Dark Star Orchestra
(or simply DSO
) are a United States tribute band to the Grateful Dead, formed in 1997 and based in Chicago.Using entire shows from the Grateful Dead's 30 years of extensive touring as a launching pad, Dark Star Orchestra recreates the original song for song performance set list for an entirely new generation of, as well as old school, Deadheads. Dark Star Orchestra presents its critically acclaimed live show at esteemed venues from coast to coast and internationally. Dark Star Orchestra performs Grateful Dead classics in the same way that an orchestra interprets music of classical composers. The composer spirit is derived and channeled as the players capture the excitement and innovation of the original performances and compositions. Touring nationwide for twelve years to the tune of nearly 2000 shows since forming, the band's determined commitment to "raising the Dead" has drawn national media attention. The group has their craft so well-refined that even members of the Dead themselves, rhythm guitarist/singer Bob Weir, drummer Bill Kreutzmann, and keyboardist Vince Welnick, have appeared on stage and performed with these live music interpreters. Precision is king with this group, who position the stage plot based on the year of Grateful Dead show they are performing. Dark Star Orchestra adapts their phrasing, voice arrangements, and even arranges specific musical equipment for the various eras in which they perform. At the end of every performance, the band announces the date and venue where the original show just covered took place. Dark Star Orchestra dips into every incarnation of the Dead, so most fans can "see" shows that happened long before they were born. "We're given a canvas with a boundary, whatever the stage set up is the framework and all of the painting that we do within that framework is unique to us," says rhythm guitarist/vocalist Rob Eaton. "So we offer the sound and the structure, but all the stroking and painting is all us. So it's fresh at the same time and also very historically correct."
For over 13 years and more than 2000 shows, Dark Star Orchestra has embodied the Grateful Dead’s live experience for fans both old and too young to have ever seen their own Grateful Dead show.
While recreating set lists song for song, Dark Star Orchestra does not try to match Grateful Dead songs note for note. Anything so formulaic would be of a great disservice to the free spirit of The Dead’s live performances.