Spotlight Central
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Spotlight Central

“I Love This!” Dark Star Orchestra LIVE! in Seaside Heights, NJ

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

It’s a gorgeous summer’s eve on the Seaside Heights, NJ, Boardwalk this Saturday, June 25, 2022, as music lovers line up for a concert on the beach by the world-renown Grateful Dead tribute band, Dark Star Orchestra. The group’s show this evening is the opening night event of a spectacular Seaside Heights Live series of summer concerts here at the shore.

Says Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz about this season’s series of musical events, “We’re very excited about our 2022 summer line up of shows here in Seaside Heights. In addition to our Monday and Thursday night free concerts, we’ve also partnered with Blue Note Entertainment and they have produced a series of eight Seaside Heights Live paid admission concerts. Although tonight’s Dark Star Orchestra performance is the first show in that series, future concerts include moe. on July 10, Railroad Earth on July 16, Air Supply on July 23, America on Aug. 6, Greensky Bluegrass on August 13, George Benson on August 14, and the Seaside Summer Freestyle Fest on August 17.”

Remarks Seaside Heights Director of Special Events Mike Graichen about the town’s summer season, “We’re loaded up this year with entertainment,” explaining, “In addition to our free and paid concerts, we have many other activities including fireworks on the 4th of July, free movies on the beach every Sunday at dusk, and the International Sand Sculpting Competition, where we have six of the world’s best professional sand sculptors competing for prizes,” before adding, “Although the competition takes place from June 26 to June 29, our expectation is that the event will remain open all through the July 4th holiday weekend, and possibly even longer.”

On the world-famous Seaside Heights Boardwalk, visitors stroll the boards as they enjoy ice cream, pizza, and other treats from multiple restaurants and stands, while others stop to play a game of chance, visit one of the many stores which offer everything from salt water taffy to T-shirts, or enjoy amusement rides designed for adventurers of all ages.

Still others make their way onto the beach in anticipation of tonight’s Dark Star Orchestra concert. Soon, a sea of music lovers clad in tie-dyed clothing and Grateful Dead T-shirts occupy the area in front of the stage where rows of camp and beach chairs dot the sand.

Before tonight’s show begins, we chat with several music lovers in the crowd. Remarks Carol from Point Pleasant, “We’re Grateful Dead fans, so we came here tonight to hear Dark Star Orchestra. We’re happy to see something this good right here in Seaside Heights. We’ve been to concerts on the beach in Atlantic City, but it’s so much nicer here in Seaside where it’s not nearly as crowded.”

Her husband, Charlie, concurs, adding, “We came to relax and enjoy the ocean and this beautiful weather,” recalling, “As a kid, I used to love hearing concerts on the beach. I can remember going to Martells in Point Pleasant, hanging out on the beach, and hearing The Four Seasons perform live.” Adding, “We’ve heard Dark Star Orchestra before and we love their shows,” Charlie explains, “They’ll often choose a specific Grateful Dead show and play every song from that show live, so I’m looking forward to hearing what they’re going to play tonight.”

Comments Amber from Forked River, “I’m a fan of Dark Star Orchestra — I even go to Jamaica to see them every year,” adding, “I’ve seen a lot of Grateful Dead cover bands but this one is, by far, the most authentic sounding.” Amber’s father, Kenny from Forked River, agrees, explaining, “I taught my daughter all about this kind of music. I used to bring Amber in her baby stroller to all sorts of concerts — the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd — so she was raised on this music!”

Confesses Louie from Galloway, who’s attending the show tonight with Amber and Kenny, “Over the past few years, I’ve sort of been dragged into attending these shows, but now I kinda like it. It’s a vibe — that whole Grateful Dead vibe where “Life is good,” “Everything is gonna be OK,” “Peace, love, and happiness” — that whole hippie vibe. I like it, and I like that’s there’s no judgement here; I can do what I want and enjoy myself at these shows.”

Music lovers in the crowd erupt with applause as the members of Dark Star Orchestra — Rob Barraco on keyboards, Rob Eaton and Jeff Mattson on guitars, Skip Vangelas on bass, Dino English and Rob Koritz on drums, and Lisa Mackey on vocals — take the stage.

“How’s everybody doing out there? We’ve got a nice day at the beach!” announces guitarist Rob Eaton before the group opens tonight’s show with the Grateful Dead’s “Box of Rain.” Audience members move gently to the country-infused sound of twangy guitars. A girl with a hula hoop dances by the edge of the ocean as Grateful Dead fans sing along to the music and the Casino Pier rides whirl and turn behind the stage.

Dark Star Orchestra follows up with “Man Smart (Woman Smarter),” a reggae-inspired King Radio song which features sweet guitar picking along with a Rob Barraco honky-tonk piano solo.

Concert-goers enjoy the sun, sand, and company as they sing along to other show highlights including the Dead’s “Ramble on Rose” and Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a number which has some audience members happily playing air guitar as they’re accompanied by the sound of the surf and the smell of the salty beach air.

The party-like atmosphere continues with additional highlights like Jerry Garcia’s “Loser” and Robbie Robertson’s “Broken Arrow,” where, as the sun begins to set, the lights of the rides on Casino Pier add to the ambiance and bubbles fly through the air while the Orchestra performs Jerry Garcia’s “Deal.”

As the band takes a break before wrapping up with such Grateful Dead originals as “Uncle John’s Band,” “Corrina,” “Unbroken Chain,” and “Throwing Stones” and concluding their performance tonight with their rendition of Bonnie Dobson’s “Morning Dew,” we chat with several concert-goers who share their thoughts on tonight’s Dark Star Orchestra concert experience.

Remarks Lauren from West Caldwell, “I’m a Grateful Dead fan, and I take my kids to shows like this all the time. For me, the beach is the best place to hear this music, so going to concerts like this one is wonderful. At some places, you can really feel packed in, but I like that here you can spread out on the beach and really enjoy yourself here in Seaside Heights.”

Dave from Toms River calls Dark Star Orchestra, “Awesome — a great band,” and his friend, Kevin from Toms River, agrees, recalling, “The last time I saw DSO was about ten years ago at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank. They sounded great then, and they still sound great now — just like the Grateful Dead,” adding, “Each time I hear them, I get transported — they’re all just grooving in their own world.”

Comments Joel from Tuckerton about his experience here tonight, “There’s nothing like dipping your toes in the sand of the Jersey Shore while you listen to the music of the Grateful Dead. I’ve seen Dark Star Orchestra many times, and listening to them is like taking a step back in time. Not every band can do that, but these guys can — they can get you there and put you in that place every single time.”

Lastly, we chat with Mike from Philly who acknowledges, “I’ve seen Dark Star Orchestra plenty of times — probably ten or more. They’re the flame that keeps the Grateful Dead’s music alive, and it’s just an incredible experience hearing them on the beach,” before concluding with a smile, “I love this!”

To learn more about Dark Star Orchestra, please go to darkstarorchestra.net.

For information on upcoming Seaside Heights Live concert events — including moe. on July 10, Railroad Earth on July 16, Air Supply on July 23, America on Aug. 6, Greensky Bluegrass on August 13, George Benson on August 14, and the Seaside Summer Freestyle Fest on August 17, please click on seasideheightslive.com.

For further information about other events in Seaside Heights, NJ — including Fireworks preceded by Joey Arminio’s All American Show on July 4, A Journey Tribute Concert by Separate Ways the Band on July 7, a screening of Luca on July 10, and Kites in the Heights on July 12 — please click on exit82.com.

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