Many Try to Imitate, But Few Can Recreate the Grateful Dead
Jordan Knight
1/28/2007 8:42:04 PM

Since the early 60s, the influential music of the Grateful Dead has wafted around the world and swept away almost any being with a set of ears, human or otherwise, in a spinning sonic cloud of good times and Sugaree sweet sound.

The wave of The Dead had serious repercussions, and affected bands have tried their damnedest to imitate the good feelings and vibes that emanated from an original Grateful Dead show. None have really been successful of such a task until Chicago-based Dark Star Orchestra. Down to the stage positioning and era-accurate musical instruments, DSO has achieved what was previously so impossible to recreate.

The origin of the exact show DSO are bringing to life is held in secret until after they are done doing what they do best: being the Grateful Dead. What you do know is that they are playing a show that has only been played once before in history, and not by them. Dark Star Orchestra showcased their dedication to authenticity and the music of the Dead in St. Louis’ Pageant theatre on January 18th; when they kicked off their New Year tour.

The show in St. Louis was a bit of a departure for the band and a rare DSO show for all of their grateful fans. Dark Star, missing their rhythm guitar player, Rob Eaton, who plays Bob Weir on-stage, had to pick a new type of show to recreate. The final product ended up being a show by the Jerry Garcia Band on July 21, 1976 at the Keystone in Berkeley, California. The result was magic, and everyone in the crowd was excited and feeling the authentic vibe when the walked onto the stage and jumped right into the tune “Sugaree.”

Younger fans in the crowd enjoyed the new experience of a Jerry Garcia show while the older dead heads reminisced about the good old days; getting high and dancing in the crowds, as the two men behind me were reliving. The band itself looked to also be having the time of their lives, bringing to life something that happened 30 plus years ago as female vocalist Lisa Mackey, who plays Donna Goodchaux, the singer who toured with the Grateful Dead in the 70s, danced and spun in glorious, joyful circles with a child-like happiness and a smile as large as it probably was when Goodchaux danced years ago.

Combining the original two sets of the Jerry Garcia Band show from 1976 into one super set, they included a version of “That’s What Love Will Make You Do,” featuring a ridiculous piano solo that sent the crowd into a tizzy, with superb interplay between the ‘Jerry Garcia’ of the band, John Kadlecik and the man who represents the five piano players that graced the Grateful Dead, Dan Klepinger, who coincidentally is a new member of the band.

The second set was where Dark Star really stretched away from their typical show, playing a set of miscellaneous tunes showcasing ridiculous guitar solos. A new drummer named Dino English, who plays the part of Mickey Hart of The Dead, came out to replace the drummer who represents Bill Kreutzmann, Rob Koritz. Rob Koritz then moved to percussion, and a man named Brad Sarno graced the stage to play some pedal steel guitar. These men and one woman played songs including “Tangled Up,” “Love Each Other,” and “Scarlet,” which included and rambunctious and completely danceable drum and percussion solo that drove everyone in the building to dance wildly.

All of the fans, young newbies, and experienced Dead Head veterans attending the St. Louis Dark Star Orchestra show, or should I say, the Jerry Garcia Band show in Berkeley, California, will not soon forget the music, the good vibes, or the since of unity one feels when they share in the wondrous creation of good music… even if it had been created once before.


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