Dark Star Orchestra has carried on the legacy of the Grateful Dead on its broad shoulders for 17 years.

Dark Star Orchestra has carried on the legacy of the Grateful Dead on its broad shoulders for 17 years.

During that span of nearly two decades, Dark Star has earned and held the title of most adored Grateful Dead tribute band. The road warriors have treated deadheads to more than 2,200 ghoulish concerts, of which a handful were at the Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach.

Having stirred up the Bottle & Cork yesterday with its first return show there since last year, the skeleton crew will give an encore tonight, capping off its second consecutive show at the Bottle & Cork, which will also be its final at the venue this summer.

"It's a real partying town," DSO frontman Jeff Mattson fondly said of Dewey Beach, during a phone interview with the Sussex Countian. "People come ready to throw down and have a good time."

On any given night, crowds will hear DSO perform a show based on tunes from the Grateful Dead's 30 years of extensive touring. Sometimes DSO will perform an identical repertoire from one of the Grateful Dead's concerts. Other times DSO will dish out a unique set list comprised of songs they handpicked.

No different than the Grateful Dead, DSO never performs the same set-list twice. Also, whereas most cover bands will play a particular hit song at every show, Mattson says DSO doesn't feel the need to do so, just like the Grateful Dead didn't. So the band doesn't. And this makes each DSO concert feel like a grand box of chocolates.

"We have an idea of what we'll be playing, but we won't say until the end of show," said the laidback Mattson. The frontman digs this approach, too, as do many of the deadheads because they like "being surprised."

On the contrary, one of the songs you likely won't hear tonight is "Shade and Spirit," an obscure tune off the Grateful Dead's eighth studio record, "Blues for Allah," released in 1975.

"It's a really intricate instrumental," Mattson said. "We've never performed that [song]. [But] someday we'll get to it."

No matter what songs DSO tackles tonight, Mattson and his bandmates only have one goal in mind.

"We're just trying to honor that music and that talent that was already here before [us]," Mattson said of paying tribute to the Grateful Dead. "We believe that it deserves to be kept alive and healthy out there and we're doing our part. We get joy out of doing that and making a living out of it."


WHAT Dark Star Orchestra in concert

WHEN 8:45 p.m., Wednesday

WHERE Bottle & Cork, 1807 Highway One, Coastal Highway, Dewey Beach

COST $25-$28

INFO Visit deweybeachlife.com or call (302) 227-7272