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Dark Star Orchestra (or simply DSO) are a United Statesmarker tribute band to the Grateful Dead, formed in 1997 and based in Chicago.


Dark Star Orchestra achieves notoriety by performing shows from among the nearly 2,500 shows that the Grateful Dead performed during their 30 year tenure as fathers of improvisational rock. On most, though not all their performances, Dark Star Orchestra presents the complete original set list, song by song, and in order, recreating historic music with faithful interpretation. On many occasions, the band will also improvise their set lists, often based on sections of famous shows and familiar groupings of Grateful Dead songs.

Dark Star Orchestra adapts their phrasing, voice arrangements, and even arranges specific musical equipment for the various eras in which they perform. At the end of every performance, the band announces the date and venue where the original show just covered took place. Dark Star Orchestra dips into nearly every incarnation of the Dead, so most fans can "see" shows that happened long before they were born.

DSO has drawn national attention with their true-to-life performances. Rolling Stone praises "Dark Star Orchestra's fanatical attention to detail." USA Today says DSO is "channeling the Dead" and the Washington Post declares them "the hottest Grateful Dead tribute act going." Dallas Morning News affirms DSO is "the next best thing to being there", the Denver Post describes Dark Star Orchestra as "a perfection-oriented practitioner of homage" and the Associated Press notes that DSO "takes its act to a level of detail that befits a rock band famous for its fanatical following."

Members of the Grateful Dead themselves, rhythm guitarist/singer Bob Weir, drummer Bill Kreutzmann, vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux, and keyboardists Vince Welnick and Tom Constanten, have appeared on stage and performed with the Dark Star Orchestra. In October 2008, the group performed its 1600th show and celebrated its 11th anniversary concert on November 11, 2008.

"We're given a canvas with a boundary, whatever the stage set up is the framework and all of the painting that we do within that framework is unique to us", says rhythm guitarist/vocalist Rob Eaton. "So we offer the sound and the structure, but all the stroking and painting is all us. So it's fresh at the same time and also very historically correct."


Current members:

  • John Kadlecik - lead guitar, vocals
  • Rob Eaton - rhythm guitar, vocals.
  • Kevin Rosen - bass, vocals
  • Lisa Mackey - vocals
  • Rob Koritz - drums, percussion
  • Dino English - drums, percussion
  • Rob Barraco - keyboards, vocals

Former members:
  • Scott Larned - keyboards, vocals (D.O.B. July 3, 1969 - April 24, 2005, deceased)
  • Mike Maraat - rhythm guitar, vocals (November 11, 1997- December 4, 1999)
  • Dave "Chopper" Campbell - rhythm guitar, vocals (January 21- Feb 21 and March 30 - April 8, 2000)
  • John Sabal - rhythm guitar, vocals (Jan 25, Feb 1 and Feb 8, 2000)
  • Bustar - rhythm guitar, vocals (February 24, 2000 - March 19, 2000)
  • Jim Harris - rhythm guitar, vocals (May 16, 2000 - September 9, 2000; June 22-23, 2001)
  • David Berg - rhythm guitar, vocals (Sept 26, 2000 - October 17, 2000; January 17, 2001 - Feb 11, 2001)
  • Ahmer Nizam - drums (November 11, 1997 - June 30, 1999)
  • Mark Corsolini - drums (Feb 3, 1998 - June 6, 1999)
  • Michael Hazdra - bass, vocals (May 26, 1998 - December 31, 2000; February 23-25, 2001; March 1-4, 2001)
  • Gregg Koerner - bass, vocals (March 8-10, 2001)
  • Skip Vangelas - bass, vocals (March 13-17, 2001)

Guest members:
  • Dan Klepinger - keyboards, vocals
  • Jeff Mattson - lead guitar, vocals


Dark Star Orchestra has been playing live shows together since 1997, after guitarist John Kadlecik contacted keyboardist Scott Larned with a concept (introduced by a common friend Andrew "Tiny" Dofner): performing complete Grateful Dead shows out of history. When Scott mentioned having the same idea, John knew they were on to something. Since forming, the band has performed over 1600 shows.

On lead guitar and vocals, John Kadlecik uses amp rigs and equipment to imitate Garcia's guitar tone from the show being recreated. When a 70s show is being performed, vocalist Lisa Mackey provides Donna Godchaux's female harmonies.

Dino English delivers the rhythmic drumming sounds of Bill Kreutzmann. On the other drum set, Rob Koritz, fills the Mickey Hart role. Kevin Rosen provides a style of bass playing similar to that of Phil Lesh. Rob Eaton performs rhythm guitar and vocals.

In November 1998, on the eve of their first anniversary, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman of Phish joined DSO at Martyrs' after their own show. Fishman sat in for the majority of the evening, which included a drum section with four percussionists. The ensuing buzz caused national interest in the band. That winter, their Colorado tour sold out almost every stop, and, soon after, the Washington Post declared them "the hottest Grateful Dead tribute act going"; USA Today claimed DSO was "channeling the Dead", but what they do is not just a tribute to the Grateful Dead but a testament to the enormous number of unique set lists they performed in their long career.

Continuing the growth, the band had performed up to 200 dates in a year. They have grown continually, playing at larger venues and theaters, collaborating with guests including Grateful Dead alumni Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay, Vince Welnick, and Tom Constanten.

In 2008, Dark Star Orchestra performed over 150 shows throughout the U.S. In addition to the complete Grateful Dead show selections, the band has been known to incorporate Jerry Garcia Band show setlists as well as original set lists of their own choosing.

During the band's Spring tour in 2005, co-founder Scott Larned died of a heart attack on April 24; the band reeled for a while, featuring the talents of guest keyboardists, including Dan Klepinger and Rob Barraco(Zen Tricksters/Phil Lesh and Friends/Chris Robinson & the New Earth Mud), until selecting Rob Barraco as a permanent replacement in 2007.

In 2009 John Kadlecik joined a new band with original Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir called Furthur. On November 16, 2009 he officially announced that he will be leaving Dark Star Orchestra. His final show with the band will be on December 5, 2009. He has recently been replaced by Zen Tricksters guitarist Jeff Mattson for some shows.


  1. Dark Star Orchestra setlist page


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