Steamboat Springs Rob Koritz first saw the Grateful Dead in April 1987. For a week, the young drummer had been listening to the tape of an old show in which the iconic jam band closed with “Not Fade Away,” leaving the stage with the audience still chanting the catchy 1950s rock tune.
On that night in 1987, the Grateful Dead treated Koritz to that same song and left the stage with Koritz and his friends still singing the lyrics in the crowd.
“It was just like I heard it on the tape,” he said. “I wasn’t lucky; it was how it was supposed to be.”
In summer 1999, he was brought on as the drummer for Chicago-based tribute band Dark Star Orchestra. Colorado was one of the first states the band branched out to when it left its local Chicago market, and this weekend, the band returns to play several outdoor shows in the mountain air.
The seven-piece band will open the 21st season of the Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series on Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area.
Jon Waldman, who has been booking the Free Summer Concert Series since its inception, said the season opener will have broad appeal.
Dark Star Orchestra
“No. 1, we’re able to get back on the mountain, which is great, and No. 2, I think the Grateful Dead has a timeless … wide demographic of fans young and old,” he said.
The stage will be at the base of the ski area facing up the hill, with a variety of food vendors set off to skier’s right of the stage. Waldman said Steamboat Ski Area has been seeding, watering and mowing the grass in preparation.
The concert will start at 6 p.m. sharp with no opening band because Dark Star will be playing a full-length Grateful Dead show into the evening hours.
For about 70 percent of its shows each tour, Koritz said, the band re-creates an actual Dead show from as early as 1969 and as late as the early 1990s.
“It was the fact that it was different every night,” Koritz said about why he fell for the Grateful Dead and ended up following the band across the country. “The drumming was amazing to me. Once I started hearing the songs and learning the lyrics, they grabbed me. It was stuff you could relate to, learn from, be inspired by.”
Although Koritz hadn’t learned the details of what each show will entail this tour, he said if the band isn’t playing a historic show they will perform an original set comprising songs the Grateful Dead played.
“I know it’s not our songs,” Koritz said. “It’s Grateful Dead, it’s the Beatles, it’s Muddy Waters.
“But to me, it’s more about the fact I get to improvise every night. That’s what music is about to me, to be able to improvise and play on the spot. If we’re onstage for four hours, at least three hours of that is improvisation straight from us.
“You try not to think when you’re playing … but I think about what approach that (Grateful Dead drummer) Mickey Hart would have been taking during that time period and try to use that as inspiration. After that, it’s getting off on what everyone else onstage is doing.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com