At Dark Star Orchestra, Grateful Dead fans feel the love, nostalgia

Midwest Deadheads congregated on Thursday for the Dark Star Orchestra concert at Skyway Theatre.

Fans cheer as Dark Star Orchestra performs at Skyway Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016.

Chris Dang

Fans cheer as Dark Star Orchestra performs at Skyway Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016.

by Gunthar Reising

There are few instances when grown men proudly wear tie-dye, and one of them happens to be at a Grateful Dead concert. Since it’s is no longer the ’70s, Dark Star Orchestra will have to suffice.

On Thursday, people from all over the Midwest flocked to Skyway Theatre to see DSO enumerate one a past Grateful Dead’s set list — down to the smallest details, and yes, even mistakes were included.

A venue normally booked for raves was filled with strange smelling people speaking intelligibly about Grateful Dead’s canon. The occasional college hippie was speckled throughout a crowd of middle-aged, white men — comforted by the knowledge of having better music taste and more soul than their peers.

“They’re phenomenal … they keep the love alive,” Mike Swanson said.

Swanson, a self-proclaimed Deadhead who claims to have seen DSO “about 100 times,” has been going to Grateful Dead concerts since the age of 13.

Two students from Northland College, a private liberal arts school in Wisconsin, drove all the way here for their 10th DSO experience.

“It changed our lives. It moves me to tears. They’re so much fun,” Mary Sellars said.

Eager to prove their devotion, Sellars exhibited her friend Katie Lamoreaux’s Grateful Dead shoulder tattoo. After all these years, it seems Swanson is right — the love is still there.

When the band entered the tapestry-clad stage, it was obvious that they resembled the concertgoer demographic. When the lights dimmed, the guitar solos started rippling, and attendees unlocked stiff hips in jerky dances.

In the crowd were several University of Minnesota students — Gophers by day and nostalgia-loving Deadheads by night. Bachelor of individualized studies student Dylan Saunders said that his journey with the Dead, “started with American Beauty.” It’s been two years since his passion blossomed.

Although young for a Deadhead, Saunders has already seen Dead & Company — John Mayer’s Grateful Dead tribute band.

Saunders prefers DSO to Dead & Company.

“I think the spirit is alive,” Saunders said in regard to DSO.

Chemistry student Neal Gallagher was also excited for the show, having already seen DSO once before.

While explaining that his father got him started with the Grateful Dead, Gallagher was interrupted by someone who felt the need to tell a joke.

“What do you call two Deadheads out of weed?” The stranger asked. The punch line was lost in the cheering crowd.

Grateful Dead fans are not easy to please. Some are picky about their deceased.

“Honestly, it’s a lot of ’80s shit that I’m not super fond of,” concertgoer Alex Baker said after the first set.

The DSO has some peculiar fans, and not everyone can be perfectly accommodated. However, judging by the swaying and bobbing limbs, DSO is doing its part to eternalize the spirit of the Dead.