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Dark Star Orchestra at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta Print E-mail
Written by and photos by HILARY CADIGAN   
Sunday, 06 March 2011
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Grateful Dead were and are a force to be reckoned with—the blissed-out crystallization of a culture devoted purely to bliss itself. The Dead spawned not only the jam band concept, but the jam band culture, including the raggedy, tie-dyed legions of ubiquitous yet unassuming fanbase that remains still today determined to keep the dream alive.

Dark Star Orchestra


The Variety Playhouse
Atlanta, GA
February 4, 2011

Enter Dark Star Orchestra, self-described only as a band that “recreates Grateful Dead shows, song for song, live on stage.” Yet to call DSO a mere cover band would be doing them a major disservice. This aint no wedding ensemble folks, this is the pinnacle of devotion, supported by sheer talent and validated by the acceptance of preexisting fan base with very specific tastes.

Stepping into Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse for Friday’s show, my first thought was, where did these people come from? One thing’s for sure, the Deadheads are alive and well, and either I’m not going to the right places to find them in or they’re a traveling contingent, following DSO across the country just as they followed the Dead in previous decades. Grizzly old guys with grey manes and foot-long beards mingle with young jam band-aids in dreadlocks and Baja pullovers, swaying around like underwater plants and illustrating the incredible breadth of influence the Dead still hold, even sixteen years after their demise.

About halfway a five-hour set that truly blew me away, the bear-like man behind me shot his Red Stripe-bearing fist in the air and yelled, “October 27, 1980! Radio City Music Hall!” This man definitely did not have an iPhone anywhere on or around his person—he just knew. As did the majority of other diehard heads in the room, I soon discovered. “The next three songs will be ‘Truckin’,’ ‘Scarlet Begonias,’ and ‘Fire on the Mountain.’ Then there’s going to be a really epic drum solo.”

Sho’ nuff, there they were, nearly as clear and true as they must have sounded back in 1980, judging by the reactions of a crowd filled with people who would know much better than I. Coasting along through the catchy shuffle of “Truckin’” to a rousing, jammed out version of “Johnny B. Goode” to a drum solo that was, indeed, epic, to a melt-in-your-mouth rendition of “Casey Jones” for dessert, DSO proved that they have earned their reputation as the next-best thing to a live Dead show. And really, what could be better for the ultimate Deadheads than masterfully recreating the magic of their idols amidst a riled-up crowd of their own brethren? These six grey-haired dudes are not only keeping the dream alive; they’re living it, too.

Comments
lowenstein
Written by Guest on 2011-03-08 00:36:45
I was at this show and it was truly an amazing night. The atmosphere, lights, sound, vibe and music all melded. One of the best shows I have ever seen . Pure energy!
Awesome!
Written by Guest on 2011-03-08 05:56:10
This band rocks! Great musicians--incredible light show. A fantastic night! :grin
Written by Guest on 2011-03-08 13:23:53
The acoustic bird song and ripple to end the first set was absoulutely beautiful. Thanks Guys
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