Spent a lovely evening last night at the Varsity Theatre in Dinklytown Minneapolis. We were there for the latest Twin Cities appearance of Dark Star Orchestra. DSO has to be the premier Grateful Dead Tribute band preformaing today. A DSO show is the closest thing you can get to a going back in time to see the Dead. Typically the band recreates a Dead concert from history, playing the entire set list from a given night. When I last saw the band, at the Minnesota Zoo back in June, that’s exactly what they did, and they were awesome.
I course I met up with south Metro Super Blogger Bill Roehl from Lazylightning.org, between us we have arguable the two most popular Grateful Dead named blogs in Apple Valley. Old and in the Way BTW.. Jerry Garcia’s Bluegrass band. Lazy Lightning, a popular Dead number.
Last night, they band played an original set list, rather than a dead list. While I liked it, the consensus was that the set was a little heavy in non-Dead originals, which while good, and while every number they played was at one time or another played live by the Dead, I think we wanted more “original” Dead music. Personally I’m still waiting to hear Box of Rain.
I had Mrs S with me at this one, and a couple of our friends who had expressed interest in seeing a “hippy band”. Mrs S had NOT expressed this same interest, she’s more of a pop music fan than a burn out hippy caterwauling as she puts it. Good news is, at the end of the day, she had a great time, at least she said it was “good” or uh “not as bad as I thought it would be”.
Over all it was a fantastic evening. Any time I get to spend time with great friends, the folks who came with us and of course the special treat- Bill and the fellows he came with, new friends of mine who’s company I’ve come to really enjoy.
But friends a love aside we were here to hear some killer jams and groove to some Dead tunes.
I can’t not mention the venue. The Varsity theatre was one of the best venues I’ve been too for concerts in the Twin Cities. The place is a standing room only venue but with a balcony and some sofas on raised platforms around the main floor, if you didn’t want to stand for the show, it was not a problem. We spent the show hanging over the balcony, great sight lines and decent acoustics. My only complaint, since we were up high all of the conversation on the main floor was discernable to us, sort of a low hum under the music. Not terrible, just noticable at times.
Now, I can’t talk about the venue and not mention the upstairs bathroom. Holy cow.. I’ve been in some nice cans in my time, but this was seriously, the Taj Ma-Crapper. It was a hand washing, elimination palace. And,, it was sort of unisex. Very interesting.
One serious downer I had on the venue, the security to get in. I’ve had an easier time getting on on El Al flight than getting into the Varsity. The screening was so through, and consequently, so SLOW that it took us over 45 minutes to get into the lobby just to get to will call. I would call that ridiculous. I was wondering during the wait what was taking so long.. when we finally got in and watched the guard..
One guy screening everyone who was going into the venue, regardless of if they were coming into the theatre for the first time or if they’d just stepped out for a smoke. Funny but lots of smokers had a very difficult time understanding that, step out and you go to the back of the line. The guard had everyone empty all their pockets and then proceeded to open wallets, go through mens billfolds, open clam shell phones, if you had a purse, every time in the purse would be opened and inspected, everything from wallets to tampon cases, and these were dumped out and looked through. Once the effects were sort through, I had the most thorough pat down I’ve ever experienced.
Once we got in, Mrs S wouldn’t let us get past the bar without a couple quick ones, her way of saying, “this better be good, but just in case…”
Because of our delay in the line we just made it in as the band was opening the show. We found my friends and settled in for the show. The first set I thought, was kind of slow. Cover heavy, I enjoyed It’s All Over Now and Dear Prudence. Dear Prudence was a Jerry Garcia Band favorite and the band did a nice job with it. They also did a nice job with It Must Have Been The Roses, a great slow jam. This was followed with Lazy Lightning, so naturally Bill went crazy on that one.
The second set opened with a rousing version of Cumberland Blues, with an amazing guitar/keyboard thing going on that brought the house down. This was followed with the Marley number, Stir It Up, which I happened to really like. Jeff Matson, the lead guitarist absolutely channels Jerry Garcia and on this number he was at his best. Jerry had this little trill thing he did in his licks, a quick three or four notes.. Jeff has this mastered.
The second set was going well until.. the crowd killer, the drum solo. DSO has the double drum keg, just like the Dead. The solo went from traditional to a sort of electronic space drum thing that frankly, went on way too long. The energy in the room sort came down some, but thanks to the open bar, most people turned their attention to socializing and sort of checked out for the 45 minutes or so of the solo.
Throwing Stones from Touch Of Grey was a good anthem to bring the audience back to the show. My favorite number of the whole show was the encore, an all time favorite, The Weight, an old hit from The Band.
Over all the show was a blast, but not as strong a performance as the one I’d seen in June. However, the bar and the company ensured that I had a great time anyway. Still, next time DSO is in town, I’ll be there and surprisingly, so will Mrs S.