Terrapin Nation (aka Dark Star Orchestra), Mexicali Blues, Teaneck, NJ- 5/29
Ah, the beauty of summertime. Hot dogs, cold brews, and more music than you can possibly attempt to stuff your ears with. This years proved to be no exception, offering the likes of Ween, The Disco Biscuits, The New Deal, and Dark Star Orchestraall within earshot of New York City and New Jersey.
Monday night saw the second of a two-night stand for the alter ego of Dark Star Orchestra, Terrapin Nation. What makes this version of the band different is that they allow themselves to play other tunes that might not pop up in their normal, everyday approach of recreating the Grateful Dead concert experience. The band consists on this night consisted of: Kevin Rosen (bass guitar, vocals), Dino English and Rob Koritz (drums), Rob Eaton (rhythm guitar, vocals), John Kadlecik (lead guitar, vocals), Lisa Mackey (vocals), and this tours special guest Dan Klepinger (keyboards).
Upon entering Mexicali Blues, (one of the northeasts best kept secrets among small music venues), it was apparent the crowd, the staff, and the band themselves had all had a long, tiresome, hot weekend. However, the group seemed to channel that feeling, by opening with very mellow versions of Monkey and the Engineer, and Deep Elem Blues. The fans gently moved, noticeably enjoying the laidback start, and ceiling fans, which gave off a cooling breeze throughout the venue. Me and Bobby McGee followed, and again seemed to lean toward the restrained, slower-tempo of this beach bum, summertime welcoming weekend. Loose Lucy saw the first real burst of energy of the evening, while When Push Comes to Shove, offered another number that the Dark Star Orchestra/Terrapin Nation folks play extremely well, although not often enough.
The Business by Robert Hunter was next, and is a great tune that not all in attendance seemed to know. Brother Esau saw Eaton take charge and bridge almost 30 years of the Deads catalogue in just several minutes. However, the highlight of the first set for me was the Mission in the Rain, which really saw Kadlecik step out (literally!), and make this beautiful, heartfelt anthem draw breath, catch fire, consume itself, and turn to ashesall while shaking your soul. The set closing cover of The Bands The Weight had the crowd singing along, and even offered a verse sung by Rosen, a truly rare treat. Set I was as cool, calm, and as loose as they come. The band left so much room in the songs that I could have driven an eighteen-wheeler through the middle of them. It felt like a much-deserved dollop of aloe on my slighted burned skin. Perfect first set for this night.
Set II again started off loose, invoking the first hints of the psychedelic, with the opening, Victim or the Crime. An absolutely spot on cover of Bob Dylans Tangled Up In Blue got everyone in the joint digging down for that last push of a beer soaked, and barbequed weekend. Estimated Prophet rang of sunshine and California, while holding true to its booming bass thunder. Drums > Space was upbeat and more danceable than youre your typical Grateful Dead grip-you-by-the-lapels-of-your-shirt-shake-you-to-your-core-while-blowing-your-mind version. Koritz even invoked his inner DJ with a beat box/sound effect machine.
The last half hour or so of the show was just different altogether. A complete Weather Report Suite > Let It Grow showed me just why these guys are the single, best Dead-related project out there, (and the reason I have continued to support them again and again). It started out slow and beautiful, jazzed its way through the middle, and roared triumphantly and feverishly towards the finish.
The encore of Second That Emotion paired with the sweet lullaby Brokedown Palace, left us drifting off gently into night. All in all, it was one of the loosest, most perfectly placed evenings Ive had in some time.