You couldn’t ask for a nicer day of weather than we had this past Friday. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the real feel temperature at 7PM was a delightful 70 degrees. It was under these perfect conditions that Tea Leaf Green and the Dark Star Orchestra took the stage at Governor’s Island for an evening of blissful music.
[Photos by Rich Lieberman]
While I’ve lived in Manhattan for over eight years, I’ve never had a chance to make it out to Governor’s Island. The island, which is only about 700 yards off the coast of Battery Park, served as an army base for nearly 200 years before spending 1966 to 1996 as a Coast Guard installation. In more recent years Governor’s Island functions as a national monument that is open to the public on a seasonal basis. This summer the folks that run the Highline Ballroom have been tapped to throw three concerts on the 172-acre island including last Friday’s TLG / DSO affair.
I was warned that Tea Leaf Green would be going on at 6PM sharp, so I left my office near Wall Street at 5PM in an attempt to catch their whole set. Unfortunately the schedule posted on the Governor’s Island website was wrong and I wound up missing the first ten minutes of TLG’s set, even though I was at the ferry terminal by 5:30. I quickly forgot about the hassle once I reached the magnificent island.
READ ON for more of Scotty’s TLG/DSO at Governor’s Island review…
The Tea Leaf Green boys kicked off their set with Incandescent Devil and Lil Hood before focusing on material from their new album, Raise Up The Tent, which hits stores next Tuesday. All of the new songs seem more concise and structured than the previous batch of songs, but they all had that breezy early ’70s San Francisco sound the Dead made famous.
This was my first time catching TLG with Reed Mathis and I left extremely impressed with both Reed’s skills and the chemistry he’s already worked up with the band. Reed’s a real triple threat at bass thanks to the speed, ability to groove and power he displayed throughout the 50-minute set. He really got a chance to shine on the next-to-last song of Tea Leaf’s set, Franz Hanzerbeak. Mathis’ quick fills and funky delivery pushed guitarist Josh Clark and keyboard player Trevor Garrod’s interplay to new heights during the deliciously funky jam segment.
After TLG left the stage I had a chance to walk around the venue before the Dark Star Orchestra came on. The field the concert was held on reminded me of a college quad by the way it was surrounded by institutional looking buildings. There was plenty of room for everyone to dance and groove at their leisure, and while the food was absolutely terrible, at least there were a few options for those looking to eat. On the other hand, you gotta love a venue serving plenty of cold Budweiser and Magic Hat #9.
Just as the sun began to set behind the audience the Dark Star Orchestra emerged from backstage. At my first DSO concert I saw the band work its magic on a show from 1992, so I was really hoping to catch a show from the late ’70s. When Lisa Mackey as Donna Jean Godchaux MacKay emerged with the bulkiest pair of headphones I’ve ever seen, I knew I’d gotten my wish. On this night The Dark Star Orchestra performed music from May 1, 1977, a show that took place at the since-closed Palladium about three miles from Governor’s Island.
The thing I love about the DSO is that the members of the band don’t try to mimic the stage presence of the Dead onstage. While Rob Eaton certainly shows charisma, he isn’t running around in jorts pretending to act like Bob Weir. Eaton’s got Bobby’s rhythm playing down pat, but he’s not a caricature. That’s probably why the band gets so much respect from people that typically thumb their noses at cover bands.
From the moment DSO opened with Might As Well it was tough to find anyone on Governor’s Island who wasn’t having a good time. The band hit all of their spots with Kevin Rosen as Phil Lesh dutifully dropping bombs left and right. “Man of the People” Rob Barracco participated in a number of tasty duels with John Kadlecik as Jerry Garcia that kept things interesting.
These guys can certainly jam, but I really enjoyed the song-oriented nature of the setlist they played. There were various points during Brown Eyed Women, Ramble On Rose and Cassidy where I just closed my eyes and took it all in. It’s truly unbelievable how well the members of DSO play their parts. The only part of the show I didn’t really dig was Sunrise, a tune I personally despise. But it was quick and painless just like the three-minute-long Drums segment.
Due to the 11PM curfew it seemed that many of the jams were short and sweet except for the second set opener, Dancin’ In The Streets The DSO took their time expertly working through all of the composed sections of the tune before Kadlecik unloaded a can of whup-ass that brought the house down. There really isn’t a weak link in this band that covers a completely different version of the Dead from night to night.
TLG and DSO on Governor’s Island wasn’t the most mind-blowing musical experience of all-time, but it was an incredibly fun way to spend the evening. And isn’t that what it’s all about sometimes?
The Dark Star Orchestra is currently tour in the Midwest including stops in Cincinnati on Friday and Peoria on Saturday. DSO kicks off the 10,000 Lakes Festival next Wednesday night at Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes, MN. Meanwhile, Tea Leaf Green has a cross-country weekend that starts at Camp Bisco on Friday and ends in Denver at the Mile High Festival on Sunday.
- Previously on HT: TLG – Processing a Three-Night Run at Blender and Dark Star Orchestra on the Jersey Shore
Tea Leaf Green
July 16, 2008
Set: Incandescent Devil, Lil Hood, Let Us Go, Borrowed Time, Cops Took My Weed, Red Ribbons > Slept Thru Sunday, Stick to the Shallows, Franz Hanzerbeak, Taught To Be Proud
Dark Star Orchestra
July 16, 2008
Set 1: Might as Well, El Paso, Ramble on Rose, Cassidy, They Love Each Other, Lazy Lightning> Supplication, Must Have Been the Roses, Estimated Prophet, Tennessee Jed, Sunrise, Samson & Delilah
Set 2: Dancin in the Streets> Browneyed Women, Playin in the Band> Drums> The Other One> Comes a Time> Playin (reprise)
Encore: Brokedown Palace
“Filler:” Music Never Stopped