Dark Star Orchestra Recreates 1978 Grateful Dead Concerts In Jamaica

The band used the Dead's May 7, 1978 setlist on Tuesday and went with May 6, 1978 on Wednesday.

By Scott Bernstein Jan 13, 2022 12:45 pm PST

Grateful Dead tribute act Dark Star Orchestra kicked off the ninth installment of their Jamaican Jam In The Sand destination event at Jewel Paradise Cove Resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica with concerts on Tuesday and Wednesday. The band utilized setlists from Grateful Dead shows played in May of 1978 to get Jam In The Sand IX underway.

Tuesday saw DSO take attendees back to Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann’s 32nd birthday with a recreation of the Dead’s May 7, 1978 show at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Field House in Troy, New York. The band, complete with Lisa Mackey singing Donna Jean Godchaux’s parts, began by performing “Jack Straw.” DSO keyboardist Rob Barraco reportedly told the crowd, “It’s a miracle we’re all here” as so many concerts and festivals, including Dead & Company’s Playing In The Sand weekends, have been canceled due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. Guitarist Jeff Mattson then led the group through “Dire Wolf” before a “Mexicali Blues”/”Mama Tried” pairing.

The first set of the event continued with “Tennessee Jed” and Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now.” Next came “Friend Of The Devil” along with a rare “Passenger” ahead of “Brown-Eyed Women” and “The Music Never Stopped” to close the frame. Dark Star Orchestra started the evening’s second set by jamming “Scarlet Begonias” into its usual partner, “Fire On The Mountain.” Then, “Estimated Prophet” gave way to “He’s Gone.” The ensuing “Drums” segment laid the beat for “Iko Iko.” Bassist Skip Vangelas starred on “The Other One” that followed. Next came the ballad “Black Peter” and a high-energy “Around And Around” set closer. Dark Star Orchestra capped the night with a “U.S. Blues” encore and ran out of time for a filler. Tuesday marked the fourth time the band ran through the Dead’s May 7, 1978 setlist and first since March 3, 2010.

Dark Star Orchestra headed back a night on Wednesday as their performance was based on the Grateful Dead’s May 6, 1978 show at the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gym in Burlington, Vermont. Mattson and Rob Eaton exchanged frontman duties throughout the first set with the former singing “Sugaree,” “Peggy-O,” “Loser,” “It Must Have Been The Roses” and “Deal” with the latter leading the group on “New Minglewood Blues,” “Beat It On Down The Line,” “Looks Like Rain” and “Me & My Uncle”/”Big River.”

Eaton fronted DSO for “Samson And Delilah” to get last night’s second set underway. Next, Mackey shined on “Sunrise” before the band kicked off a seamless segment that spanned the rest of the frame with “Terrapin Station.” The title track from the Dead’s 1977 studio album bled into “Playing In The Band.” Dark Star Orchestra’s instrumentalists then left Dino English and Rob Koritz on stage for “Drums” before returning for a trip through “Space.” Finally, “Wharf Rat” emerged out of “Space” and was followed by a set-closing “Sugar Magnolia.” Once again the group went sans filler after performing “One More Saturday Night” as the encore. Last night was DSO’s first time recreating the May 6, 1978 GD setlist since December 11, 2006.

Dark Star Orchestra returns to the stage in Jamaica tonight and closes out the event tomorrow. Melvin Seals & JGB are also on hand for three performances of their own featuring former DSO guitarist John Kadlecik. Los Lobos and Donna The Buffalo round out the Jam In The Sand IX lineup. Watch fan-shot video featuring portions of Tuesday’s “Scarlet Begonias” and “It’s All Over Now” below captured by nognuisagoodgnu below:

Setlists (via Dark Star Orchestra)

Tuesday, January 11

Set One: Jack Straw, Dire Wolf, Mexicali Blues > Mama Tried, Tennessee Jed, It’s All Over Now, Friend Of The Devil, Passenger, Brown Eyed Women, The Music Never Stopped

Set Two: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain, Estimated Prophet > He’s Gone > drums > Iko Iko > The Other One > Black Peter > Around And Around

Encore: U.S. Blues


Wednesday, January 12

Set One: Sugaree, New Minglewood Blues, Peggy-O, Beat It On Down The Line, Loser, Looks Like Rain, It Must Have Been The Roses, Me And My Uncle > Big River, Deal

Set Two: Samson And Delilah, Sunrise, Terrapin Station > Playing In The Band > drums > space > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia

Encore: One More Saturday Night

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