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Dark Star Orchestra - 11/23/2011: Penns Peak Jim Thorpe, PA
Dark Star Orchestra - 11/23/2011:  Penns Peak Jim Thorpe, PA
Photos by:  Tom Sutherland  [View More]
Concert Review by Tom Sutherland on 12/5/2011   

It was a festive and unique Thanksgiving Eve for DSO and the legion of Deadheads who ventured into the southern Poconos near Jim Thorpe, PA.  Outside Penns Peak the four winds were blowing and certainly not asleep with the wind chill dipping into the low 20s. I noticed the lot scene was more like a scene from a Rocky movie with a number of large metal fire drums and people huddling around them.  Once inside the doors, we heard the opening notes of Mighty Quinn the Eskimo and we were still as cold as Eskimos so it was a great choice. Brown Eyed-Women was next and got the place shaking. Once Mr. Charlie hit, I knew that it was an original setlist.  The new line-up with lead guitarist Jeff Matson seems to play a few more Pigpen tunes with Rob Baracco unveiling strong vocal and keyboard leads.  A decent Tennessee Jed came next and then I began to realize that rhythm player Rob Eaton had not sung any “Bobby” songs yet. A friend of mine then informed me that Rob had Laryngitis and would not be singing at all so it would be a night of predominantly Jerry Garcia tunes. As a longtime collector and self-proclaimed DeadBase geek, (Yes I like Start Trek too) I remember reading about and listening to the January 6-8 1978 shows when Jerry Garcia had Laryngitis and there were all or mostly all Bob Weir vocal nights. Of course Garcia could simply focus on playing his guitar and it sure made for some pretty entertaining and unique shows back in 1978.  DSO gave us a killer Jack a Roe with some explosive jamming from Jeff Matson. The version of Candyman was nice and I recall that Jeff screamed the “If I had me a shotgun, I’d blow you straight to hell” line to the crowd.  As a Pigpen fan, the Easy Wind was a real treat and Rob Baracco did the vocals justice with way better organ playing then Pigpen was ever able to muster in 1969-1971 when this song was played.  I had even ingested some Southern Comfort before the show to help liven up and stay warm….Long Live Pigpen. The first set also included a reading of West LA Fadeaway and Lisa sang the old gospel ballad written by Dorothy Love Coates and covered by the Jerry Garcia Band entitled Strange Man.  A decent Sugaree was next and to the delight of many, a set 1 closer of Reubin and Cherise. 

During the set break, people stood inside and replenished on fluids or huddled in the cold outside for chatter and smoke sessions.  Set 2 got us rocking and rolling with a sweet China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider and then DSO spaced us out a little with  Help>Slip>Franklins>Unbroken Chain>Eyes of the World (Rob Baracco on vocals) AWESOME sequence of pre-drums  tunes.  A short “Drums and Space” followed and evolved into our second Dylan tune of the night which was a beautiful rendition of Visions of Johanna. A raucous Midnight Moonlight (Jerry Band style more than Old and in the Way) had Penns Peak shaking to close the second set.  Werewolves of London> Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion may be the best double encore that this Deadhead has ever witnessed and maybe others who were  present would agree.  The acoustics and ambience of Penn Peak are noteworthy. The atmosphere and staff of Penns Peak make the venue that much more pleasant and I have found myself continuing to return year after year for various shows.  DSO….Thank you….for a real good time!!!!!


Photos by: Tom Sutherland    
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