Dark Star Orchestra | 02.10 | Virginia

Words & Images by: James Young

Dark Star Orchestra :: 02.10.09 :: The National :: Richmond, VA

Dark Star Orchestra :: 02.10 :: Virginia
"Richmond is one of those Grateful Dead cities," was the final word on the matter from Rob Eaton, the "Bob Weir" persona of Dark Star Orchestra. For the second time in six weeks the monumental tribute band filled The National, Richmond's newest music hall. These gatherings draw an extraordinary crowd of Deadheads, young and old, eager to soak in the experience of a DSO show. Beyond reproducing shows from the Dead's extensive 30 years on the road, the band and the audience seem to have formed an illusive understanding that together they will recreate the environment that surrounded the Grateful Dead. Outside, vendors sold shirts and posters, while a group of kids far too young to have seen the original band discussed how far across the country they were following DSO. Inside, they were serving Dark Starr Stout, an aptly named brew from Starr Hill Brewery.

The show started early with the band onstage at 7:30 p.m., and as the crowd grew so did the energy in the building. The band would recreate a show from October 14, 1976 originally performed at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The set started with a solid version of "The Promised Land." The National hosts one of the most impressive sound systems on the East Coast and as bassist Kevin Rosen plucked away, the rumble enveloped the room and shook the audience to the core. As they were playing a '76 show, Lisa Mackey joined on vocals for "They Love Each Other." Her presence is powerful and she captures Donna Godchaux masterfully. Of all the songs from '70s Dead, "Ramble On Rose" is a distinctively potent mix of thoughtful lyrics and wailing guitar licks. Guitarist John Kadlecik manages to call forth an impressive Jerry Garcia, as he hit the high notes at the climax of the song, which made the audience sway, eyes closed, transported back to '76. The set ended with renditions of "The Music Never Stopped" and "Scarlet Begonias."

Dark Star Orchestra :: 02.10 :: Virginia
By the end of the first set, the house was completely packed. Lines twisted around the bar areas and bathrooms, and the balcony seats were filled. True to the style of the Grateful Dead, the second set proved to be intense, rich with strong spacey jams. They started with "Minglewood Blues," but it was when they launched into "Samson & Delilah," that the audience went wild. Drummers Dino English and Rob Koritz pounded away like the Rhythm Devils themselves as the crowd jumped and bent to their indulgent beat. They closed out the set with a meandering "Dancin in the Streets" that segued into "Wharf Rat," back into "Dancin" and finally ended with "Around and Around." The audience roared for more, and they got it. Dark Star finished the original '76 set with "Johnny B. Goode." For filler songs the crew brought a mic out for keyboardist Rob Barraco, who sang "Next Time You See Me," a rare and delightful tune. For the final number the band performed "So Many Roads." This song builds patiently and at its peak tugs at emotional chords. Kadlecik's superior Garcia impersonation surrounded the crowd, their hands raised to the sky, gripped with delight.

Satisfied, the audience poured out of the building and into the street smelling of overpriced beer and patchouli. Though the show was over, the impression that Dark Star left will last. In a town of Deadheads the best affirmation that a Grateful Dead cover band can get is the repeated turnout of so many enchanted fans. If they continue to return so will we.

Dark Star Orchestra :: 02.10.09 :: The National :: Richmond, VA
Set 1: Promised Land, They Love Each Other, Cassidy, Peggy-O, Big River, Ramble On Rose, L.L. Rain, Deal, El Paso, Tennessee Jed, Music Never Stopped, Scarlet Begonias
Set 2: Minglewood Blues, Mississippi Half Step, Samson & Delilah, Ship Of Fools, Dancin in the Streets > Wharf Rat > Dancin > Around & Around
Encore: Johnny B. Goode
"Filler": Next Time You See Me > So Many Roads

Continue reading for more pics of DSO in Virginia...

DSO is on tour now, dates available here.

