Dark Star Orchestra is Truckin’ Up To Buffalo: An Interview with Drummer Dino English

Dark Star Orchestra kicks off their U.S. tour right with a two-night stand at the Town Ballroom in the heart of Buffalo this Friday and Saturday.  Dark Star Orchestra never seems to forget to show Buffalo some love, but we are more than happy to welcome them back for what will be two very special nights of Grateful Dead music.  Do not sleep on getting tickets for Friday, as Saturday night’s show is completely sold out.  Tickets can be purchased here.  

Dark Star’s drummer Dino English took a minute to talk about the Buffalo scene and life on the road with Lauren Lagowski.

Lauren Lagowski: How often do you catch yourselves straying outside the boundaries of a given era’s style? I imagine it must be tempting and almost subconscious to play the big bombs of a late-era Bertha or the Lydian jams of Cassidy when you’re supposed to be coloring inside the lines of the early 70s.

Dino English: We stick to the arrangement of the time period but sometimes the arrangement we end up playing  is an educated guess from having played so many shows.  We encourage each other to listen to each  show but it’s not a requirement. And daily time constraints dictate that we often can’t listen to the whole show all the time.  We talk over arrangements right before we go on or even on stage but sometimes a detail will slip by all of us at which point we take a guess.  Our main concern is to play the best music we can for the audience that night.  … However we see fit.

Lauren: Buffalo has quite a pedigree in the history of the Dead. Do you honor that in a way that is different from how you might approach a gig in a town without so much history?

Dino: We love playing Buffalo because the fans have such a history with the Grateful Dead.  It’s an enthusiastic crowd.  That synergy between audience and band propels us to play well most of the time.

Lauren: The term “psychedelic” gets tossed around rather cheaply but I think you guys have been in this long enough to have a deep appreciation for what it really means. What is it about Grateful Dead music that provides a platform for this experience and where else have you come across it?

Dino: I think you are referring to the experience which occurs with this music that is hard to articulate.  Some call it “psychedelic”, others call it the “x factor” or simply “it”.   Many Grateful Dead fans have experienced “it” but usually in their own way …although it may seem ( or may be) that everyone in a room is experiencing the same thing at the same time.  They just know they took part in something that happened which seems to encompass something larger than themselves.  It’s both a communal and a private experience which results in the feeling of “having your mind blown”.  It’s the part that gives Grateful Dead music, experienced live, a bit of a spiritual experience.  Whole books have been written on trying to define what it is about GD music that causes this or why it happens.  I can just say “it” does happen but as always “it” can be elusive.

For us on stage, the music plays the band. We, the band, allow the music to take us over so that we may simply be a lightning rod for the energy that flows through us.  It has some elements of being possessed by a spirit greater than oneself.   (If you are a star wars fan, you might call it “the force”).  It’s a genuine feeling of the music simply playing through you.  Very little thought goes into it.  You actually want to not think too much because if you are being distracted by your thoughts, you aren’t in the moment with the music.  If this feeling is happening on any level with the band, usually the audience feels it too.

Lauren:  Jerry is famously quoted as saying “some people really go to pieces on the road.” What are some nuggets of Dead-style wisdom you guys have picked up from your time on the road?

Dino: I’d like to think we have learned from the mistakes from those who have travelled before us but as the song goes “it’s so easy to slip”.   Everyone deals with things in their own way the best they can.  Sometimes we are on top of the world, other times we are barely hanging on and all of us at different times are usually in different spaces mentally. Being in the Dark Star Orchestra is something like being on a bucking bronco.  You try to enjoy the ride for as long as and as much as possible without getting thrown off.

For tickets and show details visit www.darkstarorchestra.net

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The Purple Pig Music Festival, September 28-30, Naples, NY

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are turning gold, and the grapes are ripe for the pickin’.  That’s right, it’s time for the first ever Purple Pig Music Festival at Odd Fellows Farms in Naples, NY.  The festival will feature two nights of relentless roots and reggae music by Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad as well as a premiere set from Naples native Aaron Lipp and Friends.  Other bands include The Prickers, Pink Elephant, White Woods, Axis Armada, My Stolen Bike, Tryptic Soy, Easthill Ramblers, Naked Grey, Roots Collider, Landmark, Wonderland House Band, Universe Shark, and Family Dinner.  The festival gates open at 2pm on Friday September 28th with music starting at 5pm.  Pack some warm threads and your camping gear, as The Purple Pig offers on site camping for a small fee of $5 a night or $10 for the entire weekend.  Tickets for the festival are $10 a day or just $20 for the entire weekend!

