Bill Kreutzmann threw on his cowboy hat early Saturday morning for a ride through the Cosmic Country with Daniel Donato with service to “Dark Star”. The sit-in from the former Grateful Dead and Dead & Company drummer came during Donato’s guest-fueled Cosmic NOLA performance at Republic NOLA in New Orleans, which also saw sit-ins from George Porter Jr.Kanika Moore, and James Brandon Lewis (Preservation Hall Jazz Band). The show served as the opening of the 10th annual Nolafunk Series During Jazz Fest.

Kreutzmann tipped his hand earlier in the day on Friday, posting on social media that “[Donato] happened to have an extra drum kit so I told him to set it up, just in case I feel like dropping in on a couple tunes, early on.” True to his word, Bill the Drummer took the stage midway through Donato’s first set for what proved to be a 70-plus minute sit-in.

Beginning with “Dire Wolf”, Donato eased into the Grateful Dead songbook with the eerie Workingman’s Dead tale. After that quick warm-up, however, the band launched into a deep jam that ultimately revealed itself as the Dead’s improvisational behemoth, “Dark Star”. Together with drummer Noah Miller, Bill helped push this extensive jam to the outer reaches of the cosmos as visual projects of deep space played on the sizable Republic NOLA screen. The 76-year-old drummer had no trouble keeping up with the band a third his age, making the most of a minimalistic kit that paled in comparison to the setup he employed for stadium shows with Dead & Company.

Throughout the deep improvisation, the Nashville firebrand guitar player certainly lit the coals but in the end, it was Kreutzmann and Miller who decided on which track they would travel. Donato hopped the freighters effortlessly as the rhythmic inertia of the percussion section kept the jam engaging for over 45 minutes. Coming out of the cosmic debris, the band cooled off with a trip down the mine for “Cumberland Blues” before Bill went off on his way.

Watch Bill Kreutzmann join Daniel Donato for “Dark Star” in New Orleans below. The concert came the day after Bill revived Billy & The Kids at New
Orleans’ Saenger Theatre, and precipitates Dead & Co’s set at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Saturday, May 6th, though Bill and the Grateful Dead offshoot recently announced an amicable split for the band’s coming Final Tour.

Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country, Bill Kreutzmann – “Dark Star” > “Cumberland Blues” [Pro-Shot] – 4/28/23

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