Concert review and set list: Dark Star Orchestra burns bright at the Pageant, Thursday, February 7

Dark Star Orchestra at the Pageant. Photo by Brad Blackburn.

Dark Star Orchestra, recreating the Grateful Dead‘s night at Augusta, Maine in ’84, wore its jam cover-band crown well at the Pageant.

Notching 2,200 shows over 15 years, the band prides itself on “raising the Dead.” Whether it’s faithfully adapting a specific night from the Grateful Dead’s 30 years of touring or cherry-picking from the Dead’s catalogue for a custom set, DSO’s attention to detail allows the audience to blissfully sway the night away.

Unfortunately, my dad, a certified Deadhead who has collected every “Dick’s Picks,” “Road Trips,” and “Dave’s Picks,” didn’t have a story about sneaking into the original show to be redone for the Pageant — the Grateful Dead’s night at the Augusta Civic Center on October 12, 1984 coincided with my big brother’s fourth birthday. With the crowd who showed to Delmar on Thursday night, sporting everything from baby bottles to canes, everyone left with a new tale to tell.

Any pacifiers present weren’t EDM props. Multiple strollers were seen amongst the tie-dyed mass, with moms bottle feeding to the tune of the groove. A few of the ladies were old enough to have been my dad’s parents, but they got up and dipped a hip, proving that age doesn’t apply to a show like this. Of course, all the so-called dancing from the writhing mass of a pit proved that inhibitions definitely don’t apply to hippies.

After ordering a double Jameson — sincere thanks bartender, as you literally doled out a whole glass of it instead — and repeating the eternal mantra, “Long hair, don’t care,” I gradually found myself also participating in the most passive-aggressive of dance-offs.

Only so much fun can be poked at such an enjoyable crowd. With claims of how far they’d driven to dance, “excuse me” regularly heard around the bar and friendly introductions from all corners, the crowd was clearly compose of honest and excellent fans.

Such fans deserved the true-to-form performance put on by Dark Star Orchestra. The band’s eagerness to play kept spilling over into awesome little solos and interludes between each track. Particularly of note was the longer, well-planned drum solo. While technically incorporating two drummers, who both expertly utilized the hand-drum kits, the live syncopation marked one of several high points in the show.

“Good Lovin’,” a cover of the Young Rascals ’66 number-one hit single and the start of the encore, offered another high point as the keys got the entire place swinging. Tied together by the afghan backdrop that seemed to complement everyone’s ensemble under the kaleidoscopic lights, the crowd couldn’t get enough of this incarnation of “Uncle John’s Band.”

Set list (courtesy of

Feel Like a Stranger
It Must Have Been the Roses
On the Road Again
It’s All Over Now
Cumberland Blues
The Music Never Stopped 
Cold Rain and Snow
Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance > Don’t Need Love > Uncle John’s Band > Drums > Space > Playing in the Band Reprise > Uncle John’s Band > Morning Dew 
Good Lovin’
Alligator > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad