Dark Star Orchestra to Bring an Acoustic Grateful Dead Set to MIM
Are there any special nuances to the Dead's acoustic playing that make it more challenging to remake an acoustic Dead show?
Yes, for all of us it's different; it's an adjustment. We obviously play more quietly, so there is a dynamic change. When we are electric, you have the instances of the whole band slamming as hard as we can while still maintaining the groove, going for the big moment. I look at it as sort of a big band "shout section" where you have all the horns blowing. Playing acoustic is all about dynamics, maintaining the intensity, but doing it more subtly.
Playing actual Grateful Dead shows acoustic is interesting for us as far as drummers in that in 1980 you had good recordings, which makes it easy to hear what they actually played and they would switch off every couple of songs between who would play the conga and who would play brushes on a snare. When we do the 1970 acoustic shows, they didn't have the microphone technique down for the drums as well. Sometimes it sounds like there is no mic on at all. Other times you can hear them playing with sticks. Many times, it sounds like just one drummer is playing and at other times no drumming at all. We tend to approach this era with a little more leeway because we can't hear exactly what was going on. In all cases, the most important thing to do is create a good feel for that moment we are playing live.
Is there any more of a challenge playing acoustic shows when considering how infrequently you do them?
I think we just drop into it honestly. It's not a real struggle. As long as we get our sound dialed in so we can all hear each other, which can take a few songs, we are good to go.
The Grateful Dead didn't do a ton of acoustic sets -- there was the run in the early 1980s, and a scattered few in the earlier days of the band. Since DSO doesn't play the same show twice, how many acoustic shows do you have left to chose from?
We actually do play shows more than once. We have played virtually all of '72, '73, '74, '76, '77, and '78, so unless we want to stop doing these era shows, which we don't want to do, we have to repeat. We do like to play unplayed shows as much as possible, though, and still maintain our regular rotation of eras throwing in our own elective set lists every third or fourth show. We quite often do our own acoustic set lists.
I know a lot of people have fun at DSO shows trying to figure out which show you're playing. Any hint to what we might get in Phoenix?
A hint is in a comment above.
Dark Star Orchestra is scheduled to perform Monday, April 1, at the Musical Instrument Museum.