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RED BANK: BETTER DEAD, OR LED?

dark-star-4588258Dark Star Orchestra brings its jamband brand of symphony and scholarship back to the Basie stage, this Thursday night, followed on Friday the 13th by the act that brands itself “The American Led Zeppelin.”

We’ve said it before, but here in what’s stacking up as some sort of Season of the Dead, the alarming loss of one AM/FM legend after another has only served to reinforce the demand for a newer, bigger breed of hard-touring sonic soundalikes. And whether your favorite band of the baby-boomer era has been claimed by death, artistic differences, litigation, “nervous exhaustion” — or worse, an inability to cede the spotlight despite stiffening fingers, flattening voices and dwindling looks — there’s an act for that; poised to serve and in many cases “even better than the real thing.” It’s a lucrative corner of the live music marketplace that the folks at the Count Basie Theatre have worked to great advantage, as well as a crowd-pleasing, seat-filling brand of fun fantasy that lights up the famous stage in the nights to come.

While the Greater Green doesn’t lack for savvy channelers of the Grateful Dead (as witness PieHole’s own Jim Willis and his Dead Bank brethren), there exists an even deeper dimension of obsession — and it’s a plane of existence occupied by Dark Star Orchestra, the septet that’s made it their stock in trade to recreate specific concert set lists from the Dead’s thirty-year tour itinerary. Drawing from points on the road that can range from the Great Pyramid to Raceway Park and every pitstop between, the people of the Ork “seek out the unique style and sound of each era while simultaneously offering their own informed improvisations” — and on Thursday, May 12, they return to the Basie stage in what’s become a Red Bank rite of spring. Take it here for tickets (a people’s-priced $25 and $35).

It’s been a long time since the force of nature that was Led Zeppelin crisscrossed the continent in their private Starship jumbo jet; legendarily laying waste to hotel rooms (and the good family name of aspiring groupies) in every big-league port of call. It’s been nearly as long since the onetime “Hammer of the Gods” began to put their own legend at arm’s length; turning inward in the wake of personal travails, tragedy and their own yearnings to explore beyond the parameters of “Whole Lotta Love.” Breaking out of the heavy-blues box and into a world of tricky rhythms, world-music influences, experimental arrangements and in-jokes that most of their suburban fans would never get, Zep would find their late-career studio albums following a different path than those legendary and oft-bootlegged live shows.

Enter Get The Led Out – The American Led Zeppelin, a six-man tribute project formed in the misty-mountain countryside of Philadelphia, and an increasingly popular attraction that returns once more to the Basie for a full-length retroZEPtive on Friday the 13th. The sextet (vocalist Paul Sinclair; guitarists Paul Hammond and Jimmy Marchiano; drummer Adam Ferraoli; bassist Billy Childs; multi-instrumentalist Andrew Lipke) re-channels the four-piece fury of the classic band from here to “Kashmir;” spanning the group’s decade of dominance and “recreating on stage the complete sound of Led Zeppelin’s recordings with the studio overdubs that Zeppelin themselves never performed live.” Reserve tickets ($21.50 – $39.50) right here.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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