Tag Archives: Dark Star Orchestra

All Good Music Festival: 2012 Preview

This will be our second time covering the All Good Music Festival (the first time was in 2010 – see our coverage here, here, and here). And it’s our second festival of the season (see our recent Summer Camp coverage). The festival is just a few short weeks away now – July 19 – 22. The lineup is really exciting this year, and we’re going to highlight some of the bands here. This year’s lineup is a bit Grateful Dead-centric, at least among the headliners. Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Mickey Hart are all appearing, each with their own band. If only Bill Kreutzmann‘s 7 Walkers was playing, all the remaining members of the Grateful Dead would be making an appearance (the good news is that we’ll be able to see them at Hoxeyville Music Festival this year). Plus, Dark Star Orchestra – one of my favorite bands to see live – will be bringing their brand of Grateful Dead fun to the stage. Here’s a bit about each of the above bands, plus a few more (Hint: The Flaming Lips!!).

Phil Lesh & Friends

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQg2mY7xMLk&w=560&h=315]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Passenger”

Phil Lesh & Friends get second billing for the festival, after The Allman Brothers Band, and they are the band I’m most excited to see. For me, the big question with Phil and Friends is… Who will the Friends be? Phil Lesh has been putting together bands under this moniker since 1999. Many famous and respected players have with Phil Lesh & Friends – Trey Anastasio, Steve Kimock, Warren Haynes, Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, and more.

Lesh has played with two different lineups this year. In February, Phil Lesh & Friends played a three night run with a lineup I’d love to see at All Good: Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals), Jackie Greene (guitar, keyboards, vocals), John Scofield (guitar), Joe Russo (drums), and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards). All the shows are available on the Live Music Archive. Lesh also did some shows in April at his new venue Terrapin Crossroads with what he terms as the classic Phil Lesh Quintet: Lesh, Haynes (guitar), Rob Barraco (keyboardist), Jimmy Herring (guitar), and John Molo (drums). Haynes and Barraco will both be at All Good as it is – Haynes with The Allman Brothers Band and Barraco with Dark Star Orchestra. So I think there’s a good chance those two will be among the Friends. Maybe Jackie Greene, too? A man can hope…

Here’s the February 2012 incarnation of Phil and Friends playing “Passenger”, a tune Lesh wrote back in the late 70s when he thought the Grateful Dead needed a few more rockers in their repertoire. They retired the song in 1981, but Lesh has brought it back, and it’s getting a lot of play now. And, indeed, it does rock.

Bob Weir & Bruce Hornsby with special guest Branford Marsalis

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KYMiZpIYfI&w=560&h=315]

Bob Weir & Bruce Hornsby – “Hell In A Bucket”

Prepare to break out your jazz hands, people. Bob Weir and Bruce Hornsby have done a few shows together already this year (see the video above) This time, they’re bringing another heavy hitter with them: Branford Marsalis, the legendary jazz saxophonist and brother of famed trumpet player Wynton Marsalis. Both Marsalis and Hornsby have played with the Grateful Dead in the past (Marsalis as a featured guest, Hornsby as a temporary member of the band after Brent Mydland died), and both bring significant bodies of their own work to the table as well.

I imagine the show will be something like this video of “Hell In A Bucket”, but with Marsalis adding his voice to the mix. But who knows? It’s unclear from their listing what the band’s make up will be. But there could be a drummer and a bass player, too. Crosby, Stills, and Nash had a drummer and a bass player. They just didn’t get a name check. It could be the same with Weir, Hornsby, and Marsalis (which I believe I just coined, btw). In the meantime, check out the Weir & Hornsby video.

