Dark Star Orchestra on the Jersey Shore

The weather was beautiful as we walked through the historic Stone Pony nightclub on our way to the venue’s outdoor stage. I told my friends on the train down to show that I really wanted to see them play a ’70s show. It was just my poor luck that the band decided to play a show from 1992. That would be strike one against the band, but they never made it to strike two.

Photo by friedpixphoto

Touch Of Grey opened the precedings, and it was clear that everything I heard about the band was true. John Kadlecik sounded exactly like Jerry, both vocally and on lead guitar. And the rumors were true about Rob Eaton. Bobby was great last week, but DSO’s Rob Eaton sang his tunes with more passion and played the chords with more verve than the real thing. I must say, it was pretty funny hearing new full-time DSO member Rob Barraco playing over synth’d sounds on his keyboard just like Vince Welnick. Who would have ever thought someone would be imitating Vince?! Rob did an incredible job of making me forget he was channeling Welnick, thankfully.

The first set was fairly laid back, which was what the beautiful outdoor setting on the shore required. Thanks to the mobile internet, my friends were able to identify the show pretty quickly, and informed me I was seeing 5/21/92 from Cal Expo.

Once the second set started, the band took off the training wheels. Scarlet > Fire was when it was time for me to close my eyes and be transported back in time. They absolutely nailed both tunes, and the jam in between songs was scorching. Everyone was having a good time, and the happiness was contagious. With every note, the Dark Star Orchestra impressed me more and more.

Photo by Spector1

My favorite part of the show was the jam out of He’s Gone. Every member of the band accentuated each other’s playing, creating a meshed sound that showed true teamwork. The ’92 version of the Grateful Dead would have been extremely jealous of what we were hearing. Kadlecik would start a phrase and bassist Kevin Rosen would finish it, as if they had been playing together for 30 years. I was bummed when the jam ended and Drums/Space started.

Some people, I think, are into Drums > Space. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now. Not to take anything away from the drummers, who were amazing, but it just took the wind out of my sails. I got over it, and so did the band when they returned to finish the set with a blistering Watchtower followed by Standing On The Moon.

What surprised me most was how well Kadlecik handled the ballads. My biggest problem with Dead cover bands is that no one can come close to emoting like Jerry Garcia. Kadlecik, by far, did the best imitation of anyone I’ve heard before. Standing On The Moon was glorious, especially given the magnificent setting. Everyone in the audience was reaching out for their loved ones as Kadlecik wailed on the “be with you” line. Then he stepped away from the mic and ripped a solo that would have made ol’ Captain Trips smile.

Photo by friedpixphoto

Throughout the show I would look around and just see the goofiest permagrins on everyone’s faces. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a crowd enjoy a show so much. Eaton did a fabulous job of hitting all the high notes in Lovelight, as the show came to a close. The band followed up with a Gloria / So Many Roads encore that kept the emotions high before they called it a night.

In the end, all that really matters is the music, and the Dark Star Orchestra couldn’t have come closer to portraying the genuine article. Some people want to see Dead-related bands cover new ground, but then you get disasters like Mickey Hart rapping Fire On The Mountain or Bobby chanting Eyes of the World. Sometimes you just want to see the music you’ve grown up with, played the same way you originally saw it.

When you get those pangs, check out DSO. You’ll be smiling for days.

07/14/2007 The Stone Pony Outdoor Stage, Asbury Park NJ

Set 1: Touch of Grey, Wang Dang Doodle, Row Jimmy, Me and My Uncle >Maggie’s Farm, Birdsong

Set 2: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain, Estimated Prophet > He’s Gone > Drums/Space > All Along The Watchtower> Standing On The Moon > Turn On Your Lovelight

Encore: Gloria

Filler: So Many Roads
Originally performed at 05/21/1992 Cal Expo Amphitheater, Sacramento CA

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0 Responses

  1. twas a great show, some jerk kept yelling out all the songs before they played em………..damn that webnetter

    i saw them play an original show a few months back…..kinda wish they left d->s out of an original setlist.

  2. Had a great time when i caught these guys a few months back at the Keswick Theatre in glenside pa. They opened with an inspired Feel Like a stranger (that was tighter than any i ever heard by the dead) and never looked back.

    always a fun nite out on the town, thats for sure.

  3. Been seeing DSO since June 1998…and while I haven’t caught many shows lately, I can’t think of a better derivative act in the history of music (and I mean that as a compliment). The trick, I’ve always found, is that you can’t take it too seriously, and once you get over that hump, an easy obstacle to climb, then you’ve got a great night out every time.

    I miss the days of Martyr’s, I really do.

  4. I don’t get it. Why would talented musicians want to recreate a Dead show? I’m sure the shows are a good time especially for those who never saw the Dead and it’s probably a good place to see friends and hangout, but I have to wonder if these guys are capable of anything else but recreating someone elses work and a lot of them cover songs at that. So DSO is recreating the Dead’s cover versions. What wasted talent.

  5. Well hey now dude. Fake Bobby has a name and he is not imitating Bob Weir. This is the real deal. How would you like me to call you the Fake ScottyB. Get a grip on yourself or go home.

  6. Man in Green, what’s your deal? Are YOU the fake Bobby???

    I agree – DSO is awesome if you want to see a GREAT dead cover band. They do it better than anyone could (other than the original band). Can’t wait to catch them in Amsterdam!!!

  7. If I got to be as good as Rob Eaton on guitar, you could call me whatever you wanted. I’d take the trade off.

  8. No im just a fan and consider myself a friendand it kind of bothers me when i hear people casually refering to DSO members as fakes. The truth is that if you really love TGD and understand the music and how it has developed over the years you can see that DSO plays our music their own way and is carrying the torch and taking it Furthur. They put lots of money into quality equipment and have invested millions to make it all happen. Rob and the boys work really hard to share their music wih us. They are on record setting pace for shows performed. Yes topping “the original band”. Im sure you know that TGD was a cover band too. I totally agree ScottyB. Eaton is amazing. But just remember to be careful with your words. He might be good on guitar but im 100% sure he has feelings and doesnt appreceate when he is refered to as fake bobby. First his name is Rob. Second, he is not trying to copy anyone. To play th rhythym guitar properly to TGD you just gotta move like that. He is not the only one that look bobbyesqe when playing. Peace and love, Phil mon

  9. I would imagine you develop a pretty thick skin playing in a cover band, and that it would take more than reading the phrase “Fake Bobby” (especially when followed by 11 paragraphs praising the fuck out of his band) to set Rob Eaton off.

  10. With that said. Im glad you have been converted and broken in properly. It was a classic show and i am thrilled you could come to appreciate it. I love seeing Deadheads become Starheads. Just make sure you dont give out the information you get off your little iphone and annoy me by yelling out the setlist. Have fun party take good care and ill meet you on the run. Phil

  11. Thanks Phil

    The_Rick and I were having a fun game of name the next tune, when our buddy came running up to us with the setlist on his smartphone so I know exactly what you are talking about.

    I’d love to see these guys play an original setlist next time, I like how they mix in JGB tunes during those shows.

  12. Yeah i am partial to originals myself. Allows for more feeling and creativity. I hope you get to see an original next time around… But i have to say that they are all good. Every show i heard anyway.

  13. Hey fake Scotty B. I’m glad you finally broke your DSO cherry. By the way that fake Bobby guy does Bobby better than Bobby. Real Creskin out.

  14. I went to school in Chicago, but I’m from NY originally. My first time at Martyr’s was June 1998, and then I spent many many many many good Tuesday nights with DSO. I probably saw 40-50 DSO shows in my day, because really, what was there to do on a random Tuesday night but head on down to the city and catch a LIVE DEAD SHOW?!

    I actually wrote this piece on them in November 1998 — crazy to think it was that long ago. I think John is the only member left that I saw in those days.


    Ha, that article sucks, but I was 19 at the time, so I’m giving myself a free pass.

  15. Ace – saw them a bunch back in 1998 @ Martyr’s too. Good times. I was blown away, and could not believe how few people were there. That period where they were basically a secret was fantastic. Drink specials, re-entry, room to get down…

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