Dark Star Orchestra gives C-Ville a night with the Dead

The Grateful Dead cover band played a setlist consisting of mainly Jerry Garcia Band tunes.


Dark Star Orchestra throws it back to the days of the Dead.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The scene outside the Jefferson Theater was reminiscent of a bygone era. Prominent Grateful Dead cover band Dark Star Orchestra was kicking off their spring tour. Deadheads everywhere would recognize the scene. Those without a ticket stood outside the doors holding up one finger in desperate search of a chance to get in. Tie-dye shirts, dreads and Steal Your Face logos jammed their way into the venue. An older woman with long white hair and a tie-dye skirt held out the classic sign that read, “I need a miracle,” one of the longest Grateful Dead traditions used by those in search of a free ticket. Deadheads, young and old, mingled amongst the anticipating audience, discussing their past Grateful Dead experiences and future ones. An elderly man donning a green, orange and red V-shape tie-dye shirt from the Dead’s 1990 summer tour said he’d followed the band on tour from 1987 through 1993. When asked why he stopped he said, “Because they threw me in jail, man. Me and the man just don’t get along, man” — commonly held opinion by Deadheads.

For the first 3 hours and 40 minutes of the show, the band exclusively played songs by the Jerry Garcia Band. The first two sets were a recreation of the setlist from a JGB show in Berkeley, Calif. Aug. 22, 1976. Hopefully, those in attendance who were not Deadheads themselves kept an open mind about the show because if not they may have been disappointed. Of the 17 songs played, only three are usually performed by the Dead. This was definitely a night of obscurities and a test of everyone’s knowledge of Jerry Garcia Band songs. 

The first set of a Dead show generally consists of individual songs where the band takes time in between each song and jam to tune their instruments. The second set is one long jam session.

The band opened with a soulful cover of Smokey Robinson’s hit “I Second That Emotion” into the Dead’s groovy “They Love Each Other.” Like any Dead show, the musicians spend most of the time jamming out. They’ll sing a few verses and before anyone can realize it they’ve gone so deep into a jam it doesn’t even seem like it’s the same song anymore. The band members synchronize each note, trading off solos. The fans dance like lunatics. Grateful Dead and Dead cover band shows are judgment-free zones where everyone can shake every bone in their body this way and that. Some people scream the lyrics and some people close their eyes in order to fall deep into the trance of the tune. A jam may go on for 10 minutes and every second of it is incredible and unique. The more they jam, the stronger the trance takes hold — then all of a sudden they’re back into the song’s rhythm and lyrics. Rounding out the rest of the first set was “I’ll Take a Melody,” “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” and “Mission in the Rain,” all of which are JGB songs.

The band will not stop playing, effortlessly transitioning between songs so well that it takes a truly expert listener to notice the change of song. However, this wasn’t the case with Dark Star’s second set on Friday night due to the lack of a rhythm guitarist. Instead, the band kept chugging along, playing a mixture of covers and JGB tunes. The set opener was an mind-opening cover of The Temptations hit song, “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” The rest of the set consisted of more sing-along jams like “Midnight Moonlight,” “Strange Man,” “Tore Up,” “Stop That Train” and “Ride Mighty High.”

The highlight of the night came with the last two songs. The band dove into two Dead classics — “Eyes of the World” into “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad.” Those songs lasted about 20 minutes between the two of them. Despite the clock striking midnight, four hours after the start of the show, the crowd kept grooving along with them. Time certainly cannot stop an mob of Deadheads listening to their favorite band. 

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