While taking a quick vacation to Seattle last weekend, we found out that Dark Star Orchestra was playing at the Show Box Theater in downtown Seattle, near Pike's Place Market. I had never seen this band before (for a while I thought it was a classical tribute to the Grateful Dead) but I eventually found out the band is actually a straight-up tribute to The Grateful Dead, and they do a great job sounding like the legendary jam rockers, while adding some of their own musical tangents.
The crazy thing about DSO is how precise they aim to cover historically accurate GD set lists, while also "channeling the Dead" and transversing mystical musical jams that sound very natural and very Grateful Dead.
Seeing the band during the spring tour gave us a chance to see new lead guitar player and vocalist Stu Allen join the DSO. Allen, who has played in Melvin Seals and the JGB Band, Avalon Allstars, The Jones Gang, Workingman's Ed, Stu and Pat Nevins acoustic and more, does well to lead the talented group through interesting improvisations, landing back in the song's groove flawlessly.
Drummer Rob Koritz and Stu Allen get in-sync during the second set of the DSO show April 17, in Seattle. Allen joined the band on lead guitar and vocals beginning April 7, 2010. Photo by Brad Devereaux
The rest of the band members do their parts well, too, with drummers Dino English and Rob Koritz playing intricate tromping drumbeats in unison and Rob Barraco (keys) slipping out psychedelic melodies and laying down chords to fill out the compositions. Rob Eaton (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Kevin Rosen (bass, vocals) match the tone of the Grateful Dead with their instruments as well as vocals.
Actually, the entire band was impressive with the accuracy of their vocals. Not only that, each musician stays true to their original singing part in the Dead - Stu doing Jerry, Rob doing Bob, and so on (I can't say this is true for every song they played, but I noticed it on the majority).
The One Way or Another Tour continues through May 1 with dates in northern California. They will continue to tour through early August, including performances at Mountain Jam 6 June 4-6 in Hunter, NY, All Good Music Festival July 8 in Masontown, WV, plus more.
I would reccomend Dark Star Orchestra. They do a great job of making the Grateful Dead's sets come alive in all their glory. Also, it is nice to be able to see these songs played at smaller venues, where getting close to the band is easier and the crowd isn't packed into every crevice of the building. They do, however, draw a decent crowd, and the many people in the audience seemed to be spreading the good vibes just like the DSO.