Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Dark Star Orchestra

I am sitting today with a very special guest. A band that brings something to all of those old school deadheads out there back to the years of the Grateful Dead. Dark Star Orchestra recreates full set lists from one of the greatest bands to ever hit the stage. Their stage shows is often compared to that of a Broadway spectacle. With a sound that is practically just like that of the original Dead they have hit the nail on the head when it comes to accuracy. Every thing on the stage from their dress to their instruments to their song choice matches that of a previous Grateful Dead show. Sit with me today as I speak with one of the best cover bands that you will ever hear. I am proud to introduce to you Dark Star Orchestra.

How long have you guys been doing this?

The band formed November 11, 1997 so a little over 11 years at this point.

What was your reason for choosing the Grateful Dead?

The opportunities for continuing the improvisational template they created are limitless. Plain and simple; we have tons of options with this music.

How long have you guys all known each other?

Most of the group has been together for over 10 years.

Do you guys ever forget the words to any of the songs while you are in stage?

Sure, it has happened. We’re not infallible.

I assume that you guys do not have jobs outside of music?

That is correct. Dark Star Orchestra is our full time gig!

What is largest crowd that you have played for?

The 2008 All Good Festival had over 12,000 people watching us, and I’d say at the 2008 Bonnaroo there were probably over 10,000 people watching us.

The smallest?

The first gig DSO played in 1997 there were 49 people there.

If you were not doing music what would you all be doing?

Finding some form of work or employment that would enable us to get back to playing music.

Where are you guys all from?

While the band was formed in Chicago , only one member lives there now. We all live in various places around the country at this point. Rob Eaton lives in Vail, Rob Barraco lives in New York, Rob Koritz lives in St. Louis, Dino English lives in Lexington, Lisa Mackey lives in Pennsylvania, Kevin Rosen lives in Chicago .

What can someone expect when they come to a live show?

We’re always interested in turning on new fans to our music, and if you never saw a Grateful Dead show, perhaps you could experience that with us. And if you’re an old Dead fan and wondering if the music is still going to survive beyond the current members, I believe it is.

You guys have played over a thousand shows? How many do you play a year?

Approximately 150 shows a year.

Do you guys tour like this every year?

We played over 200 shows in the early part of DSO’s career, and we are working on ways of playing a few less shows each year.

What is your favorite venue to play?

Love The Fillmore in San Francisco also the Crystal Ballroom in Portland is great. Hard to pick a favorite!

Do you ever feel like you were a part of the real band?

That hasn’t really crossed my mind. But we do have out of body moments while playing music but never once did I think I was part of the original Grateful Dead, no.

Have you ever met anyone from the original band?

Yes, five members of the original Grateful Dead have played with Dark Star Orchestra! Bob Weir, Donna Jean Godchaux, Vince Welnick, Bill Kreutzmann, & Tom Constanten.

Is there a ringleader in your band?

Not really. We are a democratic organization.

Where do you guys practice?

At sound check before our shows.

Do you guys tour alone or do you have support that goes along with you?

We have such a big stage set up and production that we do not have many opening acts or any supporting artists on tour with us. It has happened, but nothing that is all tour long or anything.

Any tattoos in the band?

None that I know of.

If you could live anywhere else in the world where would you go?

I really like Italy .

You guys don’t pick on Lisa do you?

Definitely not.

Do you guys have any influences outside of the Dead?

Many! We listen to a lot more music than just the Grateful Dead. Let’s get something straight here, we love and perform this music, but music is also a wonderful universe and we listen to all types, from rock, pop, blues, jazz, funk, bluegrass, soul, R&B, folk, you name it we listen to it. Each band member has a unique set of musical interests (and that shows evidently on everyone’s different iPod), but there are tons of other influences on our musical psyches other than GD.

Do you guys have any pre-show rituals?

None to speak of.

If you could only play one song for the rest of your career what song would you choose?

”Dark Star”.

Do you guys ever play any originals?

At this time, the band focuses on playing music written by others. But we have not ruled out the idea of doing an original project.

Do you think you have heard every single Dead song recorded?


There are 3 Rob’s. Do you go by other names to keep each other straight?

No. We’re just “Rob” to each other.

Tell me what it is like working on a major label.

We aren’t on a major label. We produce, manufacture, and distribute all of our own records on our own independent label.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Continuing to turn on thousands of Deadheads with our music.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

Continuing this legacy of great music – and having the dividends of that be spread as far and wide as possible, even more than I can imagine now.