Jefferson Starship revisits all of its eras for Maryland Theater show

Since the days of psychedelic rock in the mid-1960s, many bands have come and gone.

A lucky few have survived the decades, but not without learning to ride with a few changes.

And Jefferson Starship, appearing this week at the Maryland Theater in downtown Hagerstown, got his share.

Formed as the Jefferson Airplane in 1965 in the counterculture haven of San Francisco, the group has gone through several incarnations. And David Freiberg has been there for at least part of every one of them.

“This band has been through so much change, and honestly, I’m the only one left playing in Jefferson Airplane,” he told Herald-Mail Media in a recent interview.

Freiberg joined Jefferson Airplane shortly before the group morphed into Jefferson Starship and remained until it became simply “Starship”.

He left the band for a while, but the late Paul Kantner, founding member of Jefferson Airplane who had also left Starship, restarted the band as Jefferson Starship.

Kantner, an old friend, “asked me one day if I wanted to come sit down, and I did, and it was fun again!” Friberg said. “I’ve still been doing it for about 18 years.”

A little music with friends

“I had been friends with Paul Kantner since about 1962, I guess,” Freiberg said. “We had been trying to find work as a folk duo, but being able to make a living singing folk music, for a lot of people