They might never experience the magic that older fans say permeated concerts back when band leader Jerry Garcia was still alive, but they can get a pretty good idea tonight at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center.
Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra will swing through York for a single- evening performance before continuing with its 25-gig, 10th-anniversary tour.
More than just a cover band playing Grateful Dead songs, Dark Star Orchestra bases each of its concerts on original set lists from Dead concerts decades ago.
Drummer Dino English won't reveal which historical concert the York show is based on - "We like to keep it a secret so the fans can try to guess," he said - but he assures those who come out they will understand why the Dead has such a cult-like following.
"The point of the whole thing is to keep the vibe going that would occur at a Dead show," he said. "It's hard to describe, but you know it when it happens."
English started listening to Grateful Dead music when he was in college. He'd get together and play the band's repertoire with friends. When he responded to a call for a drummer posted on Dark Star's Web site, band members put him on stage with them in front of a sold-out crowd of 400 for his audition.
During his 8½ years with Dark Star Orchestra, English has played with several of the original Grateful Dead band members, and he's still in awe of the Dead's music.
"They were able to incorporate a vast amount of musical styles into one show - rock, funk, country - they did a little bit of everything," he said. "Most of the time, those are styles that really don't cross over, but the Dead was able to do that."
Tonight, English expects the music, the people, the dancing and the communal atmosphere will help satisfy a new generation of fans' curiosity about the appeal of Grateful Dead concerts: "It will be a close facsimile."
If you go
WHAT: Dark Star Orchestra
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today
WHERE: The Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St., York
COST: Tickets are $35, $40 and $65
DETAILS: Call 846-1111.