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In lieu of real Dead, cover band endures

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jerry Garcia died in August 1995, basically dissolving the Grateful Dead, but by then the seeds of a musical legacy had already been sowed.

Original Dark Star Orchestra keyboardist/vocalist Scott Larned first started performing covers of Grateful Dead songs while tooling around his home base of Chicago. A self-proclaimed “Deadhead,” the now-deceased Larned hooked up with John Kadlecik (formerly of Wingnut) and the two decided to take things to another level: choose a classic Grateful Dead set list, say from the band’s Broome County Arena show in Binghamton, N.Y., in November 1977, and play it in its entirety.

It was a worthy musical endeavor indeed, but how would a legion of Deadheads take to the band when they were reeling from the death of Garcia, a figurehead for their generation?

Dark Star Orchestra
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11
WHERE: Sol Santa Fe, 37 Fire Place, Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: Advance tickets are $25 at

The weekly freakouts, beginning in November 1997 in Chicago, now number more than 1,900 performed by Dark Star Orchestra in venues all over the world. It’s a significant number considering that the Grateful Dead performed 2,350 shows total in its career, but also because Dark Star Orchestra has had to try to re-create that same number of Grateful Dead set lists with a limited musical framework from which to draw.

“There was no real formula to what they were doing,” current keyboardist/vocalist Rob Barraco said recently. “They had a blueprint for the songs, but other than that all of the notes they played were made up every night. If you saw them three nights in a row you might hear the same song three times, but it will sound different each time.”

The same can be said for the Dark Star Orchestra’s re-creation of these sets, making each of the band’s shows a unique experience.

These days, the band still does not reveal which set list it has chosen, though a visit to the band’s website ( does reveal the band’s recent choices.