At a ripe 20 years young, Dark Star Orchestra brought the Grateful Dead experience to the mountains of Western North Carolina for a mid-week two night run at The Orange Peel in downtown Asheville last Wednesday and Thursday. Always at home in the mountains, DSO was set to shake up the work week and undoubtedly leave a few local staffs short handed.
“Touch of Grey” started the two night run, and the band never looked back. A fully jammed “Feel Like A Stranger” into “Franklin’s Tower” allowed the perpetually tardy in the family to fall into the groove before guitarist Rob Eaton threw down an exceptionally rockin’ “New Minglewood Blues.” “Stuck Inside of Mobile” gave the loose and loving family their first taste of Bob Dylan in the run, before before “Big Railroad Blues,” and “Around and Around,” left the joint jumping as the first set came to a close.
A refreshed and riled up fellowship found a second set built for the non-stop boogie as DSO shot out of the gate with a powerhouse combo of “Sugar Magnolia,” “Scarlet Begonias,” and “Estimated Prophet” into “Eyes of The World.” “Drums and Space” gave the familiar family a breather before Mattson, Barraco and the boys laid back into it with “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “All Along the Watchtower” before easing off the gas with “Black Peter.” A powerfully poignant “Mission in the Rain” came as an unexpected summit of the second set, before DSO came back to “Sunshine Daydream” to groove the second set to a close. A “Box of Rain” encore found the heads in a swaying sing-along, and they set off to follow the party into the next night.
On a Thursday (which felt more like a Saturday) a slightly larger gathering of the family made their way again to The Orange Peel in eager anticipation of yet another night of the Grateful Dead. In perfect accordance with the vibe of the run, DSO started night two with the Brent Mydland staple “Let the Good Times Roll” before jamming unexpectedly into “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toleedo.” “It’s All Over Now” preceded a super groovy “West L.A. Fadeaway,” which was followed by a rockin’ “Passenger.” The family was back in their place of blissful contentment. The boys pumped the brakes for a second with “Lazy River Road” before laying back into it with a smoking rendition of “Greatest Story Ever Told” that found folks jumping and shaking once again. The third Dylan tune of the run came in an intriguing fashion, with Lisa Mackey taking front and center to lead folks swaying through “Chimes of Freedom.” Bouncing out of the sway with “Althea,” Dark Star drilled the first set to an end with “Hell in a Bucket” and “Keep Your Day Job.”
Jerry was surely smiling down as Jeff Mattson again soothed the Asheville faithful into the second set with “Help on The Way > Slipknot,” but this time they threw the family for a loop by finishing the jam with yet another Dylan classic, “Tangled up in Blue.” For those who were still unsure, this was a guarantee that music of the night was a personal DSO concoction, instead of the usual recreation of past Dead sets. A “Lost Sailor” into “Terrapin Station” suite jam followed, leaving the heads wondering if the “Saint of Circumstance” would come later. “Drums and Space” gave time for fresh beer and loving chatter before the heads were blasted back with “The Other One” sandwiching a monster jam with “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad,” to close the second set. A tremendously tickled and family boogied and hollered along as DSO encored with their fifth Dyan tune of the run, a monumental rendition of “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35.”