The "Gratest" tribute of all
The "Gratest" tribute of all
By Ellen Kizik Dawgnet Assistant Features Editor
Dark Star Orchestra has become recognized over the years for their uncanny ability to recreate the Grateful Dead experience. They will rock out tonight at the Music Mill for $20. Show starts at 8:30pm.
DSO, hailing from Chicago, began when John Kadlecik and Scott Larned had an idea for a different kind of Grateful Dead cover band in 1997. Shortly after, the two gathered like-minded Deadhead musicians and grew into a seven-piece group with each member playing a specific role: John Kadlecik as Jerry Garcia, Rob Eaton as Bob Weir, Kevin Rosen as Phil Lesh, Scott Larned playing the role of all five keyboardists, Dino English as Mickey Hart, Rob Koritz as Bill Kreutzmann and Lisa Mackey as Donna Godchaux.
Ironically, with the responsibility of immortalizing the Grateful Dead comes their curse, the loss of three keyboardists during their long career. DSO suffered their first loss of keyboardist and co-founding member Scott Larned last April. Since then, Rob Barraco and Dan Klepinger have helped DSO make the hard transition, with Klepinger taking over the position.
Kadlecik explained that, "The idea was to get a band together where each musician would play a particular band member. We quickly realized that it was easier to play an entire set as one musician."
The majority of the members of Dark Star Orchestra have played in Dead-tribute bands in the past; however, none stuck like this one. In total, the DSO band members have seen over 1,000 original Dead shows. The band’s knowledge of the Grateful Dead is undeniable and their tribute is something much greater. "It is a great privilege and honor, as well as a huge responsibility," said English. "We feel fortunate to be doing what we are doing and appreciate the response we have gotten. We know when we are doing it right from the way the audience responds to us. It’s all quite amazing."
The difference between DSO and other cover bands is that they do not just perform a few Grateful Dead songs; they actually play an entire set chosen from the 2,500 that the Dead performed over their 30-year career. Their sets typically reach up to 3 or 4 hours.
Kadlecik and English explained that DSO selects which set-list to play depending on what has been performed in that particular city before; for example, if they played a late 80’s show the last time they were in town, they may choose a set list from the mid 70’s. Both emphasized the importance of variety, which explains why the band interprets a different Dead show every concert they do. The only catch is that the audience has to wait until the end of DSO’s performance to find out the date and venue of the where the original show just covered took place.
The historic accuracy with which DSO crafts its shows is remarkable. Aside from choosing between complete Grateful Dead show selections, the Jerry Garcia Band set-lists or original set lists of DSO’s choosing that they will perform in a particular city, the band’s stage layout is based on the year of the Grateful Dead show they are performing. DSO even adapts their phrasing, voice arrangements, and specific musical equipment for the correct era in which they perform. This kind of attention to detail really gives the audience a true to life experience of a Grateful Dead show.
According to English, "We want to take music to a new place while respecting the history of where it came from … homage to the past while playing tribute to the future. And even though the songs may sound a little cliché now, they still ring true."
For more information visit: Dark Star Orchestra.