RobinWitmerDSO5012010Dark Star Orchestra
May 1, 2010
Belly Up, Solana Beach, California


DSO is:
Stu Allen – lead guitar, vocals
Rob Barraco- keyboards, vocals
Rob Eaton – rhythm guitar, vocals
Dino English – drums, percussion
Rob Koritz – drums, percussion
Lisa Mackey – vocals
Kevin Rosen – bass, vocals

Ed. Note: this was the end of the current leg of Dark Star Orchestra’s tour.  It was Robin’s 2nd DSO show. She does a great job of tracking the Robs.

“I’d like to have it one time more…..” And that’s exactly what I did. Could the second night of Dark Star Orchestra (at Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA) be as good as the first?

Of course it could…and it was. Small panic ensued when I first arrived, to find the show sold out (and no, I didn’t pre-purchase!). I got my ticket the night before from Dave (yea, Dave!) whose friend didn’t show up – too bad for him! So I assumed….not a good idea! My show miracle manifested itself in Dann the ticket man…shout out to Dann! Dann was buying any extra tickets and helping whoever he could get in the show. Dann was then rewarded for his good deeds with a free ticket from the band! Proves again that what goes around comes around…..

I made it in with time to spare, and the opening notes of “Might as Well” were a perfect indication of the rest of the night. Right into a thunderous “Greatest Story”, and we were conjecturing that this must be a show from about 1978. “Althea” was next, a crowd favorite, but putting a big question mark on that 1978 date. Stu picked out those notes so precisely; it was almost like Jerry was there…. When they started “Queen Jane”, we knew this was no 1978 show…and that it probably wasn’t a past show at all. Rob’s voice was strong all night, even though when he talked to us he sounded a bit hoarse.


They slowed things down a bit with “To Lay me Down” next… but what a beautiful song, and done so beautifully by Stu. He sang with his eyes closed, and poured his whole heart into it. Jerry would have approved, I’m sure. Stu really ruled the whole night…maybe because it was his last show (hopefully just for now!) with DSO. They will pick up Jeff Mattson for the East Coast dates.

They took a little rest at this point, and talked to the audience for a minute. Rob reminded us that the Kentucky Derby had been run today. The audience was a little bit like “so?”…until they started “The Race is On”, followed by “Run for the Roses”. A fitting tribute to the Derby, and also served to get the crowd dancing again.

At this point, it was apparent this was an original set list and not a prior show, and I was ready for anything. And that was a good thing because what was to come was truly explosive. It was Kevin’s turn now…and he did not disappoint with his gorgeous rendition of “Box of Rain”. And not to be outdone…Stu and Rob E. got together to belt out a most powerful “China Cat/Rider”. There was not a person there who wasn’t moving by this time. Stu and Rob were settling in, and they started having a lot of fun with each other, playing off each other, and carrying on quite a guitar conversation. The inside temperature of the Belly Up rose at least ten degrees during China-Rider….evident by the rush to the doors for some much needed cool air during the break!

The smoking lot was entirely packed during the break; security having given it up the night before. (Speaking of the night before, I can’t believe I left out the last two songs….they came back on after JBG and said ‘we have a little more time…thought we’d play some more if that’s ok with you!” They did two nice JGB songs… “Let it Rock” and “Waiting for a Miracle”. And I also neglected to mention that the band did not start until the Lakers had stolen the victory in the last seconds from Oklahoma…what a way to start a show!). We were all wondering what they could possibly have in store for the second set…

And what indeed! Opening the set with “Help on the Way” we knew we were in for something special….no Franklin’s, but one of the hottest “Feel Like a Stranger”’s done outside of the Dead. Rob even had a little Bobby lunge and head snap going on…all he needed were the manpris! Again, Stu and Rob faced each other, with Lisa between them, and just had a ball with the song. They were smiling and laughing…and the crowd was belting it out right along with them. Rob B. was having a gas himself on the keyboard, throwing his head back, eyes closed, and just smiling, smiling!

What came next though… the bus took a little detour into “Funkytown”. The opening notes of “New Speedway Boogie” made an almost audible “wow” from the audience…and a very loud sing-a-long. As we were trailing off with ‘this darkness got to give…’ they wandered into a jazzy-bluesy “Smokestack Lightning”. Took the crowd a minute to fully realize that yes, they were playing SL, and what a smooth groove it was – sweet and dirty.

The tone changed again, with a very melodic “Uncle John’s Band”, and another chance to sing along. Rob B. was in full form now…he had a blast with this one. He put a nice rollicking, boogie-woogie bent on the song.

Drums were next… and a very long, reminiscent of Dead days space jam. Rob B. came out first, and the keyboards and drums made a nice interplay. Rob E. came back next, then Kevin and Stu. You could hear “The Wheel” coming a mile away…and there it was! Always a favorite.

“Visions of Johanna” came next, and another chance for Stu to show off his beautiful voice. There were times he sounded an awful lot like Jerry….but keeping his own voice, his own sound.

“One More Saturday Night” was an obvious… and well-received. Rob had all the Bobby hallmarks of the song, including the little Bobby screams! It really seemed all in good fun for Rob!

After all of this, the encore was a real mystery as to what they would pull out.  As with the whole show, it was a treat. “Midnight Hour”, which by itself would have been fine – but Stu treated us to an instrumental “Eleanor Rigby”….very tasty…and returned to MH to finish the set, the show and the tour.

All in all, a spectacular two night run in Solana Beach. I am now officially a DSO-head!