Dark Star Orchestra

Live at Crystal Ballroom

Oct. 6, 2013- Portland, OR

Show Review by: Walter McCorkle


Earlier this month on October 5th & 6th, the Dark Star Orchestra, a tribute to the extensive Grateful Dead vault of music, made a 2-night stop at the iconic Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR. My taste buds were already salivating at the idea of hearing a reincarnation of some of the Grateful Dead’s timeless tunes, but in tandem with the unique personality of the Crystal Ballroom, I found myself drooling. Let me start with a brief rundown of the peculiarities and wonders that is the Crystal Ballroom. Sitting atop the third floor of a historic building erected in 1914, the place already exudes character from decades of dancing and revelry. Placed above the rear of the ballroom is a classic balcony that hosts several rows of seats for when your legs get a little noodle-y on you. But to add to the fun, the floor “floats” slightly suspended giving a unique springboard feel beneath your feet as you and your cohorts boogie. A sure fire combination to peak your interests.

The Dark Star Orchestra, known for its replication of past setlists in Grateful Dead history, also configures their own sets from original and frequently covered songs. Such was the case on the first night of the run. The ballroom was packed and getting a little restless when, with the timing of great musicians, the band took the stage. Some murmurings in the crowd as to what songs were going to be played or which year the band was going to play from bounced around here and there. Then the music started, or rather the “Music Never Stopped” began with familiarity as the crowd began to dance. The music stayed fresh and fun, playing some Bob Weir originals as well, and closing with the ever majestic “Terrapin Station”. What really set the show off, however, was the second sets spectacular run of segueing songs that encompassed a variety of tempos and instrumental highlights. Starting with “Unbroken Chain” feeding into a dark and brooding “drums>space” that moved back into a short return to “Chain” and all wrapped up with a “Not Fade Away” (see setlist below for full details). The night came to an end this evening with a fitting “One More Saturday Night”.

Night two offered a throwback to the uprising of the Grateful Dead’s illustrious career. The setlist was originally played back on February 7, 1969 so you know there is gonna be some psychedelic rock n’ roll. The first set blasted off with a tasty “Dark Star” that jammed for over 20 minutes and eased into a stellar “St. Stephen” that featured the unique early years addition of “William Tell Bridge”. Next rockin’ into “The Eleven” and finishing the set with a “Turn On Your Lovelight” that offered a “Pigpen” styled addressing of the audience by DSO’s keyboardist Rob Barraco. Though the song selection seems short, the level of playing never came to a lull and my feet never stopped moving. The second set was highlighted with more great early career songs like “Alligator” that really set the tone for the incredible awe that the crowd was feeling. After an intense jamming session with a “China Cat Jam” thrown in, things began winding down with “And We Bid You Good Night”. This was the end of the Grateful Dead’s formal setlist from the 1969 show, but with some extra time to play, DSO returned to the stage and encored with one of my personal favorite covers “Dancin’ in the Streets” and a “Viola Lee Blues” to wrap the weekend up. What an excellent weekend of music and many thanks go out to the talented band that is Dark Star Orchestra.

*10/05/2013 Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
Original Setlist:Set One: Music Never Stopped > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad > Good Lovin’ ; Mission In The Rain ; Big Iron ; Blow Away ; Althea ; Lazy Lightning > Supplication ; Terrapin StationSet Two: Hey Pocky Way ; Unbroken Chain > Man Smart, (Woman Smarter) > Shakedown Street > drums > space > Unbroken Chain > Saint of Circumstance > Sing Me Back Home > Not Fade Away

Encore: One More Saturday Night

Notes: Skip on bass and vocals. John Dwork on drums and space.

*10/06/2013 Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
Recreating the Grateful Dead’s performance from 2/7/69 Stanley Theatre Pittsburgh, PA
Set One: Dark Star > St. Stephen > William Tell Bridge > The Eleven > Turn On Your Lovelight
Set Two: Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One >Cryptical Envelopment > Death Don’t Have No Mercy ; Alligator > Drums > Drummers’ Chant > China Cat Jam > Jam > Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) > Feedback > And We Bid You Good Night
Encore: Dancin’ In The Streets ; Viola Lee Blues
Notes: Set one was early show. Set two was late show. Skip on bass and vocals. 

 Jason Charme Photography


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