Words by: Brian Bavosa :: Images by: Roger Gupta
Dark Star Orchestra :: 05.08.07 :: State Theatre :: Ithaca, NY
This date is quite possibly the most famous and talked about in the legendary history of the omnipotent Grateful Dead. Enough so, that Ithaca's mayor, Carolyn K. Peterson, officially declared May 8, 2007 "Grateful Dead Day" within the city's limits. Fittingly, Dark Star Orchestra, the Grateful Dead re-creators, rolled into the historic State Theatre, with anticipation running wild all over northern New York.
Dark Star Orchestra
Completely sold out, it was clear from the time we parked the car that this show would be something special. The buzz throughout the town was extremely festive, with tie-dyes abounding and the Grateful Dead playing from nearly every storefront.
As we entered the theatre right around 8 p.m., the band launched into a two-song "soundcheck" of "Dark Star" and "Ripple" followed quickly by the opening chords of "New, New Minglewood Blues." I swear the crowd was loud enough to warrant a blip on NASA's tracking satellites. The train had left the station, and there was no turning back. The full band was on hand - John Kadlecik (lead guitar and vocals), Rob Eaton (rhythm guitar and vocals), Kevin Rosen (bass and vocals), Lisa Mackey (vocals), and drummers Dino English and Rob Koritz. Add in special guest, Rob Barraco (Zen Tricksters, Phil Lesh & Friends) on keyboards, and the lines of past and present seemed blurred for the next four hours.
Other first set highlights included an extremely strong "Jack Straw" with a raucous jam segment and a "Dancin' In The Streets" that left many screams in its wake. I thought the "Dancin'" was solid, but eventually realized most of the yells were for the second set that was in store - possibly the greatest ever.
John Kadlecik - DSO
During the break, I went out back to get some air and had a super conversation with a local man who saw the original show 30 years ago, he even showed me the original ticket stub he had in his pocket. Like Indiana Jones, I felt as if I was holding the Holy Grail. My feet were firmly planted in a town that took almost as much pride in the Dead phenomena as their SF Bay Area hometown.
The band remerged for an opening combo of "Scarlet Begonias" > "Fire on the Mountain" that got the entire crowd locked-in on the same wavelength. Somewhere in the segue between songs, the theatre seemed to leave reality. The sandwich of "St. Stephen" > "Not Fade Away" > "St. Stephen" married the transcendent with infectious drumming, a good sign this music is alive and well after 30 years. The set closing "Morning Dew" was my personal highlight - a communion of delicate power and thunderous shredding by Kadlecik had me about to blow a gasket.
The "One More Saturday Night" encore made me forget that it was Tuesday and work in New York City lay ahead the next morning after a four-hour drive home. As if that wasn't enough, "Terrapin Station," and "Good Lovin'" rounded out DSO's daring, and extremely impressive attempt at recreating the impossible.
Dark Star Orchestra
One of the main reasons Deadheads, Phish fans, and fans of music in general, continue to see the same band again and again is the ritual, the act of communion. For all of the mundane and mediocre moments that one may experience, these are the ones that make us aware of the truly extraordinary potential surrounding us. May 8 was a very successful attempt to recapture the glimpses of an epiphany many felt three decades ago and help create a new one for today's listeners.
Images from: 2.11.07 | Greensboro, NC
05.08.07 | The State Theater | Ithaca, NY
Performing 05.08.77 | Barton Hall | Cornell U, Ithaca, NY
Soundcheck: Dark Star, Ripple
Set 1: Minglewood, Loser, El Paso, TLEO, Jack Straw, Deal, Lazy Lightning> Supplication, Brown Eyed Women, Mama Tried, Row Jimmy, Dancin
Set 2: Scarlet> Fire, Estimated, St. Stephen > NFA > St. Stephen> Morning Dew
Encore: Saturday Night
Filler: Terrapin > Good Lovin'
JamBase | Ithaca
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