There are more Grateful Dead cover bands than I can count in the Albany area alone. These groups keep the spirit of the Dead alive and well.
Nationwide, the number of Dead tribute acts is basically astronomic. Hell, there’s even a website to help us keep track of them all.
But there’s only one who is universally known across the jam band scene: Dark Star Orchestra. As of November 29, DSO has played more than 2,500 concerts since forming in 1997, either recreating old Dead setlists, or creating their own from the Dead’s hefty 30-year catalog of shows.
On November 16, DSO barreled into the Palace Theater in Albany, a place guitarist Rob Eaton said is near and dear to the band’s heart. From the opening pair of “Alabama Getaway” and “Greatest Story Ever Told,” it seemed as if the band might be playing an early 1970s set. Then “Dupree’s Diamond Blues,” “Black Throated Wind,” “Ramble on Rose,” “Easy to Love You,” “Passenger,” “Shining Star,” “Beat it on Down the Line,” and “China Cat Sunflower?I Know You Rider” made me think the group had concocted it’s own setlist.
And in grand Grateful Dead fashion, DSO even had an equipment issue, when keyboardist Rob Barraco lost power to his rig following “Dupree’s,” prompting Eaton to talk about how the Palace is one of the band’s favorite venues to play.
The second set was a non-stop roller coaster, kicking off with a tender “St. Stephen>Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance>Terrapin Station,” before giving way to a somewhat boring “Drums>Space.” “At a Siding>Terrapin Transit>Terrapin Reprise>Hey Jude>Visions of Johanna>One More Saturday Night” closed out a fun, but at times slow second set.
One of my personal favorites, “Unbroken Chain,” finished the night in style, sending the near capacity crowd home with one of Phil Lesh’s songs.