New Orleans jam fans stepped into a time warp on Thursday with the first late night Jazz Fest performance. As part of the Joy Theater’s “Jazz Fest After Dark” series, Grateful Dead tribute group, Dark Star Orchestra, drew a crowd of tie-dye freaks and grizzly hippies, undoubtedly many of the same faces who attended the Bob Weir show last week. DSO played two back to back shows at the Joy on April 27th and 28th. The first show was a very special set, as it fell on the exact date of a famous Grateful Dead show from 40 years prior. To commemorate the occasion, DSO played the show in its entirety.
Dark Star Orchestra is a fantastically successful cover band of the most famous jam band of all, the Grateful Dead. They hail from Chicago and have been playing together since 1997, emulating and “continuing the Grateful Dead concert experience.” They’ve grown into such a phenomenon that they’ve cultivated a huge following and now have their own festival held in Ohio, Dark Star Jubilee, which is in its 6th year. Almost every original member of the Dead, excluding Jerry Garcia, has performed with DSO on their journey.
The Joy was packed and fans were ready to celebrate with Dark Star, who have now been together for 20 years. The spring of ’77 tour for the Grateful Dead is said to have been one of the most powerful tours they ever played, so the 40th anniversary of the 4/27/77 show was an exciting occurrence in itself. And Dark Star did the performance all the justice it deserved.
Dark Star is nothing less than professional at what they do. The group does their research and brings all the necessary elements to each of their performances. Each member uses the same instruments and equipment used by the Dead. For Thursday’s 40-year-old show, they had everything right down to the Travis Bean TB500 guitar used by Jerry at the time. Apart from mimicking the arrangements and gear of the Dead, Dark Star Orchestra replicates the mellow, flowing sound of the grateful Dead, tones and all. Jeff Mattson, who takes the role of Jerry Garcia, and Rob Eaton, who is the Bob Weir of the group, both reproduce their counterparts’ vocals and musical styles perfectly. Eerily, they even kind of look like Bob and Jerry.
The evening went flawlessly, and DSO brought down the house with their amazing renditions of the Dead’s jams. They played both sets from 1977’s Capitol Theater show, including the encore of “Johnny B. Goode,” which felt just more appropriate than ever with the recent passing of Chuck Berry. The set also started with Berry’s song “The Promised Land.” They added a bonus song to the set, though, and topped off the evening with a performance of a New Orleans favorite, “Iko Iko,” that would have made the Dead proud.
Original 1977 Setlist:
(The Young Rascals cover)