The Verizon Event Pavilion echoed with the sounds of the Grateful Dead on Thursday night - but these weren't Dead Heads. They were Star Heads.
The Dark Star Orchestra, which first performed at the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival last year, packed the pavilion with tie-dye toting, bandanna-wearing, peace sign-sporting fans.
“Doc” Watson, from Georgia, has been using his vacation time to follow Dark Star while the band is on tour this summer. He said he has been to almost 30 shows, but only one or two actual Grateful Dead concerts.
“The Dead were always so messed up,” he said. “Dark Star has their act together, and the music they play is wonderful.”
Michael Heinz of Chicago said he thinks he has seen Dark Star perform 268 times - he watched them at least weekly for two years.
The pavilion itself could only be described as psychedelic. The atmosphere was mellow, accented with tie-dyed and floral tapestries. Multicolored lights decorated the arena with trippy shapes.
Leaving enough room for dancing, the audience gathered close to the stage when “Alabama Getaway” blasted from the band's two drum sets, two electric guitars, one bass and two keyboards.
When the music was slower and quieter, a smooth, simultaneous sway took over the Star Heads. Almost immediately, the tempo would quicken and the music would turn loud and abrupt once more, causing a human earthquake in the crowd.
After a long instrumental piece accompanied by lights and smoke, “Along the Watchtower” revived the crowd and the dancing started once more. The speed and adrenaline coming from the kaleidoscopic stage lasted until “Don't Let Go,” the 10:30 encore.
“You can call it the great mystery,” said Jay Brown of Dayton, Ohio, who has seen Dark Star 90 times. “It never gets old. No matter how many times you see them, they just keep getting better and better.”