Billy Strings is gearing up for his upcoming shows at The Capitol Theatre by going through his shoebox of concerts past. On Monday, the bluegrass picker shared live footage of his debut cover of the Grateful Dead classic “Wharf Rat” from one year ago today on January 18th, 2020.

This choice was no coincidence as not only will Billy Strings return to The Capitol next month, the six-night run of fan-less livestreams will also carry heavy Grateful Dead overtones. The concert dates of February 18th—21st, 23rd, and 24th align with the Dead’s legendary six-night stand at the Port Chester, NY venue in 1971 and will be dubbed The Déjà Vu Experiment. During those concerts, the Dead conducted extrasensory perception (ESP) experiments on the audience which is surely a historical tidbit not lost on Strings.

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During his rendition of the tune that the Dead actually debuted live at The Cap on February 18th, 1971, Strings nails the emotional delicacy delivered by Jerry Garcia all those years ago. With the backing of his dominant string section, the guitar phenom weaves an intricate tapestry of stringed instruments that provides a serene backdrop to his lyrical delivery.

Then comes the mid-song breakdown where Strings kicks on the distortion and delivers the passion that comes into “Wharf Rat” on a dime. When the time comes for the song’s guitar solo, Strings’ versatility is on full display. Rather than doing what he does best with lightning-fast bluegrass playing, he’s able to switch gears and invoke the Grateful Dead playing style on a fundamental level beyond just playing the notes and singing the words.

Watch Billy Strings cover “Wharf Rat” by the Grateful Dead live at The Capitol Theatre.

Billy Strings  – “Wharf Rat” (Grateful Dead) – Port Chester, NY – 1/18/20

[Video: Billy Strings]