Tuesday, July 26, 2005

D.S.O. in Denver Post


Dark Star Orchestra fit to be dyed
Cover band's jams keep Dead alive
By Elana Ashanti Jefferson Denver Post Staff Writer


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Grateful Dead's surviving members must feel the Dark Star Orchestra's long, strange tribute is a singular honor.

Dark Star, named after one of the legendary band's classic songs, draws from a music well that includes 2,500 Dead songs performed over the course of three decades. The cover band, which makes a
series of Colorado appearances this week, goes to exhaustive lengths to reproduce sets from classic Dead shows, even duplicating the number and placement of microphones on stage.

Speaking from the road recently, singer/guitarist Rob Eaton said the mistake music fans often make is assuming every single note is a precise replica. That, after all, would not be a jam - and as anyone worth their tie-dye knows, the Grateful Dead were the high priests of jam-band rock.

"We pay attention to Dead history, but we have no idea what's going to happen on any given night," said the Vail resident. "We assimilate and approximate tones and arrangements, but everything between the lines is improvisation.

"The whole point of Grateful Dead music is what happens when the people and the music get together," he added.
Eaton should know. The musician estimates that over the course of two decades before Jerry Garcia's 1995 death, he saw the Dead live more than 400 times. "The Spring '77 tour was one of my favorites."
Lately, this tribute is beginning to feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For one thing, DSO's new music DVD, "Live at the Fillmore," showcases scenes from a May 2004 gig at the Fillmore San Francisco; the original venue that helped launch the Grateful Dead. That footage just happened to be captured by the Dead's longtime sound engineer, Robert Matthews. A high school buddy of Dead guitarist Bob Weir, Matthews is credited with helping shape the Dead's sound; he recorded such signature albums as "Workingman's Dead" and "Europe '72."

Adding to the aura, singer Donna Godchaux, a longtime Dead collaborator, joined DSO on stage for that concert.
But the spookiest similarity goes beyond the music as the tribute band unexpectedly lost one of its pivotal members to heart disease earlier this year. Keyboardist and co-founder Scott Larned was a clean-living 35-year-old who died in a hotel after a heart attack.

"It's quite a mystical coincidence how art imitates life, since the Grateful Dead lost three keyboardists during their career," says DSO publicist Dave Weissman.

Larned was part of "Live at the Fillmore." Trucking on down the road in spite of communal tragedy is DSO's highest tribute yet, honoring both Larned and the Dead.

"If (Scott) was here now, he would be telling us to get out there and keep going, keep doing this," Eaton said. "The music, he would say, is bigger than any one of us."
The live footage fuses tight

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