FALLS CHURCH, Va. – It is Sept. 8, 1973. The Vietnam War is coming to an end, the Watergate scandal is at its height, Roe v. Wade is dividing national sentiments and the Drug Enforcement Agency is created to enforce newly passed anti-drug legislation. Now picture a packed coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. A thick haze of smoke lingers above a packed crowd who manage to dance and shake despite the lack of space. The band on stage captures the carefree, freewheeling ways of the 1960s in a way that only they can. That band is the Grateful Dead.
It is now 2007 and the Grateful Dead have ceased to exist. However, the spirit and energy of their music are still very alive and well.
Dark Star Orchestra manages to capture the music and the essence of a Grateful Dead concert in a way that is remarkably, and sometimes eerily, similar to the original band.
What Dark Star Orchestra does is astounding. Simply put, they recreate the Grateful Dead.
Dark Star is not the average, run-of-the-mill cover band. The concept behind the band is to take old Grateful Dead set lists, such as the Sept. 8, 1973 concert, and recreate the entire show from start to finish just as the Dead would have done it originally, while using their own instrumental talents to build up the music.
Wednesday and Thursday nights at the State Theater in Falls Church, Va., Dark Star took the audience to 1973. Opening with a short catchy “Bertha” Wednesday, the band went on to play two sets and a triple encore for a total of 28 songs. This is very impressive, considering many Grateful Dead songs last over ten minutes when played live.
Max Montague, a junior at GW, has seen Dark Star before, but said that Wednesday’s show was exceptional.
“It was just non-stop energy. The band really connected with the audience,” he said.
Further adding to the authenticity of the night, Dark Star was joined on stage by Donna Jean Godchaux Mackay. Mackay, who sang with the Grateful Dead from 1971 to 1975, gave a beautiful rendition of “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” and sang lead and backup vocals throughout the night. During a break in the music, Mackay expressed her appreciation for the energy of the audience and how much the band loves to play in Falls Church.
Dark Star Orchestra is a must see band for any classic rock fan. From the very beginning of the show until the last note of the encore, the band dedicates itself to making the music as precise as possible while staying true to the free-flowing jams. If the spectacular music isn’t enough, the energy of Dark Star’s fan base reflects the vibrancy and timelessness of the music. It is vary rare to see 50-year olds mixing socially with 20-year olds in any environment, but at a Dark Star show they are dancing right beside one another.
Dark Star Orchestra provided an eclectic mix of Grateful Dead music and a carefree atmosphere that is hard to find these days.
A line from the Grateful Dead song “He’s Gone” sums up the feeling one gets after a Dark Star Orchestra show:
“Ain’t nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.”