Grateful Dead rises again with talented tribute band

If you found yourself in downtown Winston-Salem last Thursday, Feb. 23, chances are you heard some Grateful Dead songs floating throughout the streets coming from Ziggys. Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead tribute band, took the stage around 9 p.m. and kicked the crowd into a couple of hours worth of feel-good music and dancing. With such a talented band on stage, the venue was filled with a colorful crowd of people of all ages tuning into the music.

“This is chill and very sensual,” one dark Star enthusiast said of the Ziggy’s scene.

Dark Star Orchestra performed with two drummers, a keyboardist, a bassist and two guitarists. The band’s set list consisted of wonderfully classic Grateful Dead hits that Dark Star performed with seamless ease, capturing the soul of the 70s.

Photo courtesy of darkstarorchestra.net

Rob Eaton led the band with his guitar and vocals, but it was Lisa Mackey who stole the show when she stepped up to the microphone. Mackey belted out Grateful Dead songs, mesmerizing the audience with her incredible range and funky, entertaining dancing.

Other members of the band each stepped into the spotlight, performing long and complex instrumental solos with an upbeat and rhythmic flow, making it impossible for the audience not to jump into the groove and dance along.

A personal favorite was the keyboardist, Rob Barraco, who reminded the audience what real musical talent was every time his hands flew over the keyboard during one of his intricate solos. Also, the two drummers entered into a lengthy and crowd-pleasing drum battle during the second set, with no one else on stage but the two of them.

But of course, what is a concert without a few mishaps? During the first music break awaiting the band’s return, an already-anxious crowd faced an even longer wait when the Ziggy’s fire alarm began sounding off.

As everyone retreated to the sidebars or outside, a chaotic but typical scene emerged as two bouncers forcibly carried a very large man right out the front door.

Laughing in shock and amusement, everyone looked around in wonderment. Rob Eaton summarized it best when he took the stage shortly after and said something along the lines of, “So, we leave for 20 minutes and all hell breaks loose?” I got the chance to catch up with one of the dancing fans next to me, who heartily gushed about Dark Star.

“They transport you into a different space. It’s not a different area code, it’s a different era….” With a crowd brimming with men’s grey ponytails, ladies’ twirling skirts, and tie-dye all around, it can be hard to disagree. The older generation’s presence added a special and authentic element to Dark Star’s performance at Ziggy’s — it’s not every day you get to hang out in a late-night environment, dancing and enjoying music with avid fans of all ages. And Dark Star Orchestra does precisely just that, creating a show where musical talent and love for the Grateful Dead collide, delivering a sensational concert for an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd.