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Keeping the Dead alive
October 10, 2012, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal correspondent

Bob Minkin The Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead tribute band, will be playing at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City Oct. 11.


The Grateful Dead’s profound melding of musical genres had an insurmountable influence on music, art and the concert scene. During a cultural revolution when Americans were thriving toward modern expressionism, the Grateful Dead provided more than 2,300 live shows attracting millions of listeners across the country.

The renowned band was best known for its improvisational concerts, more so than their albums, said Dino English, 44, drummer of the tribute band the Dark Star Orchestra that will be playing at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City Oct. 11.

After the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, members of the Dark Star Orchestra urged for the continuance of the concert tour phenomenon. In 1997, the Dark Star Orchestra began to tour and picked up the fan base, playing more than 2,100 shows across the world.

The Dark Star Orchestra performed in Europe, Japan, Holland, Jamaica and in nearly every state in the United States, English said. However, California, and specifically the Bay Area, is a typical tour locale. The Fillmore in San Francisco has housed the Dark Star Orchestra nearly 30 times, with the band often playing up to three nights in a row. Playing in Redwood City is infrequent and Thursday night is a rare opportunity.

Over the years, various Grateful Dead band members, lyricists and sound technicians collaborated with the Dark Star Orchestra to conceive a band that exemplifies the essence of the famous music and the uplifting experience.

The Dark Star Orchestra’s revival is dependent on the refined talent of its seven band members. English’s drumming conveys the rhythmic style of the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann while Jeff Mattson, 54, guitarist of the Dark Star Orchestra, has been said to reincarnate the fluid timbre of Jerry Garcia.

Unlike general cover bands, this tribute band doesn’t attempt to replicate the Grateful Dead’s music note for note.

"It’s not really conducive to this kind of music; it would sort of defeat the purpose to playing a Grateful Dead show,” Mattson said.

Instead, they pride themselves in maintaining the free flow spirit of the music.

"The music is kind of like a rollercoaster, it can start off intense and then drop down to some more mellow songs, and take back up again,” English said.

As the style and sound of the Grateful Dead changed throughout its years, the Dark Star Orchestra mixes up its own performances in accordance with time appropriate concerts, English said.

"Generally, that means we’ll be replicating a set list the Grateful Dead played somewhere throughout their history,” Mattson said.

When pressed for the period of the upcoming show, English kept it shrouded in mystery.

"That’s the catch here, we don’t say before the show, we let people guess,” he said.

Speculating what era a Dark Star Orchestra concert is mimicking may come easily to diehard fans, known as Deadheads, but all attendees will know by the end of the show. The band is thrilled to provide a glimpse into the past for younger generations who didn’t have an opportunity to see the Grateful Dead perform live, Mattson said.

Entertaining Deadheads and fostering new fans is key as band members are "here to keep the music alive, and we can’t do that alone,” English said.

But really, it’s all about the experience.

"The Grateful Dead were less of a spectacle, but more of a coming together,” Mattson said.


The 21 and older show begins at 9 p.m. at the Fox Theatre 2215 Broadway in Redwood City. Tickets are $28 in advance and $35 day of. For more information and to purchase tickets contact the Fox Theatre at (650) 369-7770 or visit www.foxrwc.com.


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