Posts Tagged ‘Dark Star Orchestra’

Blown away by Dark Star Orchestra

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I spent the last two evenings with Dark Star Orchestra at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Friday night they played 6/7/77, very much in the band’s wheelhouse for all incarnations. But last night they covered some new ground: an April 1969 show that had originally happened in the ballroom right next door to where we were!

This new edition of the Dark Star Orchestra is a bit less reverent and a good deal more aggressive than the last, while clearly remaining respectful of the tradition they are inhabiting. Jeff Mattson is a more muscular guitarist than his predecessor, John Kadlecik. John is now doing great work with Furthur, and Jeff is driving DSO to new places. Everybody wins! Bassist Kevin Rosen has stepped up, too, playing with the same fierceness that Jeff brings. The whole band is delivering: Rob Barraco is covering the Pigpen vocals, and he is also covering Phil’s vocals in this configuration (good for the music, however offensive to the few who get all dogmatic about this stuff). Drummers Rob Koritz and Dino English dug into their dual trap-kit excursions with the same sense of entrainment that you hear crackling off the tapes we’ve been hooked on for all these years. Rhythm guitarist Rob Eaton, who has done a magnificent job of tracking the changes in Bob Weir’s playing style and hardware through the ears, is right on top of his mission here as well.

Most of the people who call themselves Deadheads came on board during the era of the avuncular, laid-back, gray-haired and overweight Jerry Garcia. The Grateful Dead of 1969 and 1970, led by a thin and black-haired Garcia, delivered a much more in-your-face musical attack. DSO portrayed that astonishingly well last night. I want to hear more Pigpen-era stuff from these guys.

Amazing that this music is powerful enough to incarnate itself in multiple places, and in multiple phases, today. Bob Weir and Phil Lesh are indeed taking it “furthur” with a new band, continuing their mutual evolution in a most satisfying way. And Dark Star Orchestra is continuing an earlier conversation that has come nowhere close to exhausting its possibilities. And of course there are tons of musicians out there playing Grateful Dead music, and Grateful Dead-inspired music. The David Nelson Band works a similar conversational style with a sightly different vocabulary.

This is music that gets people high. It gets you high to play it, and it gets you high to dance to it, and it gets you high to close your eyes and listen to it with all your might. It got me high to watch my friends engaging in this inspired and accomplished musical discourse at such a deep and serious level: I had no problem at all believing that this was what the Grateful Dead sounded like 40 years ago.

Mattson replaces Kadlecik in DSO

Monday, November 16th, 2009

I guess this means John Kadlecik is going to be playing with Furthur a lot more. Dark Star Orchestra to their fans:

Dear DSO Fan –

Thank you for joining us and being a part of this continuing, long strange trip these past 12 years. Your support and excitement for the music has kept us going strong for over 1700 shows. Throughout the years, we’ve had transitions both difficult and uplifting, yet the positive energy of our fan base has continued to propel our mission onward for performing this important music and for keeping this vibrant scene alive.

That said, we, as a band are entering another chapter in this story.

Dark Star Orchestra’s lead guitarist and one of its founding members, John Kadlecik, has decided to resign from DSO. John’s last show with us will be on December 5 in Buffalo. DSO is supportive of John’s choice and we wish him the very best.

Dark Star Orchestra will continue to bring you this music at its highest level. In our 12-year history we have gone through three drummers, three keyboard players, three bass players and numerous rhythm guitarists and we have always managed to keep improving the sound and the experience. We will be taking on a new player with his own talents and energy and turn yet another chapter in DSO history.

Veteran guitarist Jeff Mattson of the Zen Tricksters and Donna Jean Godchaux Band, will be joining us this week, on the New Year’s run, Jam Cruise, and for our upcoming Winter Tour that begins in February. We assure you all the things you love about the Dark Star Orchestra experience will continue, and we ask for your patience, friendship and positive energy as we keep truckin’ on…

Dark Star Orchestra

Blair Jackson and DSO

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

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.