NEPA Scene Staff

Peach Music Festival alum Dark Star Orchestra returns to Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Nov. 21

Peach Music Festival alum Dark Star Orchestra returns to Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Nov. 21
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From a press release:

After playing there in the spring, Chicago Grateful Dead tribute band and Peach Music Festival alum Dark Star Orchestra will be back at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. as part of their fall tour.

Tickets, which are $28 in advance and $33 the day of the show, go on sale this Friday, Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. and will be available at and all Ticketmaster outlets, the Penn’s Peak box office (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe), and Roadies Restaurant and Bar (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe). Penn’s Peak box office and Roadies Restaurant ticket sales are walk-up only; no phone orders.

Presenting its critically acclaimed live show to Deadheads both young and old, Dark Star Orchestra is set to perform locally on Nov. 21 at Penn’s Peak, where they performed in 2017 as well as earlier this year.

Continuing a long and strange trip since humble beginnings over a decade ago, Dark Star Orchestra’s determined commitment to “raising the Dead” has drawn nationwide attention.

“Quite possibly the most talented and accomplished tribute band out there… they’ve definitely mastered their inspiration’s vagabond nature,” Rolling Stone wrote. “Recreates the Dead concert experience with uncanny verisimilitude… In fact, Dark Star Orchestra often sounds more like the Dead than the Dead sometimes did,” Chicago Tribune added. “The hottest Grateful Dead tribute act. A cover band for people who don’t like cover bands,” the Washington Post raved.

Critics aren’t the only ones singing Dark Star Orchestra’s praises. Numerous original members of the Grateful Dead have played alongside DSO and complimented their work.

“A couple of times when I had my back to John onstage and he started to sing, I had this weird sense that it was Jerry,” Grateful Dead co-founder, vocalist, and guitarist Bob Weir, a frequent DSO guest, commented. Another Grateful Dead vocalist and regular DSO guest, Donna Jean Godchaux, said, “Playing with Dark Star Orchestra is something that feels just exactly like it felt when I was playing with the Grateful Dead.”

Grateful Dead sound engineer (1966-1994) Dan Healy added, “There are moments where I can close my eyes and go back 30 years and have it be every bit as rewarding and satisfying. Dark Star is an amazingly legitimate representation of the Dead.” He toured with DSO as their sound engineer from September through December of 2008.

Offering a continually evolving artistic outlet within the Grateful Dead’s musical canon, members of Dark Star Orchestra seek out the unique style of each performance era and offer their own interpretations and improvisations at each show. Using entire setlists from the Grateful Dead’s decades of touring as a launching pad, Dark Star recreates song for song performances straight from the setlists of these historic shows.

Made up of Jeff Mattson (Jerry Garcia), Lisa Mackey (Donna Jean Godchaux), Dino English (Bill Kreutzmann), Rob Koritz (Mickey Hart), Skip Vangelas (Phil Lesh), Rob Eaton (Bob Weir), and Rob Barraco (multiple keyboardists), Dark Star Orchestra does not try to match Grateful Dead live songs note for note. Anything so formulaic would quickly dispel the free spirit embodied in the music.

While faithful improvisation is pinnacle, precision is of equal importance with DSO, who position the stage plot based on the year of Grateful Dead show to be performed, adapting phrasing, voice arrangements, and even arranging specific musical equipment for the various eras of Dead music performed. At the end of each performance, the band announces the date and venue where the original show just covered took place. Dark Star dips into every incarnation of the Dead so most fans can “see” shows that happened long before they were born.

Dark Star Orchestra isn’t a cover band. Its shows are not even meant as tributes. What Dark Star Orchestra tirelessly strives for and achieves is a continuation of the spirit of what has now become over 40 years of the Grateful Dead’s timeless music.

See NEPA Scene’s photos of Dark Star Orchestra performing at the 2017 Peach Music Festival at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton here.