August 02 2023 Review and Photography by Joel Shover @JoelShoverPhotography

When you’re excellent at your craft people tend to notice, just ask anyone that has seen Dark Star Orchestra, aka DSO, over the last 25 years anywhere in the world and they will say there is nobody that does the Grateful Dead better! So why not team up with the folks at GoodWorks Entertainment and Stony Creek brewery for a trifecta of an evening of waterside jams and heady ales in the coastal Connecticut town of Branford, CT. 

On August 2nd, 2023, that’s exactly what happened when Dark Star Orchestra rolled into town. DSO are Jeff Mattson (lead guitar, vocals), Rob Eaton (Guitar, vocals), Lisa Mackey (vocals, harmonica), Rob Barraco (keys, vocals), Rob Koritz (percussion, drums), Kevin Rosen (bass, vocals) Dino English (drums, percussion). The band brought with them a special recreation of what they liked to call a matinee show from November 1st, 1969, at Family Dog at The Great Highway, San Fransico, California.

They jumped right in with a bass dropping start to the famed “Morning Dew” as the crowd had filled into a completely sold-out venue! Fans were packed on decks three stories high watching this amazing performance. The place may have been packed wall to wall elbow to elbow but you couldn’t tell with all the love in the air as all the fans had come to dance to the great tunes and spread joy!

It was a heavy “Pig Pen setlist for sure as Rob Barraco gracefully played the keys and while singing the raucous lyrics of hard to handle all while making it look way too easy. Even Connecticut’s own 88’er from Mystic Dead, Jordan Giangreco, was in the crowd to witness the mastery.  Mattson is one that surely makes playing guitar look so easy you’ll find yourself looking to purchase a guitar only to find out you should leave it to the pros!


Rob Eaton gets the MVP award for the night while playing through what seemed like a leg injury and he also made it look way too easy! Hats off to you Rob, and thanks for rocking the entire show! While the surprise of the night came from Lisa Mackey when she whaled on the harmonica grooving the entire venue and I’m sure the surrounding boats and cool neighbors too!

You can’t dance without a beat and let me tell you these guys threw down a beat tonight. Kevin Rosen was well grounded to the Connecticut Shoreline as he turned out the bass bombs and turned knobs on amps, all barefoot! That smile coming from the back is that of Dino English and he plays so methodically that you can’t help but just be transformed along with the blazing percussion sounds in tandem from Rob Koritz.

This all in all could not have been a more perfect evening with the weather, people, music, setting, everything was perfect! I look forward to coming back to this venue again and again!

If you want to see history in the making be sure to get your tickets for the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, New York to see DARK STAR ORCHESTRA this New Years Eve!

Go See Live Music…

Till The Next Show…. Joel

Full gallery of photos from this night here.

We Bid You Goodnight 

DSO website;

Grateful Dead original show here:


Set I

  1. Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson cover)
  2. Dire Wolf (Grateful Dead cover)
  3. Cold Rain and Snow (Obray Ramsey cover)
  4. Hard to Handle (Otis Reading cover)
  5. Mama Tried (Merl Haggard cover)
  6. High Time (Grateful Dead cover)
  7. Good Lovin’ (The Olympics cover)
  8. Drums (Grateful Dead cover) > Good Lovin’ Reprise
  9. Easy Wind (Grateful Dead cover)

Set II

  1. He Was a Friend of Mine (Traditional cover)
  2. China Cat Sunflower (Grateful Dead cover)
  3. I Know You Rider (Traditional cover)
  4. Casey Jones (Grateful Dead cover)
  5. Alligator (Grateful Dead cover)
  6. Drums (Grateful Dead cover)
  7. Jam
  8. And We Bid You Goodnight (Traditional cover)
  9. Uncle John’s Band (Grateful Dead cover)
  10. Turn On Your Lovelight (Bobby “Blue” Band cover)

Full gallery of photos from this night here.

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