For Dark Star Orchestra, the last fifteen years have brought with them a slew of changes. From lineup switches to the hardships of dealing with the loss of a founding member (Scott Larned), there have been many obstacles for the Grateful Dead tribute act. Thankfully, the group has persevered and is continuing its mission of delivering the Dead‚??s music to a new generation of fans, including its annual pre-Thanksgiving romp happening next Wednesday at Penn‚??s Peak (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe).
Obviously, our fans love going there because every time we come there, they pack the place, keyboardist Rob Barraco said of the seven-year tradition. It‚??s a really beautiful place to play. It‚??s got an amazing sound and they treat us wonderfully there. The backstage scene there is really gorgeous for us. We get there and we‚??re really happy to be there. A lot of places aren‚??t like that. You walk backstage and you‚??re like ‚??Oh no, not this again.‚?? It‚??s always a pleasure going there for us. We always seem to play a brilliant show every time we go there.
As its fans know, DSO shows can go one of two ways: recreating an entire Dead show from a certain date or a DSO elective set, which allows the band freedom to play Dead material in any order they choose. The elective shows are finding a more frequent spot in set lists, which is something that tends to bring out more energy in the venues.
I have no idea what (Rob Eaton, guitar and vocals) has in store for this tour, he said. I haven‚??t gotten any kind of a list from him yet. I usually will get something a couple days before the tour. I‚??d say every four shows we seem to do an elective, which works really well for us and really well for the fans.
Whatever the band brings for Penn‚??s Peak, it will certainly live up to the long-standing Dead policy of using the music as a vehicle for exploration. Paying homage to that belief has helped DSO be graced with sit-ins from Grateful Dead members, including Bob Weir and Donna Jean Godchaux. During a recent West Coast tour, the Dead‚??s bassist, Phil Lesh, made a surprise appearance with DSO at The Fillmore in San Francisco, marking the first ever collaboration by Lesh and DSO.
I think that with me joining Dark Star, and with me reuniting with (Lesh) this past year for The Q (Lesh, Barraco, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring and John Molo) and a few other shows, I think Phil has respect for me, Barraco said. I think in his head he‚??s saying ‚??S--t, well if Barraco is doing this thing, there‚??s got to be something to it.‚?? I‚??ve played hundreds of shows with Phil, and he knows that I wouldn‚??t just get involved with something lightly. ‚?ĽOur plan was to play the first two songs and then introduce him. He looked at the set list and was like ‚??Oh, this is a great set list. I think I‚??ll just play the whole thing.‚?? We were like ‚??OK.‚?? He got up there and did exactly what I hoped he would do, and that is to play in the band. I realized after the first half a song that out of all the hundreds of shows I‚??ve played with him, it‚??s the first time I‚??ve played with him where he wasn‚??t the leader of the band. He was just an equal member. He was amazing and brought the very best out of everyone in the band.
While Lesh won‚??t be in the mix for Jim Thorpe, the music he helped create will be the guide for DSO and its fans, all of whom will be working together to make the annual celebration the perfect way to kick off a holiday weekend.
Penn‚??s Peak seems to bring out the very best in us, he said. I have no doubt in my mind that we‚??re going to walk in and blow the doors off that place, as we always do, because the energy in there is tremendous, the fans love the place, and the sound is incredible. We‚??re super psyched; it‚??s one of our favorite places to play.
Dark Star Orchestra, Nov. 21, doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m., Penn‚??s Peak (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe). $24 advance, $29 day of show.