I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the Dark Star
Orchestra (DSO) benefit concert at the Lebanon Opera House on October 12, 2016.
As a deadhead, I naturally love DSO. When I heard that the show was put on by
fellow Norwich residents Buddy Kirschner and his wife Ginny to raise money to
upgrade Lebanon’s skatepark in honor of their late son, Tyler, I was even more
eager to attend (see cover article).
Dark Star Orchestra has a loyal following of music-lovers of all ages, shapes, sizes and socio-economic backgrounds. That so many people from all walks of life can gather together and just be free to be themselves as they get lost in the music, is a rare treat for many who face the daily pressures of work, raising kids, and just living the Western Civ life.
DSO is a Grateful Dead tribute band that has been “continuing the Grateful Dead concert experience” since 1997. Their model is to recreate an entire concert from any one of the thousands of shows the Dead performed from 1965-1995. Loyal deadheads from way back try to guess which show is being recreated but won’t know for sure until the concert is over when the DSO band members clue them in!
Besides enjoying the concert, I was also fortunate enough to be granted an interview with one of DSO’s drummers, Rob Koritz, who has been with the band since its inception. While learning more about the band was intriguing, my mission was to understand how the concept of “community” played a role in the inner workings of the band and in the audience to which they cater.
For starters, Rob noted that DSO loves working with Buddy Kirschner, in particular, because he is the only concert promoter they have worked with who continually leaves a thoughtful token of appreciation – “whether it’s maple sugar candy or some other local treat, and a nice note thanking us for being there,” said Rob. This gesture, alone, speaks to the impact of creating community and how little things really do mean a lot in establishing lasting connections.
Besides music being a Universal connector, drawing people from a variety of different backgrounds to a shared interest, I was curious about how being on the road influenced one’s sense of place and community. Rob was very honest when he noted that, like all group dynamics, living in close quarters with people is often challenging.
Concert promoter, Buddy Kirschner; DSO drummer Rob Koritz; and Ginny Kirschner
“We all realize that the music is bigger than any one of us,” said Rob. “When issues crop up, and we get on stage and start to play, it all goes away. We are there to keep the Dead’s music alive.”
Because they play to smaller crowds than the Grateful Dead did, they are able to connect nicely with their fans, and the fans, too, can find community among themselves. And, with the online world at everyone’s fingertips, many of these connections last long after the music stops.
“We have made some great friendships with fans along the way. There’s a dozen or so of loyal followers who we see regularly. It makes being away from my family [he has a 5-year-old and an 11-week-old] a little nicer.”
“I am blessed to be able to make a living doing what I love while making others happy,” admitted Rob.
“When I was a young man trying to find my path, I remember hearing the [Grateful Dead] lyrics, ‘Fare thee well. Let your life proceed by its own design,’” said Rob. And that was it. From there he knew that he could follow his own path and all would be well.
We thank Dark Star Orchestra for recently playing a fabulous show at the Lebanon Opera House and for the many people who contributed to the Rusty Berrings Skate Park fund.
On that note, fare thee well…