Dark Star Orchestra: A Grateful Dead Time Capsule

“Dark Star” was first performed, without lyrics, by the Grateful Dead in September 1967. The first version with lyrics was heard three months later. The tunes’ sole focus was improvisation. “Dark Star” was played regularly through the 1960’s, but seldom-heard after 1974. It only appeared on odd occasions in ‘78, ‘79, ‘81 and ‘84 and was last performed in March of 1994 – (deaddisc.com)

Unbox, Dark Star Orchestra; a continuation of spirit, improvisation and the greatest acid-trip, that ever was, the Grateful Dead. In the midst of digging, we teleport back to the sounds we fell in love with in 1965, obsessed over by ‘69, and post ‘96, we’re left, only aching for more. Dark Star (DSO) is NOT a cover band. They give birth to all that is Dead, then reinterpret it in modern day. DSO is a time capsule – like the vivid memories, postcards and totems we buried long ago.

“I view it as performance art,” said DSO drummer Rob Koritz. “We are blessed to play music that is 95 percent improvisation and when we’re firing on all cylinders, I can play how I want.”

Dark Star Orchestra is the idiom of self-expression. In true honor of the Grateful Dead, DSO has made this genre all-inclusive – pulling from rock, jazz, country, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, psychedelia and blues. For Koritz, the list goes on.

Their testimony goes out to Deadheads and non-cult listeners alike. There is a common thread that weaves through our mind and ears. It’s music. “They hear it and say WOW” added Koritz. “Pretty much everybody will find something.” And when you get confused, just listen to the music play.

Koritz did everything music. He was in opera, theatre, college marching band and even studied as a classical percussionist. From a music major state-side to traveling overseas, and experiencing the Grateful Dead, Rob is an encyclopedic anchor to DSO in his own regard. A band members’ father is a profound  jazz musician, while another roots himself in progressive rock. A melting-pot would be far to mundane to describe this stew.

Dark Star Orchestra is prepared in the framework of the Grateful Dead’s catalog. Whether they are playing on a beach or filling massive arenas across the world, familiar tunes will be heard. On the bands’ fourth annual return to Frontier Field, earlier this month, they performed two sets with an encore of “Mr. Charlie” and “C’est La Vie (You Never Can Tell).” Read the full NYS review here.

Set 1: Alabama, Bucket, West LA, Memphis Blues, Lazy River Road, Esau, Blow Away, Ramble On, Sunrise, Music

Set 2: China Cat > Rider, She Belongs To Me, Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance > Drumz > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Throwing Stones > World To Give > Saturday Night

“We may go way further out than the Dead would have one night,” said Koritz. “Others we may not be as far out [more structured musically], it all depends.” For the lay-listener Dark Star Orchestra is explained as a group playing Jazz, i.e. improvisational music, in a Rock idiom. The experience becomes trance-like at each venue; in the ear of each listener a different note is digested.It is synonymous with the individual experience. It is unique. Memories of the Dead are relived through this music, we deem our own.

Like Frontier Field, DSO continues to recur at venues around the world. This past May marked the 7th annual Dark Star Jubilee in Ohio and the band has already announced their 7th annual return to Jamaican Jam In The Sand at Jewel Paradise Cove Resort on January 15-19, 2019.

DSO is excited to return to Pisgah Brewing Co. for a two night outdoor show in Black Mountain, NC on Friday August 17 and Saturday 18th. The Orchestra carries on across the Midwest with dates in Chicago, Illinois and Ohio. NYS Music fans, be on the lookout for more dates TBA in Rochester and Albany, to name a few upstate. DSO plans to reveal more shows throughout the holidays, with a special New Years Eve show announcement.