Dark Star Orchestra is Truckin’ Up To Buffalo: An Interview with Drummer Dino English

Dark Star Orchestra kicks off their U.S. tour right with a two-night stand at the Town Ballroom in the heart of Buffalo this Friday and Saturday.  Dark Star Orchestra never seems to forget to show Buffalo some love, but we are more than happy to welcome them back for what will be two very special nights of Grateful Dead music.  Do not sleep on getting tickets for Friday, as Saturday night’s show is completely sold out.  Tickets can be purchased here.  

Dark Star’s drummer Dino English took a minute to talk about the Buffalo scene and life on the road with Lauren Lagowski.

Lauren Lagowski: How often do you catch yourselves straying outside the boundaries of a given era’s style? I imagine it must be tempting and almost subconscious to play the big bombs of a late-era Bertha or the Lydian jams of Cassidy when you’re supposed to be coloring inside the lines of the early 70s.

Dino English: We stick to the arrangement of the time period but sometimes the arrangement we end up playing  is an educated guess from having played so many shows.  We encourage each other to listen to each  show but it’s not a requirement. And daily time constraints dictate that we often can’t listen to the whole show all the time.  We talk over arrangements right before we go on or even on stage but sometimes a detail will slip by all of us at which point we take a guess.  Our main concern is to play the best music we can for the audience that night.  … However we see fit.

Lauren: Buffalo has quite a pedigree in the history of the Dead. Do you honor that in a way that is different from how you might approach a gig in a town without so much history?

Dino: We love playing Buffalo because the fans have such a history with the Grateful Dead.  It’s an enthusiastic crowd.  That synergy between audience and band propels us to play well most of the time.

Lauren: The term “psychedelic” gets tossed around rather cheaply but I think you guys have been in this long enough to have a deep appreciation for what it really means. What is it about Grateful Dead music that provides a platform for this experience and where else have you come across it?

Dino: I think you are referring to the experience which occurs with this music that is hard to articulate.  Some call it “psychedelic”, others call it the “x factor” or simply “it”.   Many Grateful Dead fans have experienced “it” but usually in their own way …although it may seem ( or may be) that everyone in a room is experiencing the same thing at the same time.  They just know they took part in something that happened which seems to encompass something larger than themselves.  It’s both a communal and a private experience which results in the feeling of “having your mind blown”.  It’s the part that gives Grateful Dead music, experienced live, a bit of a spiritual experience.  Whole books have been written on trying to define what it is about GD music that causes this or why it happens.  I can just say “it” does happen but as always “it” can be elusive.

For us on stage, the music plays the band. We, the band, allow the music to take us over so that we may simply be a lightning rod for the energy that flows through us.  It has some elements of being possessed by a spirit greater than oneself.   (If you are a star wars fan, you might call it “the force”).  It’s a genuine feeling of the music simply playing through you.  Very little thought goes into it.  You actually want to not think too much because if you are being distracted by your thoughts, you aren’t in the moment with the music.  If this feeling is happening on any level with the band, usually the audience feels it too.

Lauren:  Jerry is famously quoted as saying “some people really go to pieces on the road.” What are some nuggets of Dead-style wisdom you guys have picked up from your time on the road?

Dino: I’d like to think we have learned from the mistakes from those who have travelled before us but as the song goes “it’s so easy to slip”.   Everyone deals with things in their own way the best they can.  Sometimes we are on top of the world, other times we are barely hanging on and all of us at different times are usually in different spaces mentally. Being in the Dark Star Orchestra is something like being on a bucking bronco.  You try to enjoy the ride for as long as and as much as possible without getting thrown off.

For tickets and show details visit www.darkstarorchestra.net

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