A little bit further than: You've gone before.
Like the Grateful Dead before them, Dark Star Orchestra is a catalyst for community. Its success in this role was apparent long before the show began at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale last night.
Outside the venue, an hour before showtime, the event was well unde rway -- the parking lot was buzzing with chatter, laughter, and song. Vendors were displaying their wares while catching up with friends, old and new. Jokes were being cracked and memories shared in the long line for tickets.
Once inside, it was clear that if not every ticket had been purchased, plenty had been. The capacity of the venue was challenged. Despite the limited elbow room, or perhaps because of it, the joyful crowd entered together into that sacred space that could be called "Grateful Dead," the sounds of whom were being provided beautifully by Dark Star Orchestra.
Balloons bounced atop the undulating, smiling crowd as the band kicked off the night with "U.S. Blues" and then a red-hot version of "the Music Never Stopped." When the sweet "Crazy Fingers" appeared in the third slot, many heads began to guess, with gladness, that we were getting a replicated show from the late '70s. The set list from last night was taken from a show the Dead played at Tower Theater in Philadelphia on June 22, 1976. And it was a beauty.
The first half of the performance featured a good amount of slower, heavier tunes. And the band did well communicating the emotional depth of those songs. There was a sense of anticipation, though, for some second-set heat, which came to funky fruition.
The second half opened with a blistering "Playing in the Band," which ascended with furious, rhythmic, elasticity until unfolding into an amorphous avant-garde space, which gradually formed into a powerful rendition of "The Wheel."
Bound to cover just a little more ground, the second set rolled along, never letting up. A gut-punching "Samson and Delilah" was followed by a cheer-inducing, lively "Eyes of the World." "Dancin' in the Street" brought about, well, dancin' in the club. And the set closed with a rockin' "One More Saturday Night."
After leaving and returning to the stage for the standard encore, the band first announced that it'd be heading to Jamaica the following day for a jamming vacation with Keller Williams at Jam in the Sand. Good-hearted envy filled the room. They added that the Dead did not play an encore on June 22, 1976... "But that never stops us." The night concluded with a sweet-as-could-be "Ripple."
A nice moment: A man tripped while going up a step. Noticing this, a nearby barefoot, dancing hippie put on one of his rope sandals to mop up whatever beer may have spilled. After approaching the scene of the trip, he happily reported: "Didn't spill a drop!"
By the way: Dark Star Orchestra will be holding its annual Dark Star Jubilee festival this coming May. Among those scheduled to perform are Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, a County Grind favorite.
Listen to the Grateful Dead's June 22, 1976, set at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia below or at their archives.