Monthly Archives: November 2010

Dyeing to be Dead

Given the recent frosty weather conditions, downtown Sacramento’s Crest Theater was the perfect venue for Dark Star Orchestra’s re-creation of the Grateful Dead’s concert held at the Cal Expo Amphitheatre back on June 9, 1984. Last night’s performance was attended by a mostly older crowd and many of the attendees were lighting up before the concert even starting.

In fact, just before the band began to play I was alarmed by the sight of a bunch of smoke wafting through the air. I grabbed a security guy to let him know the theater was on fire, but he said it was Ganja Man. I wondered to myself if this Ganja Man had a super hero complex running around with a name like that. After a few minutes, I noticed the smoke getting thicker so I asked the security guy to go find this Ganja Man and tell him to put out the fire. He turns to me and says, “Dude, ganja’s not a man it’s weed, you know pot.” I felt like an idiot and wished I’d spent more time listening to Cheech and Chong when I was growing up.

Ok, so maybe that didn’t really happen but you get the idea.

Dark Star Orchestra (DSO) was formed in 1997 when guitarist John Kadlecik hooked up with keyboardist Scott Larned with the concept of re-creating complete Grateful Dead concert performances. The band name even comes from the Grateful Dead song, Dark Star.

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Dead, as they were referred to by their fans, was best known for their unique and eclectic style fusing elements of rock, folk, blues, country and jazz. Fans of the Dead were known as Deadheads and were extremely dedicated to the band, following them from concert to concert. The more dedicated deadheads began selling tied dyed shirts and veggie burritos in order to make money so they could continue to follow the band. The Grateful Dead disbanded after lead singer and guitar player, Jerry Garcia, suffered a fatal heart attack in 1995.

DSO has been able to remain true to the Dead’s past performances because the Dead allowed their fans to record their performances. This has provided DSO with a huge archive of past shows which is currently stored in a database referred to as the Deadbase, listing all the Dead’s past performances along with the order of songs. Since the Dead’s music was improvisational, DSO doesn’t try and play the music note for note. They improvise as well.

Current members and their Grateful Dead counterparts include Jeff Mattson guitar and vocals as Jerry Garcia , Rob Eaton on rhythm guitar and vocals as Dead co-founder Bob Weir, Kevin Rosen playing bass as Phil Lesh, Dino English on drums as Bill Kreutzmann, Rob Koritz on the second set of drums as Mickey Hart, Lisa Mackey performing vocals as Donna Jean Godchaux, and Rob Barraco on keyboards playing as three past performers.

I was able to speak to one gentleman, who wished to remain nameless, as did everyone else. He was in his late 60’s and has been following DSO around since last year. He was an original deadhead and attended a number of Grateful Dead concerts. He spends most nights in his van as he tries to keep up with the bands aggressive tour schedule. Dressed in a tied dyed shirt and armed with an oxygen tank he headed straight for the stage as soon as the concert began. Yes, I said oxygen tank!

I also spoke to a woman who said she was 60 (she volunteered this information). She knows one of the band members, and she and her husband attend as many performances as possible. Just before the concert started, she pulled out a small rug to dance around on. In between songs, she did stretches.

DSO recreates the music from a concert nearest the location of the venue they are playing and refuse to release any information until after their performance. For you die-hard deadheads, here is the complete set list from last night’s re-creation of the Dead’s June 9, 1984 Cal Expo Amphitheatre concert

Set One: Iko Iko; Hell In A Bucket; Loser; Cassidy; Dupree’s Diamond Blues; CC Rider; Deal

Set two: I Need A Miracle; Bertha; Playing In The Band; China Doll; Jam; Drums; Space; Black Peter; Sugar Magnolia; One More Saturday Night

Encore: Keep Your Day Job

DSO will be playing at the Crystal Bay Club in Crystal Bay, NV before heading to Southern California.

For more information regarding Dark Star Orchestra

Dane Drewis – A Family Recipe for Success

It’s the time of year when family and friends get together for a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, and this Thanksgiving eve Harlow’s, in downtown Sacramento, was no exception.