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Deadphishbiscuits Thu 2/26/2009 12:58PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I'm down with the DSO. good show i can imagine. YAY for DSO.

phishspread-aholic starstarstarstarstar Thu 2/26/2009 01:31PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


yeah DSO is a great band. you have to appreciate the hard work they put into each show. caught them in charlotte. great night.

Badgerboy Thu 2/26/2009 02:53PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


caught these guys in ohio a on sunday. great show great time.

achalsey Thu 2/26/2009 03:29PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Hell Yeah, nice article james keep em' coming

mattchu Thu 2/26/2009 03:29PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Too young to have seen the real thing, first time i saw these guys it was pretty dang depressing. Since then its been good shows and good fun, Anyone else feel that?

danalog Thu 2/26/2009 03:52PM
Show -16 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
TheWeight22 Thu 2/26/2009 03:56PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Glad to see the National getting some good pr, sick venue check it out sometime...RICH WHAT

Ter Thu 2/26/2009 04:01PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


danalog - DSO look like dweebs eh! what does that have to do with the music my man - should pay a little less attention to the "attractiveness" of the dudes on stage and instead ENJOY the MUSIC!

Strainger Thu 2/26/2009 05:02PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

^^ Agreed!

Still doing this? I hope they do this until they cant anymore, then another band comes and does it again and again! Keep the Dead spirit alive! Danalog needs to get to a Jonas Bros. show because those guys are soooo cute! What a wanker comment. I dont understand some of these people who post negative comments. Would anyone who likes the Dead go to the Slayer website and comment on how much they suck and need to hang it up? C'mon, get a life and quite trying to voice your opinion...WE DONT CARE!!!!!!

AlephFredHead Thu 2/26/2009 05:30PM
Show -13 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
kandrokitis Thu 2/26/2009 05:55PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


these guys are great at what they do. never had a bad time at a dark star show.

jackiesoup starstarstarstarstar Thu 2/26/2009 07:04PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I would love and can't wait to witness this act. These guys are a blessing for recreating such a special experience. GO DSO!

funkvibes Thu 2/26/2009 08:00PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


as far as copy machines go these guys are probably the best u cant give them creativity but they're most likely the best cover group out there(i cant think of one)(maybe australian floyd but thats it)

Armedaneian starstarstarstar Thu 2/26/2009 09:05PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


With a little imagination and a squint in my eye... it's like I'm at a Dead show! I'll see these guys everytime they come around.

irtimed star Thu 2/26/2009 10:39PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
christophebaise Fri 2/27/2009 03:05AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


DSO must really love playing So Many Roads, and they play it wonderfully

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Fri 2/27/2009 04:05AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

yeah, I can do with out lisa mackey, her dancing in circles is annoying.

maybe she is doing John and keeps her job that way?

really, I love this band, thank goodness we can hear something so close to the real thing. I do love'em.

George W. Bush II starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/27/2009 05:38AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

George W. Bush II

I love them too :)

twist2piper starstarstarstar Fri 2/27/2009 06:17AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Love these guys. If you close your eyes, you are back at the original show.

mattchu Fri 2/27/2009 08:44AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


maby shes doing john? Grow up dude, leave dirty thoughts out of clean music

PCPrabbit Fri 2/27/2009 09:01AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i agree, "donna" is pretty annoying. i still enjoy seeing them. always a good time. but maybe they should find another guy who can do brent and move on to the 80s.

futhepharmer Fri 2/27/2009 09:17AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


having played in Dead cover bands myself, I was hesitant to see these guys.

my feeling was that eh, who needs another GD cover band?

But one of my old-school buddies said that I should go, the scene is good. And I first caught them about 4-5 years ago. Truth was, and is, you can close your eyes and it really sounds authentic. drop a little sumpin' sumpin' and you can really imagine that you are back in time at a Grateful Dead show. as long as you don't open your eyes.

futhepharmer Fri 2/27/2009 09:22AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Donna was, and is, IMO the most annoying decision the Grateful Dead ever made.

