Dark Star reincarnates The Dead
BRECKENRIDGE – Deadheads, rejoice. The vibes of the Grateful Dead have found a reincarnation.
Cover bands have mimicked the Grateful Dead for years, but Dark Star Orchestra revives the music of the Dead, playing original set lists with vintage stage arrangements.
Guitarist John Kadlecik came up with the idea of performing complete Grateful Dead shows after perusing the 1990 edition of “DeadBase,” a compilation of the Dead’s setlists. In 1997, he hooked up with keyboardist Scott Larned and put a band together to play a few shows at Martyrs’ in Chicago. The first week, 78 people showed up. That number doubled the next week, doubled again the following week and sold out by the fourth week. Within months, the band began touring.
“What we set out to do really exploded on us,” Larned said.
The band members, who collectively have been to more than 600 Dead shows, choose a specific show, study tapes of it, mimic the stage set-up using instruments from the same decade, play the songs note by note and even duplicate between-song banter.
“We’re trying to recreate the music,” Larned said. “What we offer is a historical perspective at what it might have been like to go to a show in 1985, 1978, or whatever. (Every member is) so obsessed with one of the guys in the Dead that he or she is able to replicate it. I’ve heard so many tapes of Brent playing songs that the best thing I can do when we’re doing this project is get out of the way and let that flow out in his spirit.”
Larned plays all five keyboardists the Dead had over its three decades, drummer Dino English pounds out rhythms like Mickey Hart, drummer Bob Koritz replicates the beat of Bill Kreutzmann, bassist Kevin Rosen captures the Phil Lesh zone, guitarist and vocalist Rob Eaton wails like Bob Weir, Lisa Mackley sings Donna Godchaux’s parts and Kadlecik fills Jerry Garcia’s shoes. Each member strives to incorporate the constantly changing dynamics upon which the Dead built its reputation.
“They incorporated so many styles, and the fact that it could be different night after night made it really exciting,” Larned said. “With the Dead, it was always, “Let’s make it sound this particular way on this particular night in this particular room,’ and I think that was a really cool way to approach it.”
Now, Dark Star Orchestra experiences a similar, ever-changing dynamic.
“That these guys (of the Grateful Dead) give us their blessing is such a kick,” Larned said. “It’s a warm feeling that those guys are supportive of what we’re doing.”
Tickets are $22 in advance, $24 the day of the show, and may be purchased by calling (970) 547-3100 or visiting http://www.breckenridgemusicfestival.net.
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