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Bring out your Dead

Dark Star Orchestra recreates Grateful Dead shows nightly

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Posted: Friday, November 6, 2009 8:58 pm | Updated: 3:41 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

The members of Dark Star Orchestra haven't just blurred the line between a tribute band and the real thing, they've just about obliterated it.

DSO, a Grateful Dead tribute band which will perform Sunday at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, has certainly attracted the attention of the musicians who made it all possible.

Most of them, including Bob Weir, the Dead's rhythm guitarist and vocalist, have sat in with DSO and subsequently sung the tribute band's praises.

Rob Barrasco - who has the task of playing the role of the Dead's three keyboardists, all of whom met untimely ends - once played in a band with Phil Lesh, the Dead's bassist.

And now John Kadlecik - who plays lead guitar and sings for DSO, just like Jerry Garcia did for the Dead - has been tapped by Weir and Lesh to play with them in a band called Further.

Unfortunately, Kadlecik isn't talking about his experience with Further, indicating Weir and Lesh have asked him to keep mum.

"Officially, no comment," Kadlecik says when asked about Further, which has played some dates along the East Coast and has more on the horizon. "That's the way they want it."

Too bad. It would have been fun to hear Kadlecik talk about the differences between playing with the musicians in Dark Star Orchestra and Weir and Lesh. Can Kadlecik tell the difference?

That question apparently will have to wait, but there are nights when DSO can come eerily close to channeling the sound of the Dead.

The best of the Dead tribute bands roaming the country, DSO, which consists of excellent musicians who also are committed Deadheads, has built a solid fan base during its decade of touring.

DSO plays major venues, including the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., and Rams Head Live in Annapolis, Md. What helps set the band apart is that it plays entire set lists from actual Dead shows, which typically lasted for three hours or more, performed during its almost 30 years of touring.

"It became an excuse to learn new songs," says Kadlecik of the band's decision to replicate concerts in their entirety. "Coming up with a set list every week, we had to learn new songs to make that set list happen."

Kadlecik says there were about 400 songs in the Dead's historical repertoire. Also, because DSO plays set lists from every phase of the Dead's career, the band has to approximate the sound of the Dead in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

"Rarely would anyone actually listen to the actual show we were doing," says Kadlecik, who has about 1,000 Dead shows stored on his computer hard drive. "Our method was more to go through and find the new songs and then try to find as many versions of those songs as we had in our collections. Then we would bring the ones that were closest to the year we were going to do and bring those to the rehearsal and figure out what made those songs sound like the '72 version or the '85 version or the '91 version or whatever."

Because of its approach, Kadlecik says Dark Star Orchestra even has the opportunity to rewrite history.

"You can have an absolutely stellar night doing a set list from a show where the Dead were really off," he says.

Dark Star Orchestra

Sun. 7 p.m. $32

Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St., York

846-1111.

www.strandcapitol.org

jferguson@lnpnews.com

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