Dark Star Orchestra graced the Jannus Live (Landing) stage located in downtown St. Petersburg, FL for a real good time. Ironically, I had just been listening to a Grateful Dead Winterland performance from 2/22/74 (40 years to the date) which was the year when the band played in front of their infamous Wall of Sound that is erected for an October Winterland run as seen in Grateful Dead The Movie. As Bob Weir described in a few interviews, the Wall of Sound was technically challenging and required condenser microphones which were spaced apart and ran out of phase. The vocalist sang into the top microphone, and the lower mic picked up whatever other sound was present in the stage environment. The signals were added together using a differential summing amp so that the sound common to both mics (the sound from the Wall) was canceled, and only the vocals were amplified. Those 1974 recordings always deliver, especially if you can find quality audience recordings which allow listeners to really capture the the Wall of Sound and what it must have been like to be in the audience at the time. The Grateful Dead admitted losing money on the project as it was quite labor intensive for the crew, semi trucks to haul the equipment, etc. Regardless, this is still is an amazing feat from music history.
Jannus Live has been around since 1984 and hosted such notable acts as The Red Hot Chili Peppers (back in 1987), Radiohead, Bad Religion, Janes Addiction, Pearl Jam, Umphreys McGee, The Wailers, G-Love, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Flaming Lips, and Insane Clown Posse. Jannus is a small outdoor venue so many of the more famous bands were seen years ago in their early incarnations. Jannus has a strict midnight sound curfew so the boogie got started in prompt fashion with a Shakedown Street. A Bobby (Rob Eaton) combo of Me and My Uncle>Big River (Johnny Cash) followed which had lead guitarist Jeff Matson (Jerry of the band) shredding some cowboy licks. The old Jimmy Reed tune Baby What You Want Me To Do was next on the setlist. This song was my first indication that this could be an original setlist. I knew from being a Deadbase Geek back in college that Brent Mydland had sung a few back in the 80s and I have the 1982 News Years show where Etta James and the Tower of Power sits in with Jerry and the Boys and plays that number but this was a rare one and DSO played it well. Ramble on Rose and female vocalist Lisa MacKay had the crowd singing and swaying and a solid Black Throated Wind followed. These two are typical songs from many time periods so I was still wondering of a year for this show. I had been dancing hard, so I was rather parched and went to grab a brew when the opening notes of Gomorrah started. This beautiful Jerry ballad was popularized by the Jerry Garcia Band and is on Cats Under the Stars. Now I knew we were in for a fun night of an original setlist and anything goes from DSO. A cover of the Rolling Stones tune All Over Now and Eric Clapton’s Keep on Growing came next. Just like Phil Lesh did, newly acquired bass player Skip Vangelas lends himself well to Keep On Growing which was only performed by the Grateful Dead 3 times in 85-86. This was the first ever performance of Keep On Growing by DSO. Skip even dons a Philesque wristband and orange Alembic bass similar to the one Phil Lesh played in the 1970s and can also be seen in the Wall of Sound footage in Grateful Dead the Movie. Keep on Growing evolved into a HOT Deal which was definitely a Set 1 highlight that should be heard again.
After a short set break, a grooving Feel Like a Stranger got things rolling. Positively 4th Street added to the many cover songs of the night and DSO played one that Jerry and Merle Saunders would have probably enjoyed. A lengthy trio of Estimated Prophet>Uncle Johns Band>Unbroken Chain was flawless and got us back to some Grateful Dead originals. A short interlude of “Drums” (by drummers Dino and Rob)> Space followed and dissolved into a bouncy I Need a Miracle. The Miracle reminded me that one of the locals I know was at a bar before the show and asked me: “Why in the hell do people have a finger in the air before the show when it is not even sold out?” I gave my best explanation but he still seemed rather puzzled. A crowd pleasing Hey Jude came next and the entire crowd that was remaining sang the chorus and had people arm and arm and waving hands in the air. (like yah just don’t care) Sugar Magnolia was a rocker and closed the second set.
Another great thing about DSO is that they may do double or even triple encores and/or throw in “Filler” like us tapers always did when there was extra room on our cassettes. (Remember Maxell points?) I mean why waste the space when you can put on a short acoustic set or a 25 minute NFA>GDTRFB>NFA? DSO pleased the crowd with The Weight and a Werewolves of London that had us howling at the moon in unison. Afterwards, I walked out and went 2 doors down for even more Grateful Dead music. Local cover band Uncle Johns Band was at the Ringisde Cafe in Downtown St. Petersburg. A fun band of good people that re-create the Grateful Dead spirit for the Tampa and St. Pete area. In 2013 they played a streak of shows with no repeats which was fun for them and their Deadicated audience. I enjoyed a great UJB version of Let it Grow before calling it a night! Maybe Dark Star Jubilee will be next on my agenda…… Could be a helluva Memorial Day Weekend and many Deadheads like myself have some fine memories of shows at Buckeye Lake. “The Music Never Stopped”
Set One: Shakedown Street; Me And My Uncle > Big River ; Tom Thumb Blues ; Baby, What You Want Me To Do? ; Ramble On Rose; Black Throated Wind ; Gomorrah ; All Over Now ; ***Keep On Growing > Deal
Set Two: Feel Like A Stranger; Positively 4th Street ; Estimated Prophet > Uncle John's Band > Unbroken Chain > drums > space > I Need A Miracle > Hey Jude > Sugar Magnolia