Dark Star Orchestra is more than just a Grateful Dead tribute band.

Dark Star Orchestra is more than just a Grateful Dead tribute band.

DSO not only plays Dead music but recreates actual Dead shows.

"We take a set list from a show in '72, '82, '92 and use the set list, tempos, arrangements and tones as a framework for doing what we do," drummer Rob Kortiz told The Beat. "Obviously we don't play note-for-note. We replicate shows but do our own improvisation, and of course that's much of what Dead shows were.

"We're trying to (play) Grateful Dead music in its purest form," he added.

The band has been joined on stage at different times by several original members of the Grateful Dead, including Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay and Vince Welnick.

"The first time was surreal and cool," Kortiz recalled. "We learned a lot from them but it was also validating for us that they each wanted to (play with DSO) again."

And now the cross-pollination goes both ways, as DSO guitarist John Kadlecik has been recruited to join Furthur, the latest project of Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.

Jeff Mattson, who has played in bands with DSO members as well as Phil Lesh, replaces Kadlecik in DSO.

"I first saw the Dead in 1973, and I'm loaded with arcane Grateful Dead knowledge," Mattson said with a laugh. "It's all in there, I just had to retrieve it. I've been playing these songs since I first heard them."

And while Aug. 1 is Garcia's birthday, Mattson said there's no added pressure, "just a reason to celebrate a little bit more."