Blair Jackson and DSO

From DeadNet Central, posted here with permission:

Dick’s Picks Resurrected > Current Topics > The Rest > Garcia

blair jackson – Jul 13, 2008 3:15 pm (#16280)

So, last night, after never having seen a second of them or heard a note, I watched a little of DSO live at the Allgood Festival in WV on iclips (they played a set that began at 2 a.m. east coast time!) Not sure how to evaluate them. As many have noted, they sound almost EXACTLY like the Dead. The “Jerry” is just like Jerry tonally and even more amazing is that the “Bob” (Rob Eaton, right?) plays just like Bob — which is a lot what makes them sound so eerily like the Dead. You just don’t hear people “do” Weir quite the way he does — it was so exacting. The bassist didn’t make an impression on me one way or another; could’ve been the TV mix. Drummers seemed fine. “Donna” wore goofy-looking headphones but sang reasonably on-pitch. Something slightly unsettling about the whole affair. I mean, I admired their ability to really nail the way the Dead played, but it’s really just an amazing simulation, because there didn’t seem to be ANY group personality outside of the imitation. I can see where if you smoked a joint and went to a club and saw ’em it could be a pretty good time, yet I don’t think I’d spend the $30 or whatever they charge at the Fillmore to see ’em these days. I’d rather see musicians who bring something NEW to the repertoire, even if in so doing it is less Dead-like. YMMV, and just like with a zillion other jam bands I don’t care for — Phish, Widespread Panic, etc. — I’ll root for them from afar, as fellow travelers illuminating the VERY wide Golden Road.

blair jackson – Jul 15, 2008 9:19 pm (#16321)

Hello, all! My comments about the DSO above elicited a very thoughtful personal email from DSO drummer Dino English, who was nice enough to take the time to explain some of his and the group’s philosophy/approach. I enjoyed reading what he had to say, appreciated his clear but non-defensive posture, and I’ll take it to heart. I will make a point of seeing them next time they come to the Bay Area.

I asked him if I could reprint his thoughts here and he kindly said “yes.” Whether you like or don’t care for DSO, I trust you’ll accord this hard-working and obviously well-intentioned soul the respect he deserves, and which this particular conference is well-known for. In other words, spare him the flamethrowers. He didn’t ask to air this; I asked him if I could. It’s all music, folks! Let’s support ’em all!

Take it away, Dino:

Regarding your recent evaluation of DSO posted on DNC: Thank your for taking time to tune in and listen. I would offer you this. First, seeing us on screen is a fairly two dimensional situation. I like that people have the ability to tune in and check out a live show via the internet but I believe we can come off a little flat on a screen. We are a live band. Our aim is to play this music as well as we can. Being entertainers should maybe be more up on our list but it just isn’t. We prefer for the music to speak for itself.

Any “simulation” or similarity in our movements is really unintentional and in my best guess a bi-product of the way the music is played and made…. I’m serious. We are not concerned with looking like them at all… although I do admit there is some natural similarity with a few. But again, it’s all about the music which is the only thing we are concerned with. In regard to our performances nothing else is ever cared about or discussed…. including a “group personality.” We are who we are and if we lack any group personality it’s because we don’t care. I will offer you this however… if you listen to us with any regularity you will soon hear how our own musical personality permeates the music and you will hear how different we sound from the Dead. We know we aren’t the Grateful Dead and we don’t truly sound like them. We can’t get away from ourselves. We are concerned with presenting the music the way we like to hear it which is in a more traditional manner. We like to hear the basics of all the parts. … the melody, the harmonic structure of the chords both sung and played, and the rhythms. Much of these parts are missing from the other bands playing this music… and they are actual parts. Our approach is that these are essential parts of the song. In addition, songs are not static to us as our approach to each song changes nightly. We just have an intimate knowledge of most places that song has been in the past so that we can use that as springboard. Just as Charlie Parker knew the basic melody before he improvised and embellished on it we know the basic harmonic structure of the song and all it’s parts so that we can embellish the song with different arrangements.

As far as jams are concerned it’s wide open for us and we are always seeking the deeper jam. Some have thought that we play a note for note rendition of a show. That we find preposterous, pointless, and impossible. We will from time to time listen to a jam they did for inspiration of course.

Basically, all we are is an offspring of the Grateful Dead. Just as some kids look more similar or different than their parents and some kids follow more closely to the family business than others, we are the kids who resemble our parents more. Phish, Widespread, Keller…. basically offspring of the Dead as well …. Kids with less resemblance. Kind of a funny analogy… I’m not a Star Trek fan per se but I can see a parallel between the original Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation. The journey continues with a different crew…. and a younger audience, although many of the older original show’s audience still tunes in and enjoys.

I could go on and on about this whole thing but my personal belief is (and I think most of the other in DSO believe, if not in this, in a similar parallel) that Grateful Dead music is a living, breathing entity that has a mind of its own. The music was made or birthed by the band, but was not the Grateful Dead the band. The music played the band and the music possessed the band. Now that the Grateful Dead is no longer, the music survives through other bands. I believe this music will survive long after Phil, Bob, Mickey, and Bill are gone, as it will continue after long after Dark Star Orchestra is gone. It’s a hand-me-down… DSO is just one part in the chain, but it is apparent that we do serve a purpose, as evidenced by the many who attend and enjoy our shows.

And a more basic evaluation is that we are just Dead Heads playing the music we like in the way we like to hear it. That’s pretty much it.

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “Blair Jackson and DSO”

  1. Steve Woskow says:

    I have seen DSO about 6 times and I have always enjoyed them, and it appears to me everyone else in attendance is also. I’ve taken family and friends that are not Deadheads to the shows and they also have always had a great time. They have even been a springboard for introducing the GD to people that were not familiar with them at all. I never view them as a “cover band” but simply fellow Deadheads that love this music and enjoy playing it (and they play it very good). If you go to a show, my advise Blair is relax and have fun – if you see me there I guarantee that’s what I will be doing.

  2. Peter Kliegman says:

    I know Dino, this commentary by him is not only insightful and true but it is also from the heart. He speaks eloquently of how he and everyone in the band feels about what they do. They arent the GD , they cant be , no one can, but they love this music as we all do, and they truly enjoy playing it and it shows in their own way…

Leave a Reply