Photography by Steven Philips (StSteven.com) Story by Dan Pasquerella
On Memorial Day weekend in beautiful Thornville, Ohio, the 3rd annual Dark Star Jubilee at Legend Valley had a very grateful turnout. Formerly Buckeye Lake, which hosted a number of Grateful Dead shows, was the setting for a beautiful weekend at a Dead Heads paradise. The music ran from Friday evening through Sunday night, but people showed up early and didn’t leave until Monday. The weather was in the mid 70’s to mid 80’s all weekend without a cloud in the sky; it was perfect for an outdoor camping festy. This is Dark Star Orchestra’s own festival and they headlined all three nights, choosing an excellent original sets Friday and Sunday, and the 11/6/77 Binghamton, NY show on Saturday.
The Werks, an Ohio favorite, opened up the festival with a very electric set on Friday. They threw down an awesome take on the Frank Zappa’s original “Peaches en Regalia” which got everyone moving and ready for more. There were no overlapping sets during the whole festival so we didn’t have to wait long for the second act.
The festival crew did an amazing job at sticking to their time schedule and as the Werks wrapped it up, Keller Williams with More Than a Little took the stage. They brought a funky feel to covers such as West LA Fadeaway and Best Feeling.
Dark Star Orchestra hit the stage at 8:30 surprising the crowd with a beautiful “Box of Rain” opener into “Till the Morning Comes” and “Black Throated Wind”. Other highlights included “Mission in the Rain”, “Mama Tried” and “Gimme Some Lovin'” into “Might as Well.” It was quite an energetic first set. Set two began with a solid “Feels Like a Stranger” followed by a jam grassy “Cumberland Blues” with Nicky Sanders (Steep Canyon Rangers) on fiddle. The set featured Jabberwocky Space (Poem by Lewis Carroll) and Werewolves of London, again with Nickey Sanders, a Powerhouse way to close out DSO’s first night.
Many fans ventured back to their campsite, or as we like to call it home. Many were tired and most of us were cold as friday night became very chilly but a good amount of fans stayed in front of the stage to catch “The Devil Makes Three” a threesome hailing from Vermont, who brought some ground stomping folk-grass, a great way to wind down friday evening.
Music started early Saturday as the sun starting blazing down on tents causing everyone to wake up and rage. Devils Lettuce, the four piece band from Columbus, opened with a dubby reggae party on the dance floor. Ohio based electro-funk band Ultraviolet Hippopotamus brought some great energy to the afternoon and got the crowd moving and on their feet.
Next to hit the stage was a Michigan based band, The Ragbirds, followed by Toubab Krewe, an instrumental band from North Carolina. The Everyone Orchestra conducted by Matt Butler hit next, and featured keyboards, drums and vocals from DSO members, and other stars from the festival.
New Riders Of The Purple Sage, (playing since 1971), was definitely a crowd favorite and brought a Grateful feel to the stage. During their hour and a half set many people flooded to the main stage and prepared for the second DSO show.
Once again DSO blew our minds as we got to absorb the Grateful Dead experience. They opened the set with “Mississippi Half Step” and and ripped up other favorites such as “New Minglewood Blues” and “Passenger”. They closed out the set with high energy. The Music Never Stopped setting the crowd off into a dancing frenzy. The second set would also fail to disappoint, opening with a “Samson and Delilah” that had everyone getting down and moving their feet. “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain”, a Grateful Dead favorite combination came next before ending with a marathon of favorites like “Dark Star”, “St Stephen”, “Not Fade away”, “Wharf Rat”, “St Stephen”, “Truckin”, with a very strong “Johnny B. Goode” as the encore to button up the show.
With the crowds mood perfect and the energy extremely high, Galactic kept it going on the side stage and brought their New Orleans feel right to Ohio. Their high energy power funk was a great transition into the late night jam grass rager Yonder Mountain String Band, who ripped a high energy ground stomping jam gass set until 2:00 AM to end a perfect Saturday.
Sunday’s weather was cooking as it seemed to warm up a bit more each day as the festival progressed. AJ Ghent started off the morning followed by Aliver Hall, leading into an Ohio favorite the Rumpke Mountain boys. Donna the Buffalo took the stage next infusing various different genres of music with their rare Zydeco style. They have been playing together for twenty years and had no problem showing the crowd that they are no amateurs.
Traveling all the way from Los Angeles, Orgone took over the stage and brought the funk. Everyone on the dancefloor was moving. Their whole set was high energy and if anyone in the crowd wasn’t already a fan they were after Orgone walked off of the stage. Cornmeal, a growing Americana Jam Grass band brought some great energy to the stage and kept the crowd moving through the sun and the hot afternoon. Anders Osborne another crowd favorite and very well known singer/ songwriter from Louisiana brought a very soulful performance to the main stage.
The legendary reggae band The Wailers, who played with Bob Marley for years, ripped a special set for all of us at the Jubilee by performing Legend in its entirety. Awesome set getting everyone excited for Dark star to close the night. They did it in style with an original setlist featuring a number of Bob Dylan tunes, and as always, some great Grateful Dead originals.
The weekend was a huge success. Great crowd, amazing music, perfect weather, good vibes, awesome vendors, courteous and efficient staff, everything that goes into making a great festival.