Usually when you go to see Dark Star Orchestra you expect to hear them either play a Grateful Dead concert or they’ll play their own set list of Grateful Dead tunes. Well this night was one of those nights neither of those happened and instead the band did a Jerry Garcia Band set from May 20th, 1976 Keystone in Berkeley, CA. This was due to Rob Eaton the rhythm guitarist having to sit out the show due to being ill.
From the moment the first notes of “Sugaree” rang out from Jeff Mattson’s Travis Bean guitar we knew were in for something special. With the show starting about 20 minutes after the announced time, it seemed there were not going to be that many people as the crowd seemed light. As the show progressed well into the third song “After Midnight” the Eureka Theatre became packed. One thing that Dark Star Orchestra has mastered is replicating the sound of the particular time period they are covering as well as putting their own improvisation into the songs – not playing the show note for note. During most of the first set it had a slower blues feel to it but started to pick up during “Friend of the Devil,” then closing off the first set with “Lonesome and a Long Way From Home.”
“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” started off the second set and it was apparent that this set was going to be more energetic. Rob Koritz played the part of Ron Tutt and bassist Kevin Rosen who was John Kahn, kept the backbeat going all night. One of the best moments of the second set was when Lisa Mackey belted out the spacey blues tune “A Strange Man.” During this rendition you heard the crowd react the loudest and at the end they cheered her on for a few minutes. My personal opinion is Mattson shines the most during this period of Jerry and The Grateful Dead. “Tore Up Over You” showcased Mattson’s guitar playing and clocked in around 18 minutes. Ending the set was Jimmy Cliff song “The Harder They Come.” Since there was no encore for this particular set Dino English, the other drummer for Dark Star Orchestra, came out and finished off the night with the Peter Rowan tune “Midnight Moonlight.”