Categories: Art+Culture

Top 5: Mike McMenamin

written by Phil McKernan | photo by Joni Kabana


Mike McMenamin first heard The Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star” on the Live/Dead album in 1970. This epic improvisational journey begins with the same melody but then flows seamlessly into a different musical genre—jazz, jam, psychedelic and others. Often referred to as a deified “IT” by Deadheads, “Dark Star” became an inspiration for Mike McMenamin, and many of his McMenamins hotels and breweries.

“Dark Star is kind of the way we do our places,” McMenamin says. “It’s never the same. It’s the never-ending song. It just pops out of where they are at the moment: jazz, psychedelia, jam. It’s been my inspiration. It’s high adventure.”

Shall we go, you and I, while we can, through the transitive nightfall of diamonds? —Dark Star

Top Five Versions of The Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star”

1 – Live/Dead album, 1969

“This gets into the abstract angry insect mode. Most people don’t like it.”

2 – 1970 Filmore East, NYC

“This one breaks down some of the other tunes and melodies.”

3 – October 1971

“I’m partial to this one. This is a pretty version of the song.”

4 – 1972 Veneta, Oregon Country Fair

“It was 105 degrees and everyone was higher than a kite. It’s a journey and a treat to listen to this song.“

5 – 1974 Alexandra Palace, England

“This is a really jazzy version.”

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