Dark Star Orchestra formed in 1997, some two years after the loss of Jerry Garcia had removed an essential founding member from the Grateful Dead. Ripples in the water from the stones that the Dead had been throwing clearly still resonate deeply with many fans to this day. The Grateful Dead carved an alternative jam band-niche in the world of rock music using guitars, keyboards and drums to sculpt as palpably as any chisel to create their masterpieces. The band’s concerts and attitudes resulted in a culture being fomented with it’s own style of clothing, dance, ideology, and vernacular.
‘DSO’ held court to full houses at The Paramount in Huntington, New York on December 30th, and 31st in celebration of this music and culture. You might say this was a case of Occupy Shakedown Street coming to the hall to cure what was ailing many fans on Long Island. This traveling medicine show can heal disease, and afford opportunity to express the love of the band who ceased functioning as a whole twenty years ago the day that Jerry died.
For New Years Eve, Dark Star Orchestra used the set list from The Civic Center in San Francisco, December 31st, 1984 as a script, and the energy from the band gave the songs life anew. The band opened with a hot and rousing rendition of Shakedown Street. The bait proffered dangled alluringly and hooked the audience, who began to dance as if attached to a fisherman’s line in the great waters of the San Francisco Bay.
The first of three sets continued with New Minglewood Blues, the classic Peggy-O, and Jack Straw. The dancing continued on to Bird Song, Hell in a Bucket, and Don’t Ease Me In. The crowd was so engaged that if checked, they still may be humming the tunes along their daily routines today.
Rob Eaton sounded as if Bob Weir may have had a long lost brother, who also was a talented vocalist and rhythm guitarist. Jeff Matson handled lead guitar and vocals on Jerry’s tunes with equal aplomb. The second set opened with a bouquet of Sugar Magnolia, running smoothly as a stream into “Scarlet Begonias.” Skip Vangelis shined especially here on bass, as did Rob Barraco on keyboards. They continued on with the reggae flavor of Fire on the Mountain, and Man Smart/Woman Smarter proving an old axiom tried and true. Dino English and Rob Koritz tuned the crowd to tapping along and grooving to a superb Mickey and Billy drum solo. The set moved on with Spanish Jam, The Wheel, Throwin’ Stones, and then brightened the hall with the beams of Turn on Your Lovelight.
The third set would open and greet the new year with Gimme Some Lovin’, and the crowd had become a quorum in excess speaking to the power of the band gracing the stage. Uncle John’s Band was then followed by the poker being taken to the logs to produce a white hot rendition of Around and Around, with the capacity crowd fully in gear and inflamed. The set from the original 1984 show closed with Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. The Dead may have left as an entity but are not forgotten, thanks in large measure to DSO and their audience.
Dark Star Orchestra will continue on the road. Their Winter Tour will wind on, and no fan should dare miss them. Visit the band’s website for show dates and ticket information.
Words: Bob Wilson Pictures: Wayne Herrschaft