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Grateful Dead brought back to life at Bluebird

By Corinne Lambert

For die-hard fans of any musical group, the term “tribute band” usually stirs a mix of feelings. A genre of their own, tribute acts tend to consist of iconic wannabes dressed up in period garb attempting to strum out classics in and oftentimes subpar manner.
In a field where many have jammed and failed, one band has managed to surpass the stereotypes surrounding tribute bands.

Dark Star Orchestra, a band Rolling Stone called “the most talented and accomplished tribute band out there” is set to recreate an original Grateful Dead show live at Bluebird Nightclub on Oct. 28.

“We absorb through the core of our bones and work very hard to play as effortlessly as possible,” drummer Dino English said. “We’re physically there trying to play the best we can for the audience and recreate the Dead. We have recreated a show that members of our audience have actually seen live by the Grateful Dead. Their feedback has been very enthusiastic.”

That tradition of recreating specific Dead shows is truly special about DSO.

“You can stream every Grateful Dead concert online now and listen to their tapes, but for those too young to have actually seen a concert live, DSO is the next best thing,” publicist and IU alumnus Dave Weissman said.

As for which show will be recreated at the Bluebird, that will not be revealed until the encore. However, there are some hints audience members can use if they want to find out before the final song.

Tips such as the setup of the stage or an extra microphone can reveal the decade of the show and whether or not Lisa Mackey, who sings the part of Donna Jean Godchaux, will make an appearance.

The Grateful Dead is generally included among the first true jam bands, meaning the band is known for spontaneous solos and set lists with songs of various genres.

“What makes playing Grateful Dead music night after night so much fun is that there is so much room for personal expression and real-time musical conversation,” said Jeff Mattson, the newest addition to DSO, who plays frontman Jerry Garcia. “It’s not a dusty museum piece. It’s a living, breathing musical experience. When the music is really happening, it feels like we don’t have to try at all.”

Deadheads have been around since the 1970s, but there seems to be a new generation dawning. The strong following of the Dark Star Orchestra are beginning to refer to themselves as “Starheads,” making it evident that this tribute band breaks the mold to form a whole new breed of tribute band.

The DSO is not simply recreating history; they are making it.

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