While the “core four” remaining members of the Grateful Dead are hanging up their collective spurs this Fourth of July weekend, Dark Star Orchestra has no intention of ending their road warrior ways. Dark Star will be in Chicago for the festivities and a performance for the Rex Foundation on July second, and it only seems fitting; they’ve been long considered the top tier of the Grateful Dead cover band food chain.
On this last day of February, with snow and slush everywhere, the great Karl Denson, brings his Tiny Universe including Vokab Kompany and Roosevelt Collier along for two great sets of diverse music to the Boulder Theater. It was only a month ago that I reviewed the Greyboy Allstars after Denson returned from the Rolling Stones Australia tour.
Before I saw Joe Russo’s Almost Dead for the first time Monday night, I totally misunderstood the band’s titular pun. I can’t help but laugh at my sheer stupidity, but I thought it was a combination of “Hey, we’re a Grateful Dead cover band” and “When our drummer parties, we have 911 on speed dial”. But just 15 minutes into Joe Russo’s Almost Dead's first set at the Boulder Theater, it dawned on me.
New Year’s Day is always a time of recovery for most. Due to the holidays and previous night’s revelry and celebration ringing in the New Year, it can be difficult for some to motivate. For this reason, many bands take this opportunity to throw down for their dedicated. That is why I wanted to be here for this laid back all-star jam. And it was for good reason. These musicians were ready to play even after a three set New Year’s Eve show the night before.
For the first time since Yonder Mountain String Band took up residence at The Boulder Theater for its holiday run (in 2011), the band decided to play three sets for New Year’s Eve. Each set had its own motif, but all three were governed by the same primary theme. When it initially hit the stage, the quintet played an hour of buoyant, uplifting songs that were singed with beauty.