Ever been trippin' and listening to some Donna era Dead and during Playing in the Band this terrifying primal screeeeeeech hits your ears like a lightning bolt made of dying animal sounds? You'd be like "what the fuck was that?????"

futhepharmer Fri 2/27/2009 09:24AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


no offense to Donna, she's a fine person and sounded fine when I saw her and the tricksters at a festy last year

Smittea Fri 2/27/2009 11:28AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I can understand covering the Dead, but Donna Jean?!?! That definitely takes a little sumpin' sumpin' to want to pull that off.....

Kaleidoscope Eyes Fri 2/27/2009 01:14PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

These guys kick ass...But why oh why do they need the Donna, She sucked then and when they bring her out it usually takes away from the whole experience (FOR ME, THAT IS)

I hope they steer clear of her at the shows I go to in Colorado, plus I think she is NOT a good personality, I would love to be proved wrong

SplinteredSunlight starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/27/2009 03:42PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Hell yeah! Can't wait for the last leg of the tour up here in Oregon. They always end the run with Eugene- we're stoked! I am so Grateful for this band.

Keep carrying the torch guys!!

fishbassplayer starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/27/2009 05:34PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I've been going to see these guys off and on for a long time. I went to a lot of GD shows, and this is a great band playing great music. The Fillmore in SF on Sat night w/ DSO groovin a sold out house...fun stuff. Also, and you don't need any 'sumthin sumthin' to enjoy the great music they're playing! There's another great GD band called Cubensis from SCal, been around 20 years. They're keyboardist played w/ DSO during their time looking for a perm keyboardist after Scott's death. Very Brent sounding keyboardist. GD bands are keeping the flame alive friends, and that's a good thing!

stonyloop Fri 2/27/2009 09:03PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I've seen these guys and truthfully, why pay for them playing a show that I can easily grab online. I didn't feel much energy from them when I saw them as well. To me the Dead scene is over and to try to recreate it is a feeble attempt that won't happen. Maybe I need to see them again but once again, why pay money when you can actually hear the show from the real band and way better sounding as well? Just my 2 cents.

barnylee starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/28/2009 08:50AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Love DSO! I'm a big fan of tribute bands that know how to put on a great show! DSO are true professionals that have surrounded themselves with fantastic music people to give fans what they want. They pack venues coast to coast because of this. Just covering the Dead isn't enough...they put on a full-fledged production, where I can't wait to see them again. Plus, they were one of the, if not THE highlight of ALL GOOD last year.

WidespreadPhanic Sat 2/28/2009 03:45PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i too was hesitant about the idea of DSO, probably never would have seen them if that hadn't been at a festival I was at, and damn, they blew me away, these guys are really professional and create a very authentic reproduction of what the grateful dead's sound was like, and the musicians add their own flavor to the music which is unique and refreshing.

they are excellent musicians and if before you base an opinion about them go out and see them first, they're good.

oh and danalog yeah you should stick with the jonas brothers you nutsack

helpslipfire Sun 3/1/2009 08:31PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


fake jerrys sucks ,so does Dos

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Mon 3/2/2009 04:42AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

^^ jealous donna? hehe

Jenkem_Garcia Mon 3/2/2009 08:39AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I just want to say that I really liked Donna Jean with the real Grateful Dead. Her vocal improvs on Playin' in the Band were awesome.

DSO: what hasn't been said? Their shows take all of the fun out of the Grateful Dead's music. kind of a grueling experience to try to get through one of their shows.

fordaj Mon 3/2/2009 10:53AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

give it up...listen to some new music.

nothing says douchebaggery like the dark star orchestra or the folks who pay money to see them

Putnameter starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/5/2009 07:15AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


It was one hell of a fucking good show! National rules, DSO rules keep on comin back! DSO @ Innsbrook Sat June 6th!!!!!! Cya there! And mothafuckin ZZ Top May 14th!! Awesome show pics by the way!