DSO to revive ‘The Dead’ for Toledo audienceWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If the Grateful Dead’s late singer Jerry Garcia could be reincarnated, he may be content to come back as John Kadlecik, a vocalist with Dark Star Orchestra (DSO), a tribute band that acts more like an extension of the Dead’s legacy rather than an imitation.
Kadlecik’s lead vocals sound so eerily similar to Garcia, according to publicist Dave Weissman, former Dead guitarist Bob Weir related to Rolling Stone a moment on stage when he turned his back to Kadlecik and swore he heard Garcia behind the microphone.
Counting Weir, five Grateful Dead members have sat in with DSO, a feat unequaled by any tribute band to Weissman’s knowledge.
“What Beatles band can say Paul McCartney sat in? What Kiss band is going to say Gene Simmons came by?” he asked. “DSO can honestly say they have the endorsement of five members of the Dead. Most have played multiple times.”
The group has received widespread accolades during its 11-year run, playing more than 1,600 gigs — almost the halfway mark set by the original Dead of 2,500 to 3,000 shows during a 30-year period. Weissman emphasized that, unlike tribute bands that rely on costumes and makeup to evoke nostalgic imagery, DSO places its stock in the music to create “an audio representation of what it was like to hear the Grateful Dead in their heyday,”
“That’s ultimately the top of the pyramid of what DSO provides,” he said. “They’re not going to dress up like Jerry Garcia and wear a fake beard or wig or anything. They recreate the sound of what the Dead were about, and ultimately that’s what most fans really love.”
Rob Barraco, DSO keyboardist, explained the concept behind the performances, as well as what Toledo area fans can expect when they step into the Omni at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 to experience a revival of the Dead’s music. The phrase, “tribute band,” often carries a negative connotation, and to dispel any myths that DSO merely covers original songs, the band relies heavily on improvisation.
“I think what we’re doing is we’re honoring this music in its true fashion, which is to be exploratory with it and to improvise it,” Barraco said from Richmond, Va., one of DSO’s tour stops. “If you’re going to call something a tribute, that’s the way to do it.”
He described the playlists as “open-ended,” meaning anything can happen as the band members interact musically, much like friends having a conversation. It’s just that it happens in front of an audience and could last anywhere from three minutes to a half-hour.
Not even the musicians know when the improv will end during any given song, which Barraco said helps feed his passion for music. Although psychedelic rock is not his first choice in genres, he’s happy to be a part of the act.
“I’m a jazz snob, so if I had my druthers, that’s what I would be doing with my life,” Barraco said. “Unfortunately, being a jazz snob doesn’t pay the bills, and I love the Grateful Dead because the music is so open-ended, it lends itself to that whole jazz improvisation.”
DSO began its tour in Orlando, Fla., crisscrossing the Southeast and Midwest, where the five-week escapade ends in Madison, Wis.
For more information or tickets, call (419) 535-6664 or visit the Web site www.darkstarorchestra.net.