On Thursday night, bluegrass firebrand Billy Strings and his eponymous band hit the stage at Port Chester, NY’s still-empty The Capitol Theatre for the first of six livestream shows billed as the Deja Vu Experiment. The first night streamed for free via The Relix Channel on Twitch.
The unique livestream run was devised as an homage to the Grateful Dead‘s famous run of shows at the Cap in 1971—on the exact same six dates that Billy Strings and company will play this month, 50 years later. In addition to bringing the live debuts of several of the Dead’s most enduring songs, the February 1971 run at The Capitol Theatre included the added element experimentation with telepathy at the shows.
During the 1971 Capitol Theatre shows, the Grateful Dead teamed up with Dr. Stanley Krippner for an extrasensory perception (ESP) experiment. Throughout the six concerts, Krippner used the audience of 2,000 Deadheads to study the effects of “mind to mind transmissions.” Each night, attendees were shown a slide that they were instructed to “send” to English psychic subject Malcolm Bessent, who was asleep across town at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory in Brooklyn.
Billy will attempt his own version of the out-there concept throughout the Deja Vu Experiment, displaying an image for the audience to “send” to a different “receiver” each night. On night one, the receiver turned out to be Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Company). In a video interview after the show, Billy spoke with Oteil about what he saw—and what he drew. While Oteil’s “ESP” drawing didn’t quite capture the “eyes” image from the stream, Billy was keen to note the connection between the image and a drawing Oteil made of an owl. Even beyond the experiment results, the post-show interview added some enjoyable depth to the proceedings, as Billy conveyed his appreciation for the bassist having recently adopted a daughter.
Beyond the experimentation with ESP, night one of the Deja Vu Experiment delivered on the concept with deep, improvisational jams, a smattering of Grateful Dead covers, and several new original songs like “Morning Light”, “Fire On My Tonge”, and “Hide & Seek”. One particular highlight of the evening came during the second set when the quartet used a classic Dead improv vehicle (“Dark Star”) as the launchpad for another new tune, “Love & Regret”, as well as plenty of cosmic jamming. Check out the first song of each of Thursday night’s sets below.
Billy Strings – “Fire On My Tongue”, “Morning Light” – 2/18/21
Billy Strings – “Must Be Seven”, “Dusty Miller”, “Dark Star” > “Love & Regret” > “Dark Star” – 2/18/21
[Video: Billy Strings]
Grab your streaming pass for the next four nights of ESP exploration with Billy Strings at the Cap here. The run continues tonight, Friday, February 19th, on FANS.
Setlist: Billy Strings | Deja Vu Experiment Night 1 | The Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 2/18/21
Set One: Fire On My Tongue*, Morning Light*, Long Forgotten Dream, Bird Song, While I’m Waiting Here, Home of the Red Fox > Ole Slewfoot, Sorrow Is A Highway, Everything’s The Same
Set Two: Must Be Seven, Dusty Miller, Dark Star > Love & Regret* > Dark Star, Slow Train, Love Like Me, Pyramid Country > Hide & Seek*
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