Mickey Hart Band

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoPmx6eXOMQ&w=560&h=315]

The Mickey Hart Band Winter Tour 2011/2012

“So we’re going to go out there… enjoy the ride.” That’s how Mickey Hart starts off this video highlighting his band’s Winter 2011/2012 tour. And it looks like they do a good amount of space exploration, but in a way the kids can keep bouncing to (different, in my opinion, than the Drums/Space sequence Deadheads came to know and love/hate). They are also doing some of their own songs, plus a half dozen or so Grateful Dead tunes every show. Here’s hoping we get a “Fire On The Mountain” (Hart co-wrote it) and a “Not Fade Away” at All Good…

The Flaming Lips

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej9T3KrwYW0&w=560&h=315]

The Flaming Lips – Hangout Music Festival 2012 (Including Dark Side of The Moon)

My personal obsession with all things Grateful Dead aside, The Flaming Lips alone are reason enough to go to All Good this year. What if they play Dark Side of the Moon? Do you want to risk missing it? Then there’s the giant ball Wayne Coyne rolls around in, walking/crawling on top of the audience. Do you want to miss that? Because that’s what they did at Hangout Music Festival, which you can see for yourself above. They did Dark Side, and Coyne rolled across the audience in his giant transparent bubble boy ball (be sure to watch them inflate the ball, too).

The video above captures their entire Hangout Music Festival set. They do a few great Flaming Lips songs before they get to the Pink Floyd record. First was a joyous “Race for the Prize”, the first track off Soft Bulletin. They also did “She Don’t Use Jelly”, “The Yeah Yeah Song”, and “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”.

Fair warning: There’s a lot of swearing in the banter with the audience. Which I enjoyed, and you probably will, too, but I just wanted you to know in advance.

The Pimps of Joytime

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h91q-xUGdY&w=560&h=315]

The Pimps of Joytime – “Janxta Funk”

While we’re off the Grateful Dead path for a moment, I thought I’d also mention The Pimps of Joytime. The first time I saw them was at All Good in 2010, and I’ve managed to catch them at a few other festivals as well. They are an engaging live funk band, and just plain fun. Truth be told, many Deadheads have an affinity for classic 70s funk, so I’m not really treading too far off the Grateful Dead path here. The Pimps have sprung from that fertile 70s ground. You can hear George Clinton and James Brown in what they do. Above is the video for the title track off their 2011 album, Janxta Funk!.

Dark Star Orchestra

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWtC9_9vXC4&w=560&h=315]

Dark Star Orchestra – “Looks Like Rain”

Dark Star Orchestra is an All Good regular, and are always a crowd favorite at the festival.  The video above is from Gratefulfest 12 (in 2011 – it’s a little bit confusing. All because they started that particular festival in 2000).

So that’s only a small sampling of the artists that will be playing at All Good this year. Michael Franti, Greensky Bluegrass, and Galactic, for example, are also playing. The festival is also at a new site this year – Legend Valley in Thornville, OH – which makes it a bit more of an adventure this, since it will completely new to us. And it’s a much shorter drive for us now. Hopefully we’ll see you there. Tickets are still available. Get one while you still can!

Dark Star Orchestra Live in Detroit


Dark Star Orchestra at the Majestic Theater
Detroit, February 9, 2012

Detroit in February is cold. Not necessarily a place you want to visit. But on a windy and bitter Thursday night, music hungry deadheads converged on the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Dark Star Orchestra was in town. And the audience got what they came for: two sets of well articulated, passionately played Grateful Dead music. A little bit of summer for a short 3 hours to help us through the tail end of a Michigan winter.

It was my first time at the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Despite the cold and the wind, the line into the venue was practically around the block at its longest, right after they opened the doors. In reality, the long line wasn’t actually to get in. It was to get a wristband if you wanted to drink (the show was 18 and over). At least in Michigan, people are willing to tolerate a little blast of cold if it means they can get their drink on the rest of night.

I got in early enough that I got to see the venue floor relatively empty. Like any place with a bar and live music, it wasn’t the cleanest place in the world. And it’s pretty drab inside. No balcony, no architectural touches to marvel at. To top it off, without a balcony or a graded ground floor, there are really no good sight lines to the stage unless you’re pretty close to the front.