On a night when most people are busy preparing for their Thanksgiving Day festivities, singer, songwriter and local boy Dane Drewis, his father Dale Drewis (vocals and bass), Jason Weed (drums), and Mike Camilleri filled the house. Also performing was Drew’s sister, Janel Drewis, and Thaw Jack Frost.

[singlepic id=62 w=600 h=400 float=]The concert started with a fantastic performance by Janel who, according to her father Dale, has all the talent in the family. She sang several covers and the crowd went wild after she belted out Lady Gaga’s, Alejandro. As Dane witnessed first-hand, sharing the stage with family can have its drawbacks when at the end of her set Janel told the crowd that he had performed as Elvis in a school play, fully decked out in a cape and accessories. All was not lost, however, when she was kind enough to add that he now has a 3rd degree black belt.

[singlepic id=66 w=600 h=400 float=]Janel was followed by Thaw Jack Frost, with Chris Twomey (guitar and bass), Dan Rau (guitars and bass), Nathan Bisig (guitars), and Lucas Thompson (drums). These guys really got the crowd going. By the end of their set half the people were on the dance floor having a good time.

[singlepic id=64 w=600 h=400 float=]Dane (aka Elvis) kicked off his set with a song from his album Rock & Soul. Dane also treated the crowd with a new song they have been working on and, based on the audience’s reaction, it’s going to be a hit.

Some say Dane sounds like Jason Mraz, others argue he sounds like John Mayer. While Dane considers both a great compliment, with his unique and eclectic sound coupled with strong vocals and harmony he deserves to stand on his own. With his unique style and sultry sound, he can’t be pigeon-holed into any particular category. Dane finds it all flattering, and believes his eclectic sound keeps them from being boring.

Dane was born into a long line of musicians. His grandfather was a classical composer in the 1930’s and his grandmother was an accomplished violinist/pianist. Both of his parents were full-time musicians during his formative years.

Dane started his music concert career as the front man for Cuesta Drive. While singing, composing, and playing guitar for the band, Dane wrote and produced three records with Cuesta Drive. Earlier this year, he released his first solo EP entitled Rock & Soul. As the title suggests, the album is an interesting mix of styles and like last night’s show it’s a family affair. His two sisters, Janel and Deena, provide vocals, guitar, keyboards and percussion. Dane’s parents, Dale and Janet, also provide vocals along with flute accompaniment and percussion.

I had the opportunity to ask Dane a few questions before the show.

Randy: What does it mean to you to be able to perform on-stage with your family on Thanksgiving Eve?

Drewis: Playing with the family on Thanksgiving Eve is a great honor. We are able to play together quite often, but being able to take it to the next level on a larger stage feels great and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing!

Randy: Earlier this year, you made an unsuccessful run at American Idol. Any comments or lessons learned that you would like to share?

Drewis: If there’s one thing I learned from American Idol . . . it’s to not give up. There were so many kids who were there and who were hungry. I realized that to really succeed in music you need to never give up. It’s one of the most competitive fields out there, and nobody has made it to the top on sheer luck. Another interesting thing I realized about American Idol is that they are not really looking for the most talented person. It’s more than that. Imagine if Jason Mraz, John Mayer, or John Legend tried out. They might make it kinda far, but chances are they wouldn’t get past the initial rounds. So to anyone who tried out and didn’t get anywhere (like me!), keep your head up! There are tons of different avenues for a musician/artist to break through!

Randy: I noticed on your Facebook page that you’ve booked a 2011 tour. Care to share?

Drewis: As of right now we have a college campus tour in April 2011 in Colorado and are hoping to get more along the way, in Utah, Arizona, and Southern California. Very excited to start touring colleges! Everything is still in the works, but we will definitely be hitting the road fulltime in 2011. Hoping to play over 150 shows!
Dane’s upcoming appearances:

Friday December 10th and 11th at 08:00 PM
Ten 22, 1022 2nd Street, Sacramento

Thursday December 16th at 8:00 PM
The Crow’s Nest, 2218 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Friday December 17th at 8:00 PM
Shenanigans, 705 J Street, Sacramento

