Grateful Dead might have stopped playing together, but that doesn’t stop tribute band Dark Star Orchestra from keeping its rock music alive.
The Chicago-based Dark Star Orchestra is set to perform at Newport Music Hall Saturday, with doors opening at 8 p.m.
The band is currently made up of seven members. Jeff Mattson plays lead guitar and sings, with help from Lisa Mackey on vocals. Dino English and Rob Koritz both play drums and percussion, Skip Vangelas plays bass guitar, Rob Eaton plays rhythm guitar and Rob Barraco plays the keyboard. Many of the members also contribute to vocals.
Koritz saw Dark Star Orchestra as a chance to be involved in the music he loves.
“I’m a Dead Head. I love the music. I’ve played other music in other bands over the years. When Dark Star came around, it was a chance to go on the road to play the music that I love,” Koritz said.
He added that one of the most rewarding parts of Dark Star Orchestra is playing for a live audience.
“It’s the greatest feeling. You get to look out in the crowd and see everybody smiling and having a good time knowing because it’s you. That’s as good as it gets,” Koritz said. “We get to play music that we love and make people happy while we’re doing it.”
Koritz said he is excited to play at Newport Music Hall, a location the band where the band has history.
“The Newport is a great place for us. It’s actually one of our favorite places in the city. We’ve been coming to the Newport for more than 10 years. There’s a great energy in that building. We love it,” Koritz said.
He said the band offers a second chance for audiences to enjoy Grateful Dead’s music live. Grateful Dead disbanded in 1995, shortly following the death of member Jerry Garcia.
“With Dark Star, we get to turn on a lot of people to the Dead that never got the chance to see them. We’ve traveled all over the world and made some great friends,” Koritz said.
The band also emphasizes improvisation in its shows. Dave Weissman, a publicist for the band, said Dark Star Orchestra improvises on the original compositions of Grateful Dead while mainting the original band’s core melodies.
“The improvisation takes songs and plays them the same way, but (Dark Star Orchestra) does add their own flavor to it in the solos and in the ability to stretch out the song,” Weissman said.
Derek Krewson, a third-year in psychology, grew up listening to Grateful Dead with his dad.
“From what I’ve heard of them (Grateful Dead), I like them. My dad was a fan. He used to listen to them when I was growing up and (went) to their concerts a couple of times,” Krewson said.
Allyson Baker, a second-year in health sciences, said Dark Star Orchestra seemed to do a good job of imitating the music of the Grateful Dead.
“They seem like they’re talented. They did a pretty good job of creating the music of the Grateful Dead,” Baker said.
Dark Star Orchestra owes its success to the fans of Grateful Dead’s music, Weissman said.
“The success of Dark Star Orchestra would be attributed to the love that people have for the music of the Grateful Dead. There’s something about the music of the Grateful Dead that is enjoyable,” Weissman said. “It embraces the human spirit, and Dark Star Orchestra continues that spirit.”
Newport Music Hall is located at 1722 N. High St. Tickets are $25 in advance and $28 on the day of the show.