Dark Star Orchestra at The Aggie 10-7-11

Summer Camp always includes some sort of Dead Family Band in their lineup. Last year it was 7 Walkers but in 2009 that band was Dark Star Orchestra. So, Amy and I headed out to the Aggie to catch them. It was a nice night and the crowd was decent. Good people out for a real good time; the hippie kids were in full force. DSO is a band I’ve caught a number of times but after the departure of John Kadlecik I was curious to see how they were sounding with Zen Trickster, Jeff Mattson on lead guitar. Not to mention my utmost respect for keyboardist and Phil and Friends and The Other Ones alumni Rob Barraco. DSO is a combination of some truly skilled musicians and it was definitely time after a number of years to catch them out in Colorado. For those that don’t know Dark Star recreates Dead Shows from the past with incredible accuracy. They performed a great show from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee that occurred on October 21, 1972. It was classic Dead at the height of their single drummer sound. Here is the setlist they performed.
SET I: Me and My Uncle, Beat It On Down The Line, Sugaree, El Paso, China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider, Black Throated Wind, Tennessee Jed, Jack Straw, Loser, Playing In The Band
SET II: The Promised Land, Brown Eyed Women, Big River, He’s Gone, Greatest Story Ever Told, Bird Song, Truckin> The Other One> Morning Dew, Sugar Magnolia
ENCORE: Jonny B. Goode
It was just a solid show all night long. It began around 9:35 and went well past 1 AM. As kids pondered the year of the show I was fairly sure it was from the early 70’s given the setlist. The China Cat> Rider was absolutely sublime with a deep version of Black Throated Wind. They finished the first set with a huge jam-infused Playing In the Band. The first set stretched to almost an hour and half ending just around 11 PM. Hippies twirled as they played on. I went out to catch some air at setbreak with the rest of the family.
The second set was only describable as sick. The Promised Land opener was kicked up a notch by the incredible cover of Johnny Cash’s Big River. The highlight of the show was by far the Truckin> The Other One> Morning Dew. It was a huge tidal wave that washed over the entire second set. Matson soared over Rob Eaton’s rhythm guitar; their back and forth interplay fit the bill incredibly well. Lisa Mackey’s vocals were enough to make Donna Jean herself jealous as she stepped in from time to time during the show. I was just blown away. For years I’ve honestly avoided Dark Star dismissing them as a cover band, a good cover band but a cover band nonetheless. The fact of the matter is they are so far beyond a simple cover band I almost feel silly thinking of them as such. They are musical historians and recreationists who work tirelessly to reimaging shows from years gone by. Without DSO there would be no real way to re-experience these long lost concerts. I’m glad I finally went back to see DSO, they certainly made a Friday night in Fort Collins memorable.