Wednesday December 22nd at 8:00 PM
Marilyn’s on K, 908 K Street, Sacramento

Friday January 21st at 8:00 PM
Powerhouse Pub, Folsom, CA

Saturday February 12th at 8:00 PM
Harlow’s, 2708 J Street, Sacramento, CA, 95816

Yu Kosuge Takes CSUS Piano Series by Storm

Despite a cold, rainy, windy Saturday night, CSUS’s Capistrano Music Recital Hall was at near capacity for the debut of the 17th annual CSUS Concert Piano Series. Founder and host of the event, Professor Richard Cionco, explained that Yu Kosuge was selected to kick off the Piano Series because she represents the youngest generation of professional pianists enjoying a sky-rocketing success world-wide. The evening’s event was graciously sponsored by Richard Graves, M.D.Ms. Kosuge entered Tokyo University of the Art at the ripe old age of 4, after she was selected for a program aimed at providing specialized education to gifted children. At the age of nine, she made her orchestral debut playing with the Tokyo New City Orchestra. She has released nine CDs and has also published a book, Jõnetsu no Cadenza, in which she recalls her career path in music as well as humorous incidents from her concert life.

[singlepic id=46 w=600 h=400]The audience was a mix of young and old. Most notable was Edward McGrath, age 94, who has had the pleasure of watching some of the greatest names in piano perform and can now add Ms. Kosuge to that list.

Yu Kosuge arrived on stage with her customary salmon-colored dress and black tennis shoes, which were later replaced by beautiful sparkling high heel shoes after the intermission. During her first set you could hear the beeping of a truck backing up. I got excited, thinking here’s the reason she’s sky-rocketing to the top, only to discover it was just the CSUS Marching Band unloading their concert equipment. There was some shuffling noise coming from the hall until Professor Cionco kicked some band butt between songs. Poor guys had no idea there was a concert going on, let alone that a world renowned pianist was in the house.

Despite a rocky start with a wardrobe malfunction and a bit of noise, Yu Kosuge’s performance was spectacular. I’m no piano aficionado and I don’t consider myself well-versed in the cultural art of music, but the crowd’s reaction to her performance and the chatter afterwards made it quite obvious that she’s a force to be reckoned with. She received several standing ovations and I overheard people talking about the intensity of how she played, as if she were channeling energy from an unknown source. Even I could feel the intensity.

Granted I have no idea if her performance was flawless from a technical perspective, but the wonderful sounds emanating from her fingertips were breathtakingly magical. With a touch of pianissimo, a wide range of colors, and a little staccato here and there, she won the audience over from the moment she started playing.

She started the evening with works by both Beethoven and Chopin, moving on to Japanese composer, Toru Takemitsu, after the intermission. The climax of the evening was when she played the twelve Etudes, Opus 10 by Chopin. To the audience’s delight, she performed this difficult piece magnificently, and here I was thinking I was going to be able to catch up on some well needed rest. No way. This woman can play pianissimo like no other and then, BOOM, the piano roars to life nearly knocking you out of your seat.

This wonderful performance is just the beginning!

The CSUS Concert Piano Series was started in 1994 by the Professor of Piano, Richard Cionco, and for seventeen years has included world-class artists from as far away as England, France, and Japan. This year is no different, scheduled to appear are:

Evelyn Chen ““ Saturday, February 5th at 7:30 pm
Jon Nakamatsu ““ Sunday, March 27th at 3:00 pm
Adam Neiman ““ Saturday, April 16th at 7:30 pm

The annual Piano Series also offers several free Piano Master classes taught by some of the most respected names in the piano world, including:

Evelyn Chen ““ Monday, February 7th at 2:00 pm
Mark Valenti ““ Monday, February 21st, at 2:00 pm
Adam Neiman ““ Friday, April 15th at 6:00 pm

The Series culminates with the annual Piano Festival slated for April 16-18, 2011. The Valencia Young Pianist Competition will be held on Saturday, April 16. It’s not open to the public, but guest artist Adam Neiman will be performing at 7:30pm that night in the Music Recital Hall.

LOCATION: Music Recital Hall, CSUS, 6000 J St., Sacramento
COST: $15 general; $10 students and seniors
FOR MORE INFORMATION: (916) 278-5155; www.csus.edu/music

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