Yesterday, we posted the first part of our chat with keyboardist Rob Barraco, which focused on the past, present and future of the Phil Lesh Quintet. Today, we pick up where we left off as Barraco tells Chad Berndtson how he became a member of Dark Star Orchestra, why DSO is starting to play shows from the late ’60s, what will become of Dragonflys an more.
[Photo by Adam Kaufman]
Hidden Track: Switching gears, Rob, to Dark Star Orchestra, it’s been about seven years you’ve been playing with them now, correct?
Rob Barraco: I started playing with them in 2005, basically as a favor to them after Scott [Larned] had passed away and they needed to finish a tour. I just kind of really enjoyed it — I really, really enjoyed myself — and I asked them if we could do it again, never thinking I would become a permanent member of the band. They didn’t seem to have a plan in place, and I was going out to tour again with Phil.
At the end of 2006, Phil told me he had prostate cancer and had decided to get off the road, and when he told me that, I had to have this sit-down and say, what am I going to do now — what do I want to do now. I’m not a rich man. I’ve got kids in college and a mortgage to pay. In early 2007, they approached me, and asked if I’d be willing to make a commitment. They offered me an equal share of the business. It was a no-brainer: I enjoyed doing this, I liked these guys, and there was a financial commitment.
And as soon as I make that commitment, who calls? Phil! He was asking me about more shows in 2007. I basically had to say no, and it killed me at that time to say no to him. Those guys in [Phil's camp] are always forward thinking so as soon as I said no, they had moved on. That band [the 2007/2008 Jackie Greene/Larry Campbell lineup], I really haven’t listened to it and don’t know much about it because when I got involved with DSO at a commitment, I got really immersed in doing that.
HT: Take me back to when they first called you after Scott’s death. I asked Rob Koritz about that and he mentioned they’d had you in mind, but they weren’t even sure how to get the ball rolling. How did you and DSO come together?
RB: Well, I don’t think they didn’t know how to contact me. Cotter Michaels, their front-of-house sound engineer — he wasn’t with them at that time but had done stuff for them years earlier — knew me, I knew him well. He made the connection. I remember, it was a Sunday afternoon. I was hoisting a couch up over a railing at my girlfriend’s house. My cell phone rings, and it’s a Massachusetts number, and I’m thinking, who the hell is calling me from Massachusetts?
I answered the phone, and it was Norman [Gopin] — their manager at the time, and still a good friend of the band’s — and he said, we’ve got a month’s tour coming up, and if we don’t do this tour, financially, we’re going to be in deep shit. He says, you’re the only guy we can think of who could come in here and do this without rehearsing with the band. I looked at my schedule, and that month just happen to fit in between the Phil stuff I was doing and the stuff I was doing with my band the Dragonflys at that time. That’s how it happened.