Life After Dead: An Evening with Dark Star Orchestra
by Sarah Simon
Vina Robles Amphitheater kicked off 2015 last Friday with a stellar opening performance from the group dedicated to keeping the Grateful Dead experience alive, the one and only, Dark Star Orchestra. What’s super cool about this band is that they play actual set lists, song by song, through an instrumental and vocal arrangement specific to the era of the original Grateful Dead performance.
I was fortunate to receive complimentary tickets and could not have been more excited to show off my tye-die and floppy hat while dancing freely in the open air. Ironically, the only aspect I was slightly skeptical about was the outdoor venue.
As a former resident of Boulder, CO, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in
But as I approached VRA my preconceived notion quickly fluttered away. Retrieving the tickets from will call was a breeze and security was light and friendly. Upon entry I immediately loved the layout. Clean floors, clean lines, clean design and a seriously spacious dance floor with a sonically gorgeous sound system. The dining options were delectably atypical; definitely not your standard concert fare. Mouthwatering pulled pork sandwiches, local wines and craft beers were just a few delicacies my husband and I enjoyed on the grassy hill overlooking the stage.
We relished in our divine eats while watching the sun set over the venue. The vibrations were perfectly mellow and the crowd filled in with toddlers, gray hairs and everything in between. At one point I saw a young mother cradling her flower child for an entire song as they listened, swayed and loved and as we finished our first round I heard the sound of magic.
Dun, nah, nah, nah, “Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free.” Dun, nah, nah, dun. “Dizzy with eternity.”
Time to get funky.
We lost ourselves in the sights and sounds of the band’s delicately unique harmonies as they performed my all-time favorite Dead jam and as the night creeped to an end I stopped to savor in the joy that radiated around me. On the left was a collection of free spirits interpretive dancing with their arms and legs extended above the stars and on the right, a group of bohemian beauties frolicking in circles as a gentleman in a wheelchair zipped and glimmered through the gaps.
It was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen. To see that kind of love and light so purely encapsulating the energy and experience of the Grateful Dead era was absolutely incredible.
The intimacy Dark Star Orchestra delivered as they waved goodbye was one loving as they expressed that the performed set was originally showcased by the Dead on June 14th 1985 at the Venture Fairgrounds in Ventura, CA.
Still in awe, hearts full and glasses empty, we waved back with tears in our eyes and nothing but love in our hearts.