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Live Review chasing light beams in Grass Valley with Dark Star Orchestra

13 November 2015 No Comment

Dark Star Orchestra
09-25-2015 @ Veterans Memorial Auditorium
Grass Valley, California
Photos & Review: Jeff Longo

Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra stopped at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Grass Valley, CA on their annual Fall Tour West. On most evenings DSO features a faithful recreation of an actual show the Dead performed encapsulating not only the songs but also the style, the sound, and energy of that particular era, in other words they deliver the “magic” of the Grateful Dead live experience. This evenings show was an epic psychedelic fueled “Live Dead” era recreation originally performed by the the Grateful Dead on February 22, 1969 at the Dream Bowl in Vallejo, California. This particular show was also selected to represent the year 1969 as part of the Grateful Dead’s boxset 30 Trips Around the Sun.

For all things Dark Star Orchestra including Winter Tour Dates – click here

Part 1 – 2015-09-24 – Grass Valley CA at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium
Part 2 – 2015-10-01 – Redwood City CA at the Fox Theater
Part 3 – 2015-10-02 and 10-03 San Francisco CA at the Regency Ballroom

The first set started innocently enough with Jeff Mattson on acoustic guitar with a couple of obscure songs: the bouncy Dupree’s Diamond Blues and a trippy, elliptical Mountains on the Moon. Then without warning a first set Dark Star emerges. Seat belts and astral flight adapters required for this 25+ minute beast. Jeff Mattson & Rob Eaton lead the jam into a floating, spinning voyage to the heart of the void but it was drummers Rob Koritz & Dino English along with bassist Skip Vangelas that fueled this excursion through uncertainty. Mind = blown.


No time to catch our breath (there is no air in space!) when out of the chaos emerges entire four movement suite “That’s it for The Other One,” a 20 minute cosmic roller coaster ride on the magic bus to never, never land – literally. Beginning with an eerie Cryptical Envelopment into a short Drums sequence then its blast off.  Skip’s thunderous bass lines ushers in the main sequence – “The Faster We Go The Rounder We Get” (aka The Other One). Rob takes the wheel for this frantic sonic assault that is arguably the Dead’s heaviest piece. The final movement, Cryptical Envelopment (reprise) brought the madness to a climax with Jeff Mattson wailing the the final verse “He had to die, oh, you know he had to die!” The set ended with a powerful rendition of Death Have No Mercy. Mind = exploded.

“Hipster, tripsters, and real cool chicks,” were grooving to a swinging version of Doin That Rag’ to open the second set. The place exploded when the psychedelic folk jam St Stephen (1st century Saint who was “stoned” to death) popped out that had the whole joint doing the jig. The William Tell bridge segued nicely into The Eleven featuring the very unusual 11/8 time signature which sparked a pulsing, heavy jam session. Next up Rob was a man possessed on an old school 20+ minute Turn on Your Love Light, a R&B monster complete with extended vocal rap to wrap up the epic four song second set. With the energy level at maximum capacity & some time to spare, DSO turned the place into a 60’s ballroom dance party with a string of encores/fillers Dancing in the Streets, Overseas Stomp (Lindy Hop), New Orleans, and an outstanding Alligator. A sweet reading of We Bid You Goodnight closed an outstanding evening.

Setlist originally performed by the Grateful Dead: 1969-02-22 Dream Bowl Vallejo, California

Set One: Dupree’s Diamond Blues >Mountains Of The Moon > Dark Star > Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Cryptical Envelopment > Death Don’t Have No Mercy
Set Two: Doin’ That Rag > St. Stephen > The Eleven > Turn On Your Love Light
Filler: Dancing In The Streets ; Overseas Stomp (Lindbergh Hop) > New Orleans > Alligator > And We Bid You Goodnight
Dark Star Orchestra is Rob Eaton (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jeff Mattson (lead guitar, vocals), Skip Vangelas (Bass), Lisa Mackey (vocals), Rob Barraco (keyboards, vocals), Rob Koritz (drums), and Dino English (drums).


Dark Star Orchestra will kick off their Fall Tour East on Nov 12 before wrapping up with a Cosmic New Year’s celebration at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.  Jamaica Jam in the Sand is scheduled for January 19-23, 2016 DSO will headline four nights with 2 full sets each night – they will be joined by Steve Kimock and his tribute to Jerry Garcia featuring Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Reed Mathis and Dan Leibovitz, plus the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band.Winter tour will begin 2/11 hitting the southern & midwest US.  Immediately afterwards they will hit the road again for their Winter Tour 2016 starting February 11 in Orlando, FL with stops throughout the South and Midwest. For all things Dark Star Orchestra click here


Part 1 – 2015-09-24 – Grass Valley CA at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium
Part 2 – 2015-10-01 – Redwood City CA at the Fox Theater
Part 3 – 2015-10-02 and 10-03 San Francisco CA at the Regency Ballroom


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