The Tao of Dark Star

Article Contributed by Tony Casson | Published on Thursday, July 28, 2005

Where else but at a Dark Star Orchestra show does the cryptical reciting and mind-changing on years and dates in the mid seventies occur with such frequency.


Sometime in the summer.


Each month is cause for consideration as some pattern of songs specific to a fall, a summer, a spring of a given year passes through memory.




A location where songs were played in a tricky order more than once.  A vaguely remembered setlist from a 20 year old cassette.

Dark Star is a phenomenally talented live band.  They have been telling us for years that they play each show as an evocation of the original - an exact as possible copy, mistakes and all - and I have no reason to doubt them.  Since I am not personally talented enough to remember the specifics of most of the shows that I have listened to, other than say the second set opening bass bombs of Cornell 77, the earthquake space of Providence 82, or the unearthly pause between the dying notes of the Playing reprise and Dark Star in Hampton 89, I must take DSO for their word in this regard and close my eyes and pretend that it is the Grateful Dead as they were at that moment in time.  It is indeed a fun game to play, but not half as fun as guessing the date and location of the show.  Yes, I am one of those irritating people who can't just listen and dance a hippie jig and enjoy the music.  I must have an ulterior motive for being there, and mine, like many others, is teasing the details of the original performance out of the copy.

The date - Wednesday, July 27, 2005.

The location - Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, Denver, Colorado.

The original - ?.

The first clue - two drum kits.

Two drummers of course means that the show took place either before Mickey Hart - very unlikely as DSO doesn't usually channel the formative years of the band - or after 1975 when Mickey rejoined the fold.  Hence, 1976 (or a rare 75 performance) to 1995.

The second clue - a second mic in the center of the stage.

For Donna ("the Donna").  Sure enough Lisa Mackey was there on stage dancing and harmonizing, dating the show prior to March of 1979.

From there on out the songs tell the story.  A rare Promised Land first set opener.  Loser-Jack Straw-Deal closes the first set.  Bertha>Good Lovin'- Stagger Lee opens the second set.  An encore of Johnny B. Goode.  It can only be, it must be...


I think.

An odd California type of show.

Perhaps one of those in the days right before New Years.

Just for the hell of it I'll say 12-29-1978, Oakland, CA.

Johnny B. Goode is over.  Rob Eaton "The Bobby" steps to the mike, thanks everyone for coming out and announces that the show we heard tonight was originally performed on 11-21-1978 in Rochester, NY.

Oh well, next time.