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Dark Star Jubilee, Legend Valley, Thornville, Ohio- May 24-26

Last year’s debut of the Dark Star Jubilee dealt with rainstorms. This year it was uncommonly cold temperatures. Next year…locusts?

Overall, blue skies greeted us each day, followed by the necessity of extra layers of clothing at night. It was a small price to pay for a celebratory Memorial Day weekend at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio.

A co-production between All Good Presents and DSO, it featured the same stage setup as the All Good Music Festival & Camp Out – two stages set next to each other in order to provide continuous music without overlapping sets throughout the day, night and early morning.

Like All Good, the lineup mixed bluegrass (Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Cabinet and Rumpke Mountain Boys), funk (Pimps of Joytime and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong), reggae (The Wailers, John Brown’s Body and The Ark Band), folk (Elephant Revival and David Gans), rockin’ soul (JGB & Melvin Seals), jamtronica (The Werks) and, of course, jam-laden rock ‘n’ roll by the weekend’s hosts, Dark Star Orchestra.

With three fantastic performances Dark Star gave everyone a good reason to stick around late into the night and deal with temperatures that fell into low 40s.

On Friday, the members played what turned out to be the Grateful Dead’s setlist from July 10, 1981, St. Paul, Minnesota Civic Center. The biggest highlights came during the second set with an astounding series – “Uncle John’s Band” > “Playing In The Band” > “China Doll” > “Uncle John’s Band” > “Playing In The Band” > “Around And Around” > “Good Lovin’.”

The second day former Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones tour manager Sam Cutler introduced DSO, who then performed an original setlist based on material from the Grateful Dead catalogue. The three-hour set included guest vocals from Donna Jean Godchaux on “Franklin’s Tower” and “The Music Never Stopped” and a nod to Jerry Garcia’s solo shows with an encore of “Midnight Moonlight.”

Seemingly impossible but the group outdid itself on the final night when Dark Star Orchestra performed another original set based on the Dead catalogue. The focus was on the late ‘60s, early ‘70s with the attention to detail finding guitarist Rob Eaton using a cherry red Gibson ES-335 just like Bob Weir did during that time period.

The setlist began with “St. Stephen>The Eleven” fierce “Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Cryptical Envelopment.” Later, there were several Pigpen tunes played that included Rob Barraco stepping away from his keyboard setup to do a Pig rant during “Lovelight.” It ended appropriately enough with “And We Bid You Goodnight.”

The weekend offered many other highlights as well. With a full moon above the stage on Friday night, the Mickey Hart Band took the crowd on a sonic journey that began and ended with “Drone.” The 100-minute set found Hart, the mad musical scientist who directed his seven-piece band from his perch filled with acoustic and electronic percussion concentrating on 2012’s “Mysterium Tremendum.” The African Showboyz added percussion on one of the nonstop rhythm-drenched arrangements, while DSO’s own rhythm devils Rob Koritz and and Dino English stopped by for the only Grateful Dead song, “Fire On the Mountain.”

Donna Jean Godchaux Band featuring Jeff Mattson (DSO guitarist) delivered a solid afternoon hourlong Saturday which included Mattson’s fellow DSO members Rob Koritz on percussion and Lisa Mackey on vocals. Standouts included covers of “She Said She Said” (The Beatles) and “The Maker” (Daniel Lanois) as well as the new number, “Back Around,” which should appear on her next album.

The New Orleans Suspects grabbed attention with its funky Crescent City rock ‘n’ roll. Then, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett joined the members and played Feat numbers such as “Dixie Chicken” and “Candyman Blues.” Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival were special guests on Feat’s “Willin’” and a cover of “Hey Pocky Way.”

Earlier Tackett joined Elephant Revival during its 90-minute set. The quintet’s elegant roots music is the closest thing I’ve ever heard to David Grisman’s Dawg Music; just a mongrel of styles that come together so nicely.

David Gans performed an enjoyable set with special guests the Rumpke Mountain Boys. He mixed originals such as “Life Is a Jam” with covers such as “Shakedown Street,” “Promised Land” and “Big River.” The Boys played a separate set of its trashgrass style of music that included a cover of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes.”

Overall, the strong lineup on paper made for unending good times in reality. And with that, I offer a toast of thanks to the second Jubilee and look forward to the next one in 2014.

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