Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Dark Star Orchestra channels the Grateful Dead

Courtesy Dark Star Orchestra

Dark Star Orchestra has been channeling the Grateful Dead since 1997 when founding member John Kadlecik contacted keyboardist Scott Larned with a concept to perform complete Grateful Dead shows song-for-song from their extensive catalog of live performances. However, Dark Star Orchestra isn’t your ordinary cover band according to one of two Dark Star drummers, Dino English.

Dark Star has been praised for their continual dedication and performances in honor of the music of the Grateful Dead. Rolling Stone hails DSO for “their fanatical attention to detail,” going on to compare its performance of the Grateful Dead classics to the way an “orchestra interprets music of classical composers. The composer spirit is derived and channeled as the players capture the excitement and innovation of the original performances and compositions.”

The group has been known for playing whole Grateful Dead shows, front to back, but English said, “We make up our own set list about a quarter of the time. We will mix up the song selection by dropping in Jerry Garcia Band material and playing different styles of songs that were never played in the same show. We do them more of our own way, coming from the perspective of having learned all the different ways the Grateful approached the material.”

As a result of their long career together, the group views itself as a close family, with a shared love for the Grateful Dead and music in general. English said that “playing in Dark Star Orchestra – and working as a crew member – is kind of like riding a bucking bronco. You hop on and ride for dear life for as long as you can until you get thrown off – your life path takes you elsewhere.”

John Kadlecik, former guitarist and part founder of Dark Star Orchestra, ended up taking a different life path when he was offered by Phil Lesh and Bob Weir to join a group now named Furthur in 2009.

Through Dark Star Orchestra’s years of touring together they have had the pleasure of working with numerous artists such as Bob Weir, Billy Kreutzmann and Donna Godchaux of the Grateful Dead. Additionally, the group has performed with Warren Haynes at this past Mountain Jam Festival, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman of Phish, as well as members of Little Feat, Keller Williams, and Yonder Mountain String band. “The list goes on and it’s a ton of fun to collaborate with all these gifted musicians,” English said.

English has been working on a number of projects outside of Dark Star, including “an electronic/dub/drum groove-style album,” and an original rock band named “Vitamin A.” As with the other artists in the group, it is easy to see that the collective of musicians that makes up Dark Star Orchestra is more than just a group that covers Grateful Dead performances. DSO is a group that has longevity and talent that extends beyond Grateful Dead set lists.

As English would put it, “we have all come together to play an interpretation of the musical parts of each Grateful Dead member, not to act like, look like, or pretend to be a Grateful Dead member. It’s all about the music for each one of us.”

Look for “Run Mary,” a song co-written with Robert Hunter, the principal lyricist of the Grateful Dead, with the members of the Dark Star Orchestra, as well as future and present projects in the mix by all members.

When asked what to expect at the show English had this to say, “The only hint I can tell you is that we will play Grateful Dead music live to the best of our ability and that if you come to the show, you will most likely have a real good time.”

Dark Star Orchestra will be performing at the Calvin Theater in Northampton on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 8 p.m.

Christian Euvrard can be reached at [email protected].

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