There will be no shortages of fuel for dancing as the Purple Pig will offer a gluttonous array of food, fine brew, and local wine.  This festival has down home done right written all over it.  It’s the perfect way to celebrate Upstate NY in all it’s autumnal glory.  Details and updates can be found on the event page. 

Listen to tracks from Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s latest album “In These Times”

An Interview with Keller Williams

On the heels of a summer playing shows and festivals throughout the country, both solo and with The Travelin’ McCoury’s, Keller Williams embarks on a cross-country tour that spans much of the rest of the year. Lauren Lagowski sat down with Keller to talk about his new album Pick and talk about his style of music and some unique  burning topics that Keller was happy to answer.

Keller plays September 21st at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park and September 22 at The Westcott Theater in Syracuse.

Lauren Lagowski: I gave Pick a good listen a few times through. I’m always impressed with how you marry your humor with your incredible talent on the guitar. Where does the inspiration for much of your lyrics come from?

Keller Williams: I like to keep things light and fun and not take myself too seriously. I just put myself in the place of the audience, keep things in a positive direction, and the rest is just entertaining myself.

Lauren: Pick is a unique and awesome bluegrass album that is just a lot of fun to listen to.What was your favorite part of making this album?

Keller: It’s just beautiful playing with such awesome musicians and the vocals in the group are stellar. It was a fun album to make.

Lauren: Have you ever considered having a more permanent band or do you like the freedom of switching it up and playing solo when you want?

Keller: I consider the whole solo looping thing my day job and everything else is just a lot of fun. The freedom and being happy doing both is a beautiful thing. Playing solo is fun and makes me want to play with other musicians and playing in groups makes me want to play solo. It just keeps things interesting for everyone involved.

Lauren: I feel as though switching it up and dipping your toes in different genres has helped you develop as an artist..would you agree?

Keller: Definitely. I like playing dabbling in different genres. In fact this winter I’ll be playing with a six-piece R&B group that I assembled. We started messing around with things in the studio and it’s really funky. I’m really excited to explore that more.

Lauren: That sounds awesome! Where is your favorite place in this wide world to play?

Keller: I’ve played at a lot of amazing places. I love playing Red Rocks and I love playing at The Egg in Albany, there’s so many great ones.

Lauren: Pick is a unique and awesome bluegrass album that is just a lot of fun to listen to.What was your favorite part of making this album? It’s just beautiful playing with such awesome musicians and the vocals in the group are stellar. It was a fun album to make.

Lauren: Why does it seem all your album titles are one word? Is there a purpose or did it just happen like that?

Keller: Not really. I just like to keep things simple and express in one word, what the album is all about. No guess work for the listener.

Lauren: We are excited to welcome you back to Upstate New York. Do you have any special memories of this part of country?

Keller: I’ve played so many great festivals in this part of the country. I have so many great memories of playing out this way. You can’t beat the sunny, warm days and the cool nights with the fans sticking it out and having fun all the while.

Lauren: You obviously have some bluegrass roots. What are some of your other musical influences and genres that really inspire you?

Keller: Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, The Grateful Dead are all major influences in my musical sphere. Michael Hedges is another big one.

Lauren: Who would you like to work with in the future?

Keller: I’d love to work with the guys of Soulive and also The Slip. I think they’re all really talented and put out some amazing music.

Lauren: You get to play with a lot of great musicians. What’s your favorite on-stage collaboration you’ve been apart of?

Keller: I guess the one the sticks out in my mind right now was recently at NedFest in Nederland, Colorado where I played with my friends Steve Kimock, Kyle Hollingsworth, and Dave Watts.

For news and tourdates, visit Keller Williams’ website.