My friend, Melody was celebrating her annual trip around the sun, so it was it great excuse to come down to The Ogden for a night of rowdiness with the Dang Ol’ Dark Star Orchestra. With the exodus for John K for greener pastures, Jeff Mattson has filled the void nicely with his spot on guitar tone and solid vocals. We met for some pre-show libations at The Snug before hitting The Ogden around 9 PM. The room was filling in properly, but it wasn’t overly packed. There seemed to be an abundance of Dead Family in attendance, which made me wonder if they were on DSO tour. The idea seemed silly, but if you are truly looking for authenticity and to relive the shows of a bygone era, it makes sense.
“I literally just got out of jail.” – Random Concertgoer
Dark Star took the stage just before 9:30 PM. They performed a show from October 9th, 1977 that took place just down the street at McNichols Arena. The show reads like a Greatest Hits album. Rob Barroco dedicated the show to fallen fan Joel Campbell, who passed away in a tragic car crash earlier this month.
Set 1: New Minglwood Blues, They Love Each Other, Cassidy, Dire Wolf, Looks Like Rain, Brown Eyed Women, Lazy Lightnin’> Supplication, Sugaree, The Music Never Stopped
Set 2: Samson and Delilah, Scarlet Begonias> Fire On The Mountain, Estimated Prophet> He’s Gone> Truckin’> Drums> Terrapin Station> Around And Around
Encore: Casey Jones
The original show is up on Archive, Thanks to Charlie Miller for posting. http://archive.org/details/gd1977-10-09.sbd.miller.109972.flac16
I’ve said it before, but Dark Star Orchestra is not really a cover band, they are historical re-creationists. They are more akin to the people reliving Civil War battles every weekend than say Super Diamond. Since I’m not talking about anything new here, I’ll just stick to the facts. They opened with a fiery “New Minglewood Blues” that certainly got the crowd’s attention. By now the room, while not completely sold out, was certainly at capacity. In fact it was the perfect amount of people in my opinion; enough room to maneuver, and plenty of people to fill in the gaps. The “Cassidy” was precise and made for a beautiful back and forth between Donna stand-in Lisa Mackey and Rob Eaton. “The Music Never Stopped” was executed perfectly as it became a huge peak prior to the setbreak.
They opened the second set with an astounding “Samson and Delilah” but it was the “Scarlet” “Fire” that got the crowd standing at attention. Around this time I found myself in the smoking section and heard this gem.
“Man, Jerry is so good tonight.” – Random Concertgoer
The “Terrapin” hit the mark before a huge set closing “Around and Around” that featured a stellar “Johnny B. Goode” tease that left me wanting more. They said their goodbyes with a quick “Casey Jones” to close the night. I have to say that DSO has never sounded better, and their attention to detail continues to impress. If you have a hankering for the Good Ol’ Grateful Dead, this will most definitely cure what ails you.
The world renowned drummer of the Grateful Dead Mickey Hart came to town for a MusicMarauders Presents show at The Oriental Theater in the Highlands of Denver. Mickey and his band, which includes Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools along with Crystal Monee Hall on vocals, Joe Bagale on vocals, guitar, and keys, Gawain Matthews on guitar, Sikiru Adepoju on the talking drum, and Greg Schutte on kit, were in the midst of a three blast across Colorado. With stops in Boulder, Denver, and Aspen as part of larger spring tour, the band was in fine form for a Friday night on the Front Range.
There was an issue online with the posted show times causing many including myself to arrive a full two hours prior to the doors opening. There was a large drum circle across the street from the venue and it being First Friday, we warmed up in a gallery. When the doors finally opened we were still a full hour away from the African Showboyz taking the stage. The story goes that Mickey was going to take part in a drum circle / workshop that was cancelled at the last minute. I thought given the circumstances Mickey should have made his way across the street to the aforementioned drum circle and jammed for the early arrivers.
That did not happen.
Up first was a group hailing all the way from a small village in Ghana, West Africa. The only description appropriate for this group of four brothers is stunning. The African Showboyz utilizing traditional instrumentation including the bind douk, bin bill and the tonton sanson, and incorporating customary dances that were simply jaw-dropping to watch live. They are touring ambassadors whose primary mission is to spread “recognition for the suffrage of the African people.” Performing Bob Marley classics such as “Redemption Song” alongside the songs of their native village made it all very approachable. The driving rhythm of the drums accompanied by the poetic voices of the Sabbah brothers was absolutely mesmerizing. They finished their breathtaking set with a simple dance and salute to the crowd. My only issue was that they performed behind the headliners rig, which seemed weird to me. The Mickey Hart Band made their way to the stage shortly after 10 PM. They jumped right into the muddy goodness with a huge “Shakedown Street” opener.
