Phoner with Jeff Mattson, lead guitarist with Dark Star Orchestra
July 13, 2011

Jeff Mattson is a busy man, but I caught up with him on the phone during a particularly busy time in his schedule. Jeff headlined three nights at Grateful Fest with DSO over the 4th of July weekend at Nelson Ledges in Ohio, plus played full sets with JGB and Donna Godshaux. DSO also played 5 nights in a row in VA and NC, then one in OH, two shows in Dewey Beach, DE, and then it’s off to ALL GOOD! Jeff especially likes All Good because “it is well run, safe and comfortable as they take good care of the bands and the audience. Very professional.”  After All Good, DSO will play Gathering of the Vibes along with a few other East Coast shows, and then it’s off to the Fuji Rock Festival in Niigata, Japan. Whew – makes my head spin. They basically live in their tour bus!

Jeff became a member of DSO after knowing the band for many years and sharing the stage with them in other musical ventures.  Jeff founded the Zen Tricksters and played with DSO keyboard player Rob Barraco for about ten years. He shared many bills with DSO including a tour in 2003 when Jeff was a nightly opener.

I asked him about his relationship with Jerry Garcia and his music and I found Jeff and I truly have something in common.  That Jerry was a bit of an idol, and like so many deadheads, we hold the music very dear in our hearts and minds. This allows Jeff to play and sing in his own personal style, but having the memory and spirit of Jerry’s playing and singing inside which a lot of that comes out at every show. When recreating Grateful Dead shows, Jeff and his bandmates take a listen to the old recordings and try to pick up on some of the technical points, unique song structures and length and style of the jams. But performing the songs still transpire into Dark Star’s own renditions.

So catch Dark Star Orchestra’s set at All Good this weekend! But if you can’t make this weekend’s set you can catch them the following week at Vibes, in Japan, on one of their many tour stops throughout the USA, or even in Amsterdam at next years Jam in the Dam! So DSO here’s to a great show, a great festival season, and a great “Summer of 2011!” Peace.