Grateful Dead tribute band to play at Englert


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The Grateful Dead is a band that spawns countless tribute and cover acts. While each shares an abiding love for the Dead, Dark Star Orchestra takes it one step further.

Dark Star performs its shows based on set lists from the Grateful Dead’s touring history and proceeds to reinterpret them to create the experience of being at one of the Dead’s actual concerts of yesteryear. In addition to set lists, the band also puts fanatical detail into recreating a stage set and presence that is reminiscent of a set list’s particular era.

Lists are obtained from a website called DeadBase, which works diligently to catalogue the dates and locations of most of the Grateful Dead’s concerts, including songs the band played at any given show.

Dark Star Orchestra will perform its Grateful Dead tribute at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., at 7 p.m. today. Admission is $30.

Dino English, 41, one of the band’s two drummers, plays the role of Grateful Dead Drummer Bill Kreutzmann. English joined the band in 1999 after having been in several Grateful Dead tribute bands. His love for the Dead began relatively late, as a college student in the early ’90s. Since then, his tally has grown to 20 concerts.

“I got dragged to the concert and basically came out a changed man,” English said.

Being a Deadhead is something that comes with the territory of being a member of Dark Star. Most of its seven-person lineup have attended dozens, if not hundreds, of Grateful Dead concerts, which can only help to bring a sense of authenticity to the elaborate production the band puts on night in and night out.

Because Deadheads are known for their fanaticism toward their favorite band, it comes as no surprise that Dark Star pays attention to the accuracy of its performance, while at the same time trying to create and maintain energy similar to that of the real thing. Sometimes, English said, this is easier said than done, especially where the crowd is concerned.

“We want to create an environment in which the magic of the music can come alive,” he said. “Sometimes, it makes itself readily known, and sometimes it doesn’t, even though we’re playing well. When it does happen, it’s very natural.”

Dark Star’s process of reinterpretation is often compared with the way an orchestra will treat a symphony. A Dark Star concert is not represented as a show song-by-song; rather, the group transforms the evening into one whole piece of music.

Tonight’s show will be the second for Dark Star at the Englert. Englert CEO Sean Fredericks anticipates a bigger and even better production coming from the tribute band, which members of the Grateful Dead have performed with and given their accolades to.

“They’re traveling with their own light show this time, so I’m looking forward to a show that is as visually compelling as it will be musically,” Fredericks said.

The biggest accomplishment for the band is the knowledge that people who have been Grateful Dead fans for decades continue to support their work. Some of them, English said, are now bringing their children to the shows, exposing a new generation to the music of the legendary rock band.

“Hopefully, they are able to grab a piece of the actual Grateful Dead live show,” English said. “If we can come close to that, that’s all we’re hoping for.”

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