That said, once the music gets going, the Majestic is a nice venue. The sound is pretty balanced, not a lot of reverb off the walls, and it accommodates a crowd of 1,600+ while keeping easy access to the bars, which line the back wall and one side of the venue. Never a long line when you need a thirst quencher.

The set lists for this show are outstanding. There’s not a “I think I’m going to go get a beer” song in the bunch. The band kicked off the first set with Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land,” a common opener for the Dead. This was followed by a rockin’ “Sugaree,” then Bobby’s country masterpiece, “Mexicali Blues.”

With those song selections, it felt like a 77 show to me at that early stage. Maybe that’s because I had been listening to the 1977 Mosque show, which was just released as Dave’s Picks, Vol 1, in my car on the way to the show. In any event, that turned out not to be the case. It was actually a show from 1973 – March 22 at Utica Memorial Auditorium. Just weeks after Pigpen died, and during Mickey Hart’s hiatus from the band. It was a transitional year in Grateful Dead history. Pigpen was gone, the repertoire was expanding in several different directions, and they were still adjusting to Mickey’s absence.

Both set lists had a strong country flavor to them, beginning with “Mexicali Blues” as the third song in the first set, which also included the George Jones classic “The Race is On” and Marty Robbin’s “El Paso.” The second set rounds things out with “Big River” plus “Me and My Uncle.”

And it wasn’t just a country celebration, of course. The first set crescendoed with a “China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider” sequence followed by a “Playin’ In The Band” that left the crowd exhausted and ready for the set break. And the second set was dominated by a rocking “Truckin’ -> The Other One -> Eyes of The World” sequence, which wound down with a soothing “China Doll.”

“You Ain’t Woman Enough” was a particular treat. It was the biggest surprise of the show. I’ve always enjoyed Donna’s singing, but you don’t see her take the lead vocal spot very often. With Dark Star Orchestra, it’s always a treat when Lisa Mackey (who plays the Donna Jean Godchaux role in the band) gets center stage. So I’m glad they picked this particular show to cover. Really an inspired choice.

The band, as usual, was outstanding. Only one of the drummers — Dino English — played the show, since the original show was sans Mickey Hart. The arrangements are tight when they need to be, and they know how to inhabit a jam. And they’re good at bringing the crowd with them, which, to be fair, is pretty easy since we’re all a bunch of easily excitable deadheads, and we know all the cues, and all the lyrics.

This show was early in a 25 show tour for these guys. They tour relentlessly. Always on the road. I don’t know how they do it. Take a look at their tour schedule. Granted, some are 2013 dates, but still… These guys are one of the hardest working bands on the jam band touring circuit. And that’s saying a lot. They are extremely tight. Go see them if they’re coming around your way.

Photos by Mike Vasquez. See more here.

All Good Report: Day 1

All Good FestivalAll Good Festival: Day 1

Marvin’s Mountaintop, West Virginia, July 8, 2010

All Good kicked off with a night of homage to the spirit that infuses every jam band festival, the long departed, fondly remembered, and still crucially important Grateful Dead. Former Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux opened the musical celebration, one of several former Dead members scheduled to take the stage this weekend. While many in the audience are here for Friday’s four-hour scheduled performance by Further, Thursday night was the warmup that may overshadow that headliner.

Continue reading All Good Report: Day 1

Channeling the Dead: Dark Star Orchestra in DC

Dark Star Orchestra in DC

Dark Star Orchestra at the 9:30 Club

Washington, D.C., November 13-14, 2009

Dark Star Orchestra played two outstanding shows at the 9:30 Club in D.C. in November. Friday’s show (Friday the 13th! Spooky!) replicated a Grateful Dead show from 1976, and Saturday was a “roll your own” show, with the band putting together their own set lists. Both shows were good, and the first night was great. The crowd was inspired both nights, singing along with all the songs, and the band played like it was a special occasion. Someone I spoke to on the second night – a guy who had seen 30 Dark Star Orchestra shows – said Friday night was the best Dark Star Orchestra show he’s seen.

Continue reading Channeling the Dead: Dark Star Orchestra in DC