Friday, June 5, 2015

DSO at the Wilbur 2015

Dark Star Orchestra looks like they may last as long as the band they emulate, and I believe they've already played more shows than the Dead did.  They are true road warriors who never stop touring.

Their Spring 2015 tour ends with a show in Boston and two at Hampton Beach this year (though the "Summer" tour starts soon after that).  We would have grabbed tickets to all three, but we realized that getting to Hampton Beach for an after-work Friday concert would be a hassle-rich proposition, and so were glad to settle for tickets to just the Boston show and the Saturday show in New Hampshire.

On June 4th, did the Wilbur routine of meeting at Sarah’s (and Dave’s) building’s garage and walking down to Jacob Wirth's for dinner, this time on a lovely and temperate Spring day after a cold and rainy spell.  I detoured to the Wilbur box office to exchange our on-line ticket chits for real tickets.  Though they were not yet officially open, a woman at the box office was glad to oblige and to give me advice on which doors opened when.

After dinner at Wirth’s we were subject to more of their friendliness, gabbing with the ushers and hanging out to enjoy the scene.  Of course, where we were hanging out was first in line to get in, since we knew the system.  We had considered grabbing balcony seats but realized that wouldn’t be allowed … we had bought "standing room pit" tickets and so had to "settle" for front of the stage again(!) after a short 20-minute wait outside.  This time we settled in right between where RobE and Skip would stand.

The place started filling up slowly, and soon the hordes were cramming in the doors.  We had gotten a couple of $15(!) beers (24-ouncers of Harpoon IPA at least), and enjoyed conversations with other Deadicated types while waiting.  As opposed to earlier (like at the JRad show), the anticipation of Dead nation for the upcoming Fare Thee Well shows seems to have mellowed.  Everyone is still just as eager, but there’s less angst over who got tickets and who’d be going or not, though all agreed that Chicago will be beyond a zoo for that weekend.  Another topic of conversation was the fact that so many Dead covers are coming out of everywhere these days; we're delighted to see that there's a Dead renaissance going on and we hope it'll continue.

Just a minute or two after 8, DSO came on and we were off!  We thought they were probably set up for an 80s show, with a two-drum/Beast/rack of thunderdrums setup in back, Garcia/Mattson over on the right, a Brent keyboard setup, and no mike for Lisa.  And the first few songs did not disprove this, though it was such a strange assortment of tunes in the first set (opening with 2 Jerry songs, no Brent songs, BigRR into Man Smart(?!?), etc.) that we thought it may have been elective.  Whatever, I’m mentioning passing thoughts.  As the set went on we were barely able to think meta-thoughts because we were totally wrapped up in how excellent it was.  Here’s the list:

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo ->
Franklin's Tower ->
New Minglewood Blues
El Paso ->
Cumberland Blues
Big Railroad Blues ->
Man Smart (Woman Smarter)
Might As Well

This set had a lot of peaks.  Half-step was a great start and then it just went up and up from there.  Franklin's had some fantastic leads, Eaton was on fire for Minglewood, Cumberland featured some first-set-dragon ensemble playing.  Sarah fainted (almost) when they played her favorite song, Althea, and you should have seen the crowd participation for Man Smart ... the whole place was packed and rocking by then.

More comments: we could barely hear Barraco on piano (most likely because we were so close to the stage and we didn't have our own monitors), which was very disappointing.  When he switched to organ we could hear him better.  Mattson was a little spotty but had some top-notch leads and his singing got better and better as the night went along.  Dino was fantastic, just incredibly solid on the beat and nimble on the frills.  We've seen some shows where Skip seems not totally broken in with the band yet, but he was a monster last night, and threatened to blow up the stage at times when he dropped the bass bombs through the under-stage speakers.  He also had a very handsome bass.

We really had some friendly neighbors up at the front, and they all saved my spot and cleared the way when I came back at the set break with a couple more fancy$ beers.  But we also had some drunk newcomers up front (the girls most of all), who pushed and gabbed throughout the second set.  Very obnoxious, but whatever.

Anyway, at the break Dave checked and immediately found the show we were listening to, 1982-08-03.  Some of the others were skeptical, but then they checked on their smart phones and saw it themselves.  One guy was so astonished he spurted out the second set opener and everyone immediately shushed him.  Dave had been careful not to look.

But then they came back on stage and we could have guessed the opener: a fantastic, funky, long Shakedown.  Here we go:

Shakedown Street ->
Samson And Delilah
To Lay Me Down
Let It Grow ->
Drums ->
Space ->
He's Gone ->
The Other One ->
Stella Blue ->
Sugar Magnolia

Shakedown is *such* a great song. Eaton was again thundering on Samson.  The slight weirdness continued when they played two(?) of Garcia's best ballads in the second set (Mattson excelled on Stella Blue).  They came out of drums really not playing Space so much as jumping feet-first into jam city.  The He's Gone was epic ... and then they jammed a bit and jammed some more, and then Dave and I heard a few notes, and then we elbowed each other severely, and then they were playing TOO!!  Skip hit the booma-de-booma-de-boom in the same measure as Rob launched into the first verse. Quite early-80s style, quite precise, and quite great!  It was Dave's first live TOO ever!!

Everyone in the place shouted along with Sugar Mags of course, and then it was over.  They came back out for the encore and launched right into a short and not-so-sweet Casey Jones.  Then RobB announced the show (which we knew already), and then Lisa came out for a filler song.  We'd seen her static mat lying on the floor right in front of us all night, and now the roadie (who had done an excellent hot-swap of one of RobE's filters early in the show, we all shouted in appreciation) set up a mike stand there in a half-second and Lisa was suddenly standing three feet in front of us, ready to go.

One of our friends had brought a poem and she graciously accepted it from him.  But she was feeling in a nasty mood and ripped off a super-nasty You Ain't Woman Enough while the bar band backed her up.  Then she blew kisses at everyone, RobE waved to us in the front row, and it was time to pack up and go home.  See you Saturday in Hampton Beach!

By the way, it must have been after 11:30 by the time they finished.  And after we got out of there, walked up to Beacon Hill, and drove home, it was was just after 1AM when I went to bed.  Maybe I'm getting too old for this kind of stuff but I hope not!

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