Billy Strings returned to The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY for the second of four nights of his Deja Tu: Return To The Experiment run.

The “experimental” nature of the run dates back to the Grateful Dead‘s dalliance with group telepathy during their own run at The Capitol Theatre back in 1971. That mantle was taken up by Billy and company in 2021, when the quartet performed a series of livestream-only shows in Port Chester and invited the audience each night to to attempt to telepathically transmit a given image to a guest “receiver” somewhere out in the world. After tuning in with Béla Fleck on Thursday, Billy Strings, real name William Apostol, recruited his mother, Debra Apostol, to serve as the guest “receiver” for Friday’s image, a candle.


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ESP experiments aside—they’ve been largely unsuccessful, go figure—Billy Strings (guitar/vocals), Jarrod Walker (mandolin), Billy Failing (banjo), and Royal Masat (upright bass) also channeled the engagement’s Grateful Dead spirit in their own characteristic way. While best known for their psychedelic exploration, Jerry Garcia and the Dead also had country and bluegrass roots. Night two of Deja Tu saw the band work in various “Venn diagram” bluegrass/cowboy tunes formerly co-opted by Garcia and the Dead, from John Phillips‘ “Me & My Uncle” to Charlie Monroe‘s “Rosa Lee McFall”.

After opening the second set with Keith Allison‘s “Freeborn Man”, the quartet dove deep into “Thunder” the song comprised of lyrics by the late Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter, and music written by Billy Strings, a recent match facilitated by GD drummer Bill Kreutzmann. The intrepid journey launched by “Thunder” stretched for nearly 20 minutes in length as Billy and company rumbled through searing, distorted peaks and murky, psychedelic valleys.

Not quite bluegrass but not entirely rock n’ roll, Gratefully imbued but singularly delivered, this “Thunder” seemed to embody the run’s creative yet reverent aesthetic. The stylistic hues of Billy Strings and the Grateful Dead are no doubt complementary, and there is plenty to be discovered from experimenting with how those colorful lenses might overlap.

Check out a selection of videos from the show below and scroll down to view a gallery of photos from photographer Andrew Blackstein.

Deja Tu: Return to the Experiment continues with its third night tonight, Saturday, February 5th. You can tune in to a livestream of the festivities via FANS here. For a full list of upcoming Billy Strings tour dates, head here.

Billy Strings – “Me and My Uncle” (John Phillips) – 2/4/22

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Billy Strings – “Rosa Lee McFall” (Charlie Monroe) – 2/4/22

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Billy Strings – “Roll On Buddy, Roll On” (Doyle & Teddy Wilburn) – 2/4/22

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Billy Strings – “Heartbeat of America” – 2/4/22

[Video: Borrowed Tune]

Setlist: Billy Strings | The Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 2/4/22

Set One: Know It All > How Mountain Girls Can Love (The Stanley Brothers), Tipper (Tony Rice), Run Down (Jeff Austin), There Is Time (The Dillards), Dust In A Baggie > Dealin’ Despair, Livin’ Like An Animal > Me And My Uncle (John Phillips), Heartbeat Of America, John Deere Tractor (Larry Sparks), On The Line

Set Two: Freeborn Man (Keith Allison), Thunder (Robert Hunter/William Apostol), She Makes My Love Come Rolling Down (Doc Watson), Ernest T. Grass (The Dillards) [1] > Air Mail Special (Benny Goodman et al.), Show Me The Door, Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie (Elizabeth Cotton), Rosa Lee McFall (Charlie Monroe), Turmoil & Tinfoil

Encore: Roll On Buddy, Roll On(11:35)

[1] 3rd Stone from the Sun tease