The Grateful Dead cover band Dark Star Orchestra has played hundreds more shows than the the original band and will be visiting Washington D.C. this Friday and Saturday. The Daily Caller spoke recently to their drummer Rob Koritz about his time with the group.
So you guys have played, if I’m right, more shows than the actual Dead played. You’ve played 2400, they played a little over 2300. So how does it feel that you’ve played more shows than the band you’re covering, which is known for touring?
“Just means we’re never home,” Koritz said. “I mean, I don’t really read into it too much. We’re out there keeping the music alive. Looks like we are right around 2620 tonight, I think. But you know, I don’t really think about it to be honest with you.”
How many days of the year are you on the road?
W”e’re home, it’s about even. We’re at home about six months out of the year. On the road for about 6 months out of the year over the last few years, and hopefully we’re able to continue this over the next few years but probably a little less this year. Spend some more time at home with our families, and as we get older it helps us kind of keep it fresh and keep doing this, but now we’re down to about half and half.”
Do you have any years you like playing most?
“You know, I don’t. It changes over time. When I first joined the band I really loved doing the 80s because that’s what I was into but as time went on I started enjoying doing the one drummer shows from the early 70s. You play completely differently. These days we’re doing some shows from the 60s that we didn’t really tackle for the first 15 or so years and I’m really into doing that. So it changes.”
Do you have a different guy sing for Pigpen instead of Jerry?
“Yeah, Rob Barraco, our key board player, does it.”
Did you catch any Dead & Company shows?
“I did not see any live; I watched a bunch of video. I thought it was great. For the next couple shows our bass player had to go home for a family obligation, so starting today, just for today and tomorrow, Rob Barraco is moving over to bass and Jeff Chimenti from Dead & Company is here playing with us tonight and tomorrow.”
What do you make of other jam bands?
“What do I think of them? Well, some of them I like, and some of them aren’t my cup of tea. I’ve gone to my fair share of shows for all the other bands, and I’ve probably seen 40 or 50 shows over the years. I dig it, just like any music. There are plenty of them out there that get me off and there are plenty I don’t care for.”
Do you guys ever do any sort of stuff that Jerry would play? Jerry Garcia Band?
“Yeah, all the time. About 30 percent of the time we will do a set list we mak eup ourselves, like an elective set list, and we will throw in a lot of Jerry Band into those. A lot of times when the show is over and we have some time to fill time before curfew we will fill that up with Jerry Band tunes. There’s been a couple of occasions when we have gone out and done Jerry Band shows because certain people couldn’t be here for family or medical reasons. So, yeah, we touch the Jerry Band quite a bit.”
What is the age of the audience at your shows?
“It runs the gamut, man. There are times you look down on the front row — this happens all the time — and I see a 10- or 11-year-old kid singing every word with his father right behind him singing every word. There’s other times I see 30 or 40-yr-old men or women with their father or mother next to them, so it really runs the gamut from 10-70. We’re starting to feel out more college kids, which is really cool cause it means more of these kids are getting into the music. But it depends on where we are. Some places it’s a much older town. College town, obviously, it’s a much younger crowd.”
Do you like playing in more of a college town environment?
“Not necessarily. I’ll be real honest — like I said, there are plenty of people that age that are getting into the music, but there are also plenty coming to the shows because it’s a place to be. Making a lot of noise and talking. Makes it a little difficult for the people that are really there for the music. You know that happens everywhere, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little more prevalent at college towns, for sure. Having said that, everybody is into the music and it’s great. We want to take it anywhere we can.”
One thing I always thought was funny about the Dead is that Ann Coulter loves them, Tucker loves them, and Obama is a fan. It seems to be a band that everyone loves.
“The music was never political, you know. The music was about life. So, it is something for everybody to grab onto. When we play in D.C. and I look out in the crowd and Tucker Carlson is out there dancing, I try not to think about what he says on TV. I try and say, boy, ‘That’s pretty cool. Look at that guy out there.’ He’s just another guy out there dancing and getting off on the music. That’s pretty cool.”