Set 1: Shakedown Street> Starlight Starbright> Franklin’s Tower> Bully Boy> Bird Song> Magic Wand> Fire On The Mountain
Set 2: Samson & Delilah> Slow Joe Rain> Playing In The Band> Morning Of The World> Playin’ Reprise> Supersonic Vision> Cut The Deck> China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider
Encore: Brokedown Palace
Thanks to Corey and Kind Recordings for posting the show on ARCHIVE.
The overall show was a solid mix of MHB originals and standard Grateful Dead. Hall seemed to take primary vocal duties on the majority of the songs giving an entirely new feel to some of the classic tunes. At times it was jarring, but her powerful vocals won me over in the end. Tucked in the back of the stage was Schools who even added his voice to the backup mic a few times throughout the night. Mickey stood flanked by his 360-degree personal drum monstrosity, which included electronic drum pads hooked to an array of effects. “Franklin’s Tower” was a beautiful addition to the set as the kaleidoscope lights danced on the ceiling of the historic theater. “Magic Wand” their original, was truly an energetic high. They closed with the much-expected “Fire On The Mountain.”
The second set started perfectly well with a tight version of “Samson & Delilah,” but it quickly fell apart with the alternative sounding “Slow Joe Rain.” As they were playing, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. I can understand a band wanting to sound current, but this was current circa 1992, and just felt totally out of place. MHB quickly redeemed themselves with an extended take on “Playing In The Band” that featured “Morning Of The World” as the meat of the jam. They finished the set with a huge “China Cat” “Rider” that was enough to make any Dead fan happy. Mickey and Friends encored with a lovely “Brokedown Palace.”
It was just a solid show from a band that appears to be finding its stride. Much like Billy’s band 7 Walkers, Mickey is using his golden years to make his own mark and write his own musical chapter. None of the living members of the Grateful Dead have anything to prove, they’ve done it all and they’ve paved the way. Now, they have earned the chance to relax, perform, or not perform. Each show is a blessing and a chance to celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead. Go out and celebrate.
The past harmonizes. Everyone on Earth has a doppelganger. Both axioms proved to be true upon my second time seeing the Grateful Dead reenactment group, Dark Star Orchestra. As I stared onto the stage at guitarist Rob Eaton’s mouth gaping Bob Weir face, I thought to myself, “how was tonight any different than if i’d been born a child of the 60’s and gotten here through a more natural twist of fate?”
Time is obstinate — it can twist and contort, but ultimately remains constant in a relative state of mind. On this particular hazy post liberty influenced weekend, as the Chicago heat toned down from triple digits outside, inside the Park West Theater Dark Star Orchestra did their best to raise the temperature by recreating one helluva Grateful Dead set whose original audience experienced during a time and space at the Auditorium Theater on 5/13/77.
One could contend the spring of ’77 is arguably one of the best runs to be a Deadhead and if you looked around the venue last Saturday and judged by who was onstage and in the audience you might have surely thought you stepped into a wormhole that transported you back 35 years to that golden era. This particular show saw the band perform the very first “Jack-A-Roe” and had a wonderfully rare first set close with “Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain.”
Those who tell me they don’t like seeing bands that only cover one specific group with no original tunes have their right to an opinion. But imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, why wouldn’t you want to close your eyes and let your mind expand on a cosmic journey from one of the legendary groups that influenced thousands? Oh and who, by the way, changed the course of history along the way creating an entire genre. You’d have to be on a close minded ship of fools to believe you couldn’t enjoy DSO even one tiny iota.
The likeness both in playing style and appearance is palpable. During “Cassidy” the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It didn’t matter that it was Jeff Mattson and not Jerry Garcia to me onstage because this was my reality — not 1977 Dave. Besides I would like to think Jerry would like his music to live on through such a dedicated group of musicians. A Deadhead is the harshest critic when it comes to judging an audible incarnation of a legend. The artistry and skill in one’s craft needed to be able to pull off such a feat is beyond comprehension. Not one person dancing and whirling in the crowd that night knew or cared. Original hippies and neo-hippie clad youth all shouted the chorus to “Goin Down The Road Feeling Bad” with the same exuberance.
Lisa Mackey, who plays the role of Donna Jean Godchaux, returned from a brief hiatus for the bands Colorado stint. She donned her trademark headphones, spun, and whirled, lending vocals to “Stella Blue.” Later as the set closed she provided a treat on harmonica for “Next Time You See Me.”
The highlight of the show, chalked full of classics as it was, however was “The Other One” jam. Coming out of “Drums” people exploded when Rob belted out the first verse nearly 13 minutes after the song began. The past run in Chicago had DSO playing the Vic which while having a larger capacity room diminishes the intimacy factor slightly. Park West was perfectly suited to cater to a crowd that appreciated the musicianship more than the ability to consume. The high domed ceiling where the disco ball hung allowed for those with laser pointers to add to the spacey spectacle. Past and present collided and for one more Saturday night in one of the best Grateful Dead cover bands 1900+ shows it harmonized to perfection.
After shaking off the night before with some wake and bacon and eggs my Friday opened with Keller Williams on the Moonshine Stage. Front row center I was able to finally witness the extraordinary one man band do his funky bass thang and was not disappointed. I’m not sure if Keller’s facial mannerisms signal anything to the other instruments onstage, but they amused the audience as they baked in the mid-afternoon sun.
Keller came out with a black bandana draped over his mouth and moved between his three guitars and a mixing board as he started looping his masterpiece. His set highlights included a throwback gem in “Freaker by the Speaker” and bass infused covers of Cage The Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and a baritone raspy version of Flight of the Concords “I Told You I was Freaky.” Keller is so tuned into the music he adapted to minor feedback issues in the monitor by simply moving it away from the speaker. Guess that’s what is to be expected considering he’s been working with the same sound guy for 15 years. For the last song special guest Al Schnier joined Keller onstage for Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”
Our crew stepped on over to Starshine to drop by and investigate the legendary Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio. Slinking along the VIP fence I cozied up to a patch of grass just in time to hear “Truckin” which was played beautifully as cloud cover brought a hazy calm over the crowd. “New Speedway Boogie” with Chris Robinson on vocals followed with a nice little harmonization to end the Grateful Dead classic.
The soulful southern Dead classic “Deep Elem Blues” followed with Bob on vocals and transitioned into Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with Jackie Greene playing a mean mandolin. I left after “Uncle John’s Band” and headed towards the Campfire Stage which would be my home for the next three shows. I met up with my pals in Family Groove Company for the first course in The New Orleans Suspect. FGC went to school out in Los Angeles with one of their musicians who also plays in The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and it was a nice appetizer funk fest near the Red Barn before the main course in Elephant Revival and Cornmeal later that evening.
I had missed the Thursday sets of Elephant Revival, the five piece folk ensemble out of Colorado, and was not going to let another chance pass me by as the buzz around this band has been high. After fiddling with the sound to get things just perfect they launched into a new tune opening with “Woodstock.” Wearing long white gloves and straddling a stomp box Bonnie Paine’s feathery lilting voice brought back memories of Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan. She wore a perma-smirk for nearly the entire set as she strummed her washboard to an celtic influenced sea shanty jig with Bridget Law starring on a few timely placed solos. Bridget plugged the bands release of a new song book before Sage Cook and Daniel Rodriguez provided background vocals and plucking prowess on banjo and guitar with Bonnie on lead for the water inspired “Drop.” The energy of the set was felt on a changing tempo “Old Oak River” which was played a cappella style and had a Johnny Cash type feel as the late night revelers swayed and clapped along. I’m very excited that this group is touring the summer festival circuit more extensively and will get a chance to see them again later this year at Shoe Fest.
Cornmeal’s first two sets for the pre-party I also missed out on due to schedule conflicts, but was Allie side for the annual acoustic Campfire Stage set. They brought out Elephant Revival for the first few songs. It was awesome to see Bridget and Allie smitten and smiling and showing their collective fiddle chops in addition to Wavy Dave and Sage keep the time on dueling banjos. Wavy Dave Burlingame once again had his annual Summer Camp birthday and joked around that he forgot his geritol…good thing a handle of Maker’s Mark was present to help him re-remember as he instructed “the cap be left off” to celebrate in fashion. Cornmeal brought out Giving Tree Band violinist Phil Zee for a few songs during the second half of their set. Allie and Phil chased each other taking turns on fiddle solo as Wavy and Kris kept everyone in high spirits with a menagerie of Cornmeal classics. A final special sit in occurred when Floodwood’s Jason Barady got on stage to play on mandolin. I sat there and was amazed as sandwiched between Kris and Wavy he furiously moved his fingers around the frets with ease.
Well i’m currently sitting in the Church listening to Umphrey’s McGee soundcheck for a special off the grid set for rockstar guests. I need to wrap things up so I can set up and experience my third crazy music filled day here at Summer Camp!
More pictures to come later on: