In a land abundant with Grateful Dead tribute bands, Dark Star Orchestra (DSO) on February 2 in Sacramento, California, strengthened its unofficial claim as the quintessential torch bearers. Flanked by a devoted and euphoric nearly sold-out audience at the 975-capacity Crest Theatre, the band on this night didn’t replicate an actual Grateful Dead show as they are inclined to do.
It has been a long strange trip for the fourth annual Skull & Roses Festival. The biggest and best iteration of the festival finally took place this spring after a nearly three-year-long pandemic delay. The much-anticipated event drew the biggest crowd to date, attracting Deadheads from all over California, to the Ventura Fairgrounds, for four days of music inspired by The Grateful Dead.
The jam band enthusiasts—“aged Deadheads”—and hipsters alike, all made their way out from the depths of the Colorado Front Range for a night of Grateful Dead tribute and homage. Dark Star Orchestra made the Dead fans of Denver “Get Up, Get Off, Get Out of the Door,” to suit up for an original setlist and production at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 5th, 2021.
It was easy to tell that Ventura was a bastion of Deadheads of all ages when the faithful descended on the Majestic Ventura Theater on February 20th for a concert by Dark Star Orchestra. The Grateful Dead cover band has a massive following in Ventura, as evidenced by the sold-out crowd that spilled out into the streets. Curbside vendors sold all manner of Dead paraphernalia, while faithful followers without tickets searched for the mythical “Miracle Ticket.”
Jam veterans Barry Sless, Rob Barraco, Pete Sears and John Molo team up with singer/ songwriter/guitarist Katie Skene to perform original music, classic Americana and rock n’ roll, blending uninhibited jams, swamp blues, old style twang, traditional roots music, and southern soul into a musical truth that pushes forward the tradition of the California Jam Band movement.
Barry Sless – guitar & pedal steel (David Nelson Band, Phil Lesh, Moonalice, Cowboy Jazz)
Pete Sears – bass & vocals (David Nelson Band, Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, Moonalice)
They resurrected a spry Dead set from early ’87—April 7, Brendan Byrne Arena (NJ)—that again moved a crowd of hopeful dreamers and warmed yearning hearts with smiles, smiles, smiles.
The beauty of the Grateful Dead legacy extends far past the demise of the original line-up that sadly ended with the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995. The Grateful Dead created a dedicated community, or rather a counterculture, based on music and family values that have since refused to give up and let go.