Once inside I found a halfway decent spot and decided to hang for a few songs. As soon as the first notes of ‘Help On The Way’ rang out I was reassured of the way the night was going to go when an old head leaned in to me and said, “This is the closest you’ll get young man”. About three or four songs in me and my buddy decided to enter to lions den (no pun intended) and trek across the pit to what seemed to be a little space. This took a while, as it always does, but was well worth it. We found our spot and weren’t leaving come hell or high water. Just as the band went into ‘Lazy Lightening’ Kevin Rosens’ thunderous bass was making me question the infrastructure of the venue, it seemed as though the floor was going to crackle and split, I guess we were in the Keg-zone. First set highlights also included ‘Bird Song’s blissful jam and ‘Reuben and Cherise’.
Second set is where things got funky, and I mean that in the coolest way possible. Playin>Terrapin led into ‘Good Lovin’ which featured Rob Barraco’s near x-rated narrative which had him talking about ‘riding his pony’ and ‘being his little Black Betty’ and was highly received by the crowd. Good Lovin led into a common place at Dead shows, “Drums”. Usually this is my que to use the restroom but for some reason I stayed put and this drums turned into something very un-Grateful Dead like. After about five or so minutes of “Drums” from Rob Koritz and Dino English the swung around on started on their MIDI pads and that’s when things took a turn. The person behind me threw a comment out “..man EOTO is killin it” which was a pretty appropriate comment, it had turned into an electro-inspired drum off. Ive never seen anything like it, well, at a Grateful Dead cover show anyways. The drums faded into nothing as the rest of the band resurfaced and went into a high-energy version of ‘Saint of Circumstance’ bringing everyone back to life. ‘Visions of Johanna’ a Bob Dylan original was tastefully executed and segued into ‘Morning Dew to end the second set. Probably the most interesting set of Grateful Dead music I’ve seen or heard. DSO encored and ended their tour with a chilling rendition of “Hey Jude” with plenty of crowd participation.
The band has a well-deserved week off from touring until they are off to Amsterdam for ‘Jam In The Dam’. Dark Star Orchestra reigns supreme, they are the best at what they do; they kept a captivated audience and fashioned together the closest ill ever get to the omnipotent Grateful Dead.