If you had asked me a month ago whether I’d have been more excited for Furthur’s performance or for Dark Star Orchestra’s, I easily would have said, ‘Furthur’s.’ While Dark Star Orchestra’s infamous stage-plan of taking a listener back in time to a past Dead show is shockingly cool, I’m ever the fan of saying, ‘nothing beats the original.’ Well, this weekend was an experience for shattering preconceptions, because all in all, Dark Star Orchestra reaffirmed for me that, simply put, anything can happen.
You just have to look at the facts. What makes for a good show? Well, while I can’t say what exactly the specific ingredients for a good show-going experience are decisively and beyond the shadow of a doubt, I can tell you what they are beyond the shadow of a Dark Star. From the foundation on up, a Dark Star show is designed to be a complete Deadhead experience. Its a ride inside a time machine to a full Dead set from somewhere along the road of the Grateful Dead’s 30 year career as the fathers of improvisational rock, and its almost always a blow-me-away sort of set. Add to that the fact that not only were this weekend’s shows over the first two nights of the weekend, Friday and Saturday, rather than Sunday, but the events took place at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium as well. Together, these are basic ingredients for a killer Dead show.
Many readers may ask, “so, if Furthur is still touring, why see Dark Star Orchestra?” Well, Dark Star Orchestra brings to the stage a youthful and passionate energy that really puts their music over the top. At this stage in the game, you can’t really draw a comparison between the two. It’s really more about the experience that you are trying to achieve. DSO’s configuration is a mirror image of the oldschool Grateful Dead, right down to the two hyper-energetic drummers (Dino English and Rob Koritz) slaying the back beat. At a Dark Star show, you don’t feel like you’re at some Dead show 30 years after the fact. You feel almost like you’re at an original showing of the set at hand, and that the band is really playing to impress. Their reputation isn’t set, but always changing like their awesome tye-dye backdrop in the shimmering stage lights, and they mean to uphold that reputation by providing a top-notch performance every time!
Friday night’s set was a take on the Grateful Dead’s 6/20/91 set at Pine Knob Music Theatre Clarkston MI, while Saturday’s, I believe, was a set of their own design, with the welcome addition of Phil Lesh onstage to bring up the energy and bring down the house. Though members of DSO have featured in acts with Phil before, this is the first time he has been seen on stage with Dark Star Orchestra as an entire band, and it made for one powerful set! Only in San Francisco, this beautiful city, would such a site come together so spontaneously- and it was beautiful. If you’re interested, the setlists are listed at the bottom of the post.
The vibe you get is that the music has never been played better, though its anyone’s guess as to the truth of the matter. The more intimate vibe that comes concomitant with the enclosed space offered by the Fillmore also does wonders for the sound and experience, at least when compared to seeing an outdoor amphitheater set, and to top it all off, on night two, Phil Lesh of Furthur, the Grateful Dead, and Phil and Friends (the man, the myth, the legend) showed up to add even more authenticity to the first set of the second night. Lesh in tow night two, the band easily rocked the house both nights, the crowd stayed hyped, vibed, and alive, and the energy level stayed up at the top of the meter the entire time. I give the 2 night experience a 9 out of 10 review, for giving me way more than I bargained for. Would I recommend Dark Star Orchestra to an old Deadhead? Absolutely, but I’d tell them to enter the venue with an open mind. Would I recommend the experience to a friend? You bet! These guys just slayed San Francisco! But what did you expect? For these guys, it’s just one more Saturday night.
Here are some fun little videos we shot on the first night: Video 1. Video 2.
Touch Of Grey; Greatest Story Ever Told; Peggy-O; Mexicali Blues>Maggie’s Farm; Bird Song
Throwing Stones>Iko Iko;All Along The Watchtower>Standing On The Moon>He’s Gone >Drums>Space>The Wheel>I Need A Miracle>Wharf Rat>Throwing Stones>Not Fade Away
Encore: Brokedown Palace
Set 1: Jack Straw ; Here Comes Sunshine ; Feel Like A Stranger ; Dark Star > Playing In The Band > The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion) > Eyes Of The World > Morning Dew > Playing In The Band reprise
Set 2: Shakedown Street; Saint Stephen; Dear Prudence; Alligator>drums>space China Doll>Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad
Encore: One More Saturday Night; And We Bid You Goodnight
The Grateful Dead – Dark Star
Grateful Dead – Wharf Rat
The Grateful Dead – One More Saturday Night