For their 1,349th show, they rocked out Park West in Chicago. The smell of nag champa was in the air while people of all ages sported patchwork skirts, dreadlocks, and one finger in the air if they were without a ticket. Tie-dye shirts and VW busses flooded the streets of Lincoln Park.
The venue in itself is something to celebrate. A huge pit center-stage, a number of easy access bars, and tons of comfy seating amidst the standing room, Park West knows what it takes to enjoy music.
And much like a chamber orchestra interprets the classics, Dark Star Orchestra presented a complete Grateful Dead setlist, song by song, and in order, beginning with Liberty. This was something we all could presently reflect on. Arms a flail and shoes worn down to the soles, the fans were happy as a hippy in the forest. They played the up beat classics such as Dancin’, Mexicall, and Let It Rock. And they jammed for hours on more somber tunes like the tear jerking I shall be Released.
Keyboardist Dan Klepinger filled in for the late Scott Larned who passed on tour in 2005 and supplied the keys for the late 70’s and 80’s shows. Pat Mallinger was special guest blowing’ his heart out on clarinet and sax all night long. Lisa Mackey was also present providing vocals. When the show is from the seventies Lisa provides the harmony as Donna Godchaux did way back when. Her solos were performed in perfect key. John Kadlecik supplies the fingers for the lead guitar and delivers vocals. He sings with a strangely perfect resemblance to Jerry Garcia. Utilizing amp rigs and guitars to suit the show being recreated, John knows his instrument. Equally daunting is the rhythm guitar and vocals of Rob Eaton who literally studied at the feet of Bob Weir from the vantage point of hundreds of front row seats and backstage passes. Kevin Rosen plucks a mean bass line and go figure — he sings too. And onto percussion. They even have two friggin’ kit drummers! Rob Koritz take the place of Mickey Hart and Dino English fills in for Bill Kreutzmann.
The show lasted for more than four hours, the highlight being between sets when all the musicians left the stage except for the drummers. They went on to bang out a mean 10-minute solo - together! Expert timing and listening skills make these two musicians standouts in the music scene. They went on to incorporate pedals and midi drum machines to put an electronic twist onto the show. When all is said and done, this much is true; because of this band, the Dead will never die. And we should all be grateful for that.