Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nightfall of Diamonds

This blog has been unforgivably barren of late.  Thankfully, my pal Mezlo decided to pick up the slack.  Hit the jump to read him review a DSO show we recently attended and weigh in on the value of tribute bands in general.  

The Dark Star Orchestra

I wonder how many times Lisa Mackey twirled around on the evening of December 28.  Definitely over a hundred.  Maybe over a thousand.  Whatever the number, her twirling was hypnotic and the audience was entranced.  Lisa Mackey is the female voice for the Grateful Dead Tribute Band, "Dark Star Orchestra".    She covers Donna Jean Godchaux’s soprano that harmonized with Jerry during the mid 70’s; a time that is arguably the Grateful Dead’s most powerful era.

Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free . . .

Because of my birth in the cursed decade of excess, and barring some unthinkable technological advances, I can never experience the Grateful Dead in their prime.  I’ll never see Donna Jean twirl next to Jerry.  But, after experiencing DSO a few weeks ago, I question what I am missing, if anything at all.  DSO takes the classic frameworks and setlists from specific shows in the Grateful Dead’s past and plays them as if they were their own.  The musicians are top notch.  The sound quality is unmatched.  The electric atmosphere removes the audience from reality and allows them to melt into the scene – forgetting that they are seeing a cover band.  The music, the crowd and the show are enjoyed by the entire crammed arena. 

Penn's Peak, in Jim Thorpe (PA), is an excellent live music venue

Dark Star sums it up nicely during this interview from ‘07

While many old timers, music snobs and faux audiophiles turn their noses up to the idea of a “tribute” band, I stand by the idea that Tribute bands are saving the original experience that many still long for.  Call it blasphemy, but some of these legendary bands (i.e. Grateful Dead . . .) have lost the energy and synergy that they once had.  Other bands (Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd) have replaced late members with new blood, and some are too costly/infrequent (Rolling Stones) to regularly enjoy.  For these reasons, the tribute band is a necessary gift that should be appreciated by all.

So please, let me recommend a few experiences, for those skeptics.

G.E. Smith maintains the tight (and I think better) rhythm licks of Bob Weir, but can’t quite keep up with the 180 bpm that Jerry put down.  Nonetheless, Great Caesar’s Ghost will blow you away.

While Roger Waters is a must-see, Pink Floyd Experience maintains all the grandeur, showmanship and acoustic quality with a more accessible tour schedule. 

And almost as good as being at the Beacon in March, The Brothers of the Road Band create an atmosphere and a sound that rivals that latest conglomeration of Allman Brother members. 

So I urge you to mark up your calendars with the tributes’ schedules alongside the originals.  Having even more dedicated fans can only make the experience better . . . Looking back, I can wonder how many twirls Donna Jean would have done in her prime, but I’d rather watch Lisa Mackey and forget about the question altogether.

 She's a twirlin' just for you Jon.  Thanks for kicking this blog back into gear.   

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