Dark Star Orchestra | Halloween Night

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The Pageant, St. Louis

There are "cover bands" and there are "tribute bands," and then there is the Dark Star Orchestra. Not only do they do justice to The Grateful Dead, one of the most beloved bands in history with one of the most dedicated fan bases, but they do it like no other band - recreating past Dead shows in their entirety and covering all of the eras and incarnations of the Dead with astounding accuracy.

What you may not know is that both of Dark Star's drummers, Rob Koritz and Dino English, hail from St. Louis and are graduates of some the city's most popular local bands including Vitamin A, The Schwag and Kerosene Willie. I caught up with Koritz (a graduate of Ladue High School by the way - the inevitable St. Louis question) by phone prior to their Halloween night appearance at The Pageant, and he explained to me the band's method for show selection.

"We map out the whole tour in advance," he says. "So we know up front what show we'll play in each city."  He goes on to explain that the shows are selected based on certain variables such as the size of the stage (will two drummers fit?), the date, the city and venue. So for example, when they play in St. Louis, they may choose a show that was played here in the past, or on the same date (such as a Halloween show on Halloween). They also try not to repeat an "era" in a city - so if the last time they stopped here, they played a show from the 70s, the next time it may be from the 80s. 

There are also times that the band does not play a specific show. "Sometimes, we just play whatever we want," Koritz says. "We do that about every seven or eight shows."

I asked Koritz if he had a favorite Dead era to play. "When I joined the band, my favorite era was the late 80s. The drummers were really great then and the song selections," he says. "As time goes on, I've become a fan of the early 70s, one drummer stuff because it's so different."

If you have any doubt that Dark Star Orchestra is the real deal, consider that they may be the only Dead tribute band to have actually shared a stage with members of the real Grateful Dead, including Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Donna Jean Godchaux, who Koritz says has become a close friend.

"The fact they want to play with us at all, much less more than once pretty much validates everything we are doing," Koritz says. "These are people who I always looked up to and now some of them are my friends."

There's nothing like adding a bit of Halloween craziness to the already circus-like atmosphere of a Dark Star Orchestra show. Friday night's party will include a costume contest featuring DSO merchandise and tickets as prizes, so come out and enjoy the "Night of the Living Dead." |Amy Burger

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