Reviews

Dark Star Orchestra

Darren Ratner

Raising the dead or spinning them in their graves?

Dark Star Orchestra

Dark Star Orchestra

City: New York
Venue: Nokia Theatre
Date: 2006-05-13

"For Jerry Garcia, I would stand," she said. The woman was sitting behind me at the Nokia Theatre -- a beautiful, state-of-the-art venue in the heart of Times Square. She sipped her frothy-yet-expensive brew and exchanged glances with her male companion. They were thinking back on beloved Grateful Dead singer/songwriter Jerry Garcia and his legacy. It was as terrible as it was tender. "When I was younger, I could stand through an entire show without a problem," she said, taking another sip from her cup. "But now, I don't have the strength." Dark Star Orchestra had quite the task in front of them. They're seven Deadheads attempting to bang out some of the most spirited, poignant jams from the Dead's 30-plus year history. It's reasonable to assume that they might annoy the baby-boomers, or, for that matter, any fans intimately connected with the original band. What's more, this show was is in the Big Apple, and, in New York, even the deadheads are a tough crowd to please. But, despite these obstacles, Dark Star Orchestra had success in their homage, winning the approval of much of the drunk, stoned and sandaled audience. Rhythm guitarist Rob Eaton and lead guitarist John Kadlecik (playing the parts of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir) effortlessly recreated riff after riff on epic tracks like "I Know You Rider", "Deal", and "Dark Star". Vocalist Lisa Mackey -- literally taking center stage -- dove further into '60s nostalgia as she dipped and turned her body, flower-child style. Drummers Dino English and Rob Koritz (playing the parts of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart) showed their percussive prowess by masterfully blending eclectic beats and measures -- making it all sound wonderfully in-sync. Carefree arrangements, sharp instrumentals, chilled-out and tripped-out moods defined the show, and the appeal was difficult to deny. Of course, there was room for something a bit more psychedelic. A few minutes into the second set -- around 10:45 PM -- the band exited the stage, leaving English and Koritz to themselves. Jovial jam-band songs disappeared as kaleidoscopic colors and shapes beamed across the stage. For thirty minutes they unleashed a musical diatribe of weird snares, chilling cymbals and woozy, otherworldly synthesizers. "Play a fucking song," exclaimed a man in the audience. You had to give him credit: he said what many folks in the house couldn't bring themselves to say. Clearly, this ethereal portion of the concert was meant to create a feeling larger than individual notes and beats. Maybe that "feeling" is what the Dead were all about, and Dark Star Orchestra were tapping into it as best they could. Maybe the awkwardness in sound and arrangement allowed a much-needed escape from a radio-friendly reality. Whatever it was meant to do, the shift from jumping jams to sonic psychedelics turned the peace-and-love atmosphere into something edgy and unexpected. There may have been those in the theatre that appreciated the raw improvisation. Heck, improvisation makes up a lot of both the jam-band and psychedelic sound. It was still an audio-visual blast to the senses that should have ended after 15 minutes. From the looks of people dancing in the isles, though, the sudden switch didn't ruin the anyone's momentum, at least not permanently. By the end of the night, Dark Star Orchestra had put much of the theatre into fits of musical passion, igniting what ended up as an oversized house party; and, maybe, that was the idea. The younger folks were swinging, the older folks were swaying, and a "feeling" had returned for a lot of people. I picked up my pen and pad and headed for the exit, only to notice that the woman sitting behind me was no longer sitting. She got to her feet, moved to the music, and smiled.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image