Dark Star Stories: The Greek – 07/13/1984


The Dark Star encore of 7/13/84 has become the stuff of Grateful Dead legend. It was Friday the 13th and there was a full moon, and in a legendary venue, as the band fired up the first “Star” in 167 shows, a shooting star streaked through the night sky over the Greek Theater.

More than a few people I have spoken to who were in attendance confirmed this:

“Yes, I absolutely did see the shooting start at the song’s intro. It whistled through the sky and disappeared behind the eucalyptus trees lining the Greek. MANY people saw it, and it took our breath away (a serious murmur went through the crowd). There’s no way Jerry could have set THAT up!”

First verse begins right away, barely a minute into it. Jerry’s voice is rough around the edges by this point, but he finds the notes. The jam that follows is gorgeous. Phil is an absolute monster here, he drives the spacecraft, allowing the rest of the band to find their footing. Jerry plays some interesting runs, working off the interplay with Brent and Bobby.

In a time when we can compare versions of Dark Star with a click of a mouse, a lot of people are quick to criticize this Star’s lack of exploration. Like comparing a solid Cabernet Sauvignon with a fine vintage of Château Latour, the Greek encore Star isn’t a dramatic, galactic odyssey like 11/11/73 or 8/21/72. It’s also very different than the MIDI-laden Stars of the post 1989 breakout. It’s more akin to a breezy and free Birdsong or Eyes of the World – more jamming and fewer sonic peaks and valleys. No major spacey melt-downs, but plenty of inspired playing. There are some tantalizing moments just after the second verse, that hint at some deeper space to follow, but sadly, it dissolves slowly and exquisitely into the night.

My only complaint is Brent’s tinkly “bell” sound he’s using on his keyboards. By the time he starts to experiment with different patches, the song is already almost over. Also, on the SBD version I have, Garcia’s guitar is a little low in the mix.


I know that I am not alone in this, but 7/13/84 was one of the first shows that I collected. I don’t remember who sent it to me, but I only had the second set. It blew me away. It wasn’t until I discovered the Live Music Archive many years later that I finally heard the first. I can’t lie though, I skipped ahead and listened to Dark Star first and I got goosebumps, imagining the anticipation that ran through that crowd; the full moon, the shooting star, and the transitive nightfall of diamonds…

Thanks to my friends Phil, Craster, and to Jim Powell for his fantastic Dark Star Document (which can be found here)

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12 Responses

  1. Not necessarily my favorite…but 5/11/72 is the longest Darkstar, no? If I remember correctly it was cut on the tape I received so long ago…

    Either way, this is a killer topic, looking forward to more!

  2. Dark Star boring>????? I think not. That is one of the greatest musical journeys ever. Jerry is cursing you right now. :o)

    If you get confused listen to the music play

  3. I was there that night. It was my first Dead show. I was 23 years old. It was amazing, and the shooting star made the whole thing magic. The guy behind me said “Special effects courtesy of God!”.

  4. Yes was there too, big night, all of the above plus I had fought a fire on a mountain in Marin Cty that day and they played it too. My life changes from that day, I can still trace roots to that concert! I dreamed jerry was gathering his kids the other night and I was glad to be there!

  5. One of my favorite 2nd sets when I 1st started going to shows in the 80s. Yeah, the Fat Man got the vereses mixed up and forgot some words in the Touch Of Grey (and elsewhere) but this set SMOKES! By the way, no one calls it “Star” and they never did.

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