Dark Star Orchestra (Friday)
at Boulder Theater
2032 14th St, Boulder, CO 80302
Friday, March 28, 2014
Doors open at 8:00PM
It's really about the sound that’s created. It's about a sense of familiarity. It's about a feeling that grabs listeners and takes over. It's about a contagious energy... In short, it's about the complete experience given by one of the greatest live acts of all time.
Dark Star Orchestra has been delivering this to both old and new Grateful Dead fans since 1997, when a group of talented musicians came up with an original concept – to perform complete Grateful Dead shows from out of the beloved act’s long touring history.
With the concept in mind, the newly formed Dark Star Orchestra secured four Tuesday night gigs at Martyrs' in their hometown of Chicago. The first night, on a blustery November 11, 1997, saw just 78 people, but through word-of-mouth, by the fourth week they had sold out the room. One year later, on the eve of their first anniversary, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman of Phish joined Dark Star Orchestra at Martyrs' after their own show in town. Fishman ended up sitting in for the majority of the evening, which included a rollicking drum section of four percussionists!
The ensuing buzz created caused national interest in the then regional favorite. That winter their Colorado tour sold out almost every performance and their website was getting millions of hits - everyone wanted to know how they got their sound so precise! Critics began to take note as well, with The Washington Post declaring them “the hottest Grateful Dead tribute act” and USA Today raved that DSO was “channeling the Dead.” Dark Star Orchestra had arrived.
Committed to their original mission of recreating the Grateful Dead’s live experience, Dark Star Orchestra has performed as many as 250 dates in a single year. They continue to grow their fanbase, playing at larger venues for two and even three night stands. Fans and critics haven’t been the only people caught up either, as the band has featured guest performances from original Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay, Vince Welnick, Tom Constanten and even toured with longtime Dead soundman, Dan Healy. Other notable guests have included Steve Kimock, Peter Rowan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Keller Williams, Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes and many more.
The core of Dark Star Orchestra remains strong and as the members’ musicianship refines, their recreations ring ever truer to the Grateful Dead’s sound and style. Playing a full Hammond B3 and on vocals, Rob Barraco channels to the sound of three of the Grateful Dead’s keyboardists. When the show is from the 70s, vocalist Lisa Mackey provides harmonies, performing the Donna Jean Godchaux parts in perfect key. Dino English combines his training in percussion and jazz and his experience in Dead-oriented groups to deliver the rhythmic drumming sounds of Bill Kreutzmann. On the other drum set, Rob Koritz, a classical and jazz influenced musician gets into the soul and spirit of the music while filling the Mickey Hart role. Like Phil Lesh, Skip Vangelas provides a very distinctive and fluid style of bass playing derived from his devotion to the music of the Dead. On rhythm guitar and vocals, Rob Eaton provides an extension of the incredible feeling, instrumentation and tone created by Dead co-founder Bob Weir. A veteran of over 30 years on the road, Jeff Matson brings his experience as a member of The Zen Tricksters, Donna Jean Godchaux Band and Phil Lesh & Friends to the guitar playing and singing of Jerry Garcia.
More than 15 years since that first show at Martyrs’, Dark Star Orchestra has gone on to perform over 2200 recreations worldwide. What they do is not simply a tribute to the Grateful Dead, but a testament to their enormous catalogue of timeless performances - in addition to Dark Star Orchestra’s own intermittent original set lists, created to give the listener a wholly unique experience.
"For us it's a chance to recreate some of the magic that was created for us over the years," Eaton explains. "We offer a sort of a historical perspective at what it might have been like to go to a show in 1985, 1978 or whenever. Even for Deadheads who can say they've been to a hundred shows in the 90s, we offer something they never got to see live."