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February 15, 2008

Raising the 'Dead': Shedding light on Dark Star Orchestra

By Ryan Smith

For Meadville Tribune's BRAVO!

Dark Star Orchestra has been raising the Dead for the past decade.

Having performed nearly 1,500 shows at top venues and music festivals around the world, DSO brings to its devoted audiences an authentic and masterful song-for-song experience using entire shows from the Grateful Dead’s 30 years of touring. In short, DSO plays classic Dead shows “in the same way that an orchestra interprets music of classical composers,” according to the band’s Web site (at www.darkstarorchestra.net).

Bravo! recently caught up with DSO keyboardist/vocalist Rob Barraco as the band was on its way — with an unscheduled stop due to some bus troubles — to that night’s gig at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, Wis. “We’re very late,” Barraco said matter-of-factly between bites of multi-grain chips.

Barraco first joined Dark Star Orchestra in 2005 following the death of former keyboardist Scott Larned. He’s also worked with The Dead (the post-Jerry Garcia incarnation of the Grateful Dead that reunited in 2002-03); extensively and continously with Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s band Phil Lesh and Friends; and most recently on his new solo album (“When We All Come Home”) with Robert Hunter, the legendary lyricist best known for his collaborative songwriting work with Garcia and the Dead.

Here’s what Barraco, waylaid in Wisconsin, had to say about what it’s been like playing in the band(s):



Q: Describe a ‘typical’ crowd at a DSO show.

A: “We get a mix of kids from 16 to people in their 60s. We have a lot of the older Deadheads, and a lot of the kids who never got a chance” to see the Grateful Dead live. Altogether, “it’s people who are looking for this experience, and they’re not going to get it anywhere else.”

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