Dark Star Orchestra
Live in Baltimore, MD at Pier Six Pavilion – July 29, 2016
Photos & Review by Randy Harris
Over the past 20 years, hundreds of artists have attempted to recreate the spirit and community that were the driving force behind the Grateful Dead. The ability to escape into a world that was completely enrapt in the music, the people on stage and the people around us, was essential to the Grateful Dead Experience. If even one of these aspects is missing from the equation, the Experience is greatly lessened. Few outside of the remaining original members (who have also had trouble at times) have succeeded in the attempt to provide such an Experience. One of those few is still succeeding after 19 years together. Formed in late 1997, just two years after the death of our beloved Jerry Garcia, this one band boldly took on the challenge. Their goal, to go beyond just recreating the Experience and dig deep into our psyches by recreating actual setlists from real Grateful Dead shows. By evoking memories from gigs and tours past, this band seeks to bring the Grateful Dead in all of us to the surface night after night.
Fast-forward. It’s 2016, and Pier Six Pavilion announces that Dark Star Orchestra will bring the Experience to Baltimore. My head swims at even the thought of joining them. Then, one of Baltimore’s favorite hometown bands, The Bridge, is added to the bill. Before we even have time to process the addition, The 8×10 announces an official afterparty with Phoam (A Tribute To Phish)! Show day arrives, and The Bridge rocks hard for a rowdy early crowd. The venue quickly fills up as old friends reconnect and new bonds of friendship are forged over Fordham IPAs. Fans chatter excitedly, wondering which setlist the band was about to recreate. Little did we know that we were in for an original DSO setlist instead!
A “Let It Rock” opener set the tone for a bluesy evening, getting the crowd movin’ and groovin’ right off the bat. This theme continued through most of the first set, aside from a stroll through the beautiful vocals of “Cold Rain And Snow” and “Box Of Rain.” While we caught some great solos during the first set, the band seemed to be keeping things a little close, not taking too many risks. Until… the recognizable opening tones of “Bird Song” finally led us down the rabbit hole. As the band dug deep, the crowd danced and twirled their troubles away, and the first set came to a close with a thunderous roar of applause.
The sun was still sinking when the band came out for set number two, and the heart-warming magic of “Here Comes Sunshine” launched us on our way. A strong “Weather Report Suite” subsided into a beautiful sing-along in the form of “Ship Of Fools.” While already a great show at this point, it was time for the coup de grace. “Around and Around” got the beautiful crowd back in dancing mode, as they worked into “Alligator” and sandwiched a “drums” section in there. Although the band was one drummer short, since Rob Koritz was celebrating the birth of a child, Dino English refused to let it hold him back. The band cruised straight into “Attics Of My Life” and finally ended a ragin’ string of tunes with a magnificent “Turn On Your Lovelight” that included a beautiful Pigpen rant from keyboardist Rob Barraco. With Jerry’s birthday just around the corner, it was more than fitting to encore with “Cat’s Under The Stars.” Their vocal harmonies rang out as the audience sang along and danced to their hearts’ content.
Phoam Afterparty at 8×10
The sea of Baltimore Deadheads dispersed into the night, many of them on their way to one of Baltimore’s favorite local venues, The 8×10. Phoam is made up of musicians who are local to the Baltimore and DC areas. The quartet packed the house and continued our celebration of the art of improvisation. Treating us to many Phish favorites and, as expected, doing them justice, the real treat came in the Chalkdust Torture > Weekapaug Groove-> Crosseyed & Painless-> Weekapaug Groove to finish off the second set. Finally, an encore of “Sneaking Sally” capped off an incredible evening.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Baltimore really knows how to party! Bands simply love to play for a Baltimore crowd, and Dark Star Orchestra came armed and ready with a setlist of their own making. This is one band that continues to do justice to its predecessor and its fans. Patrons of Pier Six Pavilion danced in the aisles, spun around in circles and just let the music take them over. With a band like Dark Star Orchestra on the stage, it is not hard to let the music fill you up and lift you into a state of bliss that is unrivaled in today’s music scene.
Pier Six Pavilion
Set One: Let It Rock, Beat It On Down The Line, Cold Rain And Snow, Box Of Rain, Big River, Loose Lucy, It Hurts Me Too, The Race Is On, Bird Song
Set Two: Here Comes Sunshine, Weather Report Suite, Ship Of Fools, Around And Around > Alligator > drums > Alligator > Attics Of My Life > Turn On Your Lovelight
Encore: Cat’s Under The Stars
Buried Alive > Possum, Limb by Limb, NICU, Wolfmans Brother-> Moma Dance, Llama, Run Like An Antelope, Punch You In Then Eye
Mikes Song > 2001 > Bathtub Gin-> Drowned-> Twist*, Chalkdust Torture > Weekapaug Groove-> Crosseyed & Painless-> Weekapaug Groove
Encore: Sneaking Sally
*With Sunshinr of Your Love jam