Billy Strings revives Grateful Dead 1971 ESP experiment for Capitol Theatre shows
Billy Strings is reviving a storied Grateful Dead experience at the Capitol Theatre.
Strings, the Grammy-winning jam and bluegrass star, will return to the landmark venue in Port Chester, New York, for "Deja Tu," his latest ode to the Dead's 1971 ESP Experiments at the theater.
The Dead's experiments with Dr. Stanley Krippner involved 2,000 fans in attendance at six February 1971 gigs being shown slides of artwork projected on a screen behind the band, and then being asked to telepathically transmit the images 45 miles away to two "telepathic receivers" in Brooklyn, one at the Maimonides Medical Center and the other in her apartment.
When Strings revived the endeavor half a century later for the six-night "Deja Vu Experiment" at the Capitol Theatre in February 2021, there was no audience in the building — it was, as with so many other pandemic-era artistic happenings, a live-streamed event.
Strings and his band return to the Capitol Theatre Feb. 3 to 6 for a four-night run of sold-out shows, and they're bringing the good vibes back with them. "Deja Tu" will once again take its cues from the ESP experiments, calling on the psychic frequencies of viewers in Port Chester and at home via streaming platform FANS.
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“You’ll see a hybrid of what we did in 2021 and what they did in 1971 for the upcoming shows, for ‘Deja Tu,’ " said Strings' manager, Bill Orner. " I think it will be really exciting for the fans in the room to get that vibe, too.”
Last year's live-streamed shows were a big hit, with music industry publication Pollstar reporting that the events sold 20,000 pay-per-view tickets and had as many as 24,000 concurrent viewers at one point.
Strings and company frequently incorporate Dead material into their shows, but they are focused on their original output that, in the strong connection that's been forged between the group and its fans, has tapped into the same psychic pipeline uniting the Dead and Deadheads the world over.
That through-line, Orner explained, is “love, respect, adoration. He (Strings) loves the fans. It’s that simple."
To explain the connection, Orner cited Robert Hunter's lyrics to the Dead's "Help on the Way": "What do they say? ‘Without love in the dream, it’ll never come true’? It’s fact.”
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Orner said the bond between Strings and his fans, occasionally referred to as Goats, is the closest thing he's seen to the connection between the Dead and Deadheads.
" ... (It) just seems that the fans are the closest that I can recall (to) when you would go and travel around, see the Grateful Dead," Orner said. "It’s something magical."
Billy Strings' "Deja Tu," 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3 to 6 at the Capitol Theatre, 149 Westchester Ave., Port Chester, New York. Sold out. For more information, visit thecapitoltheatre.com. The shows also will stream via FANS, fans.live.
Alex Biese has been writing about art, entertainment, culture and news on a local and national level for more than 15 years.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Capitol Theatre: Billy Strings revives Grateful Dead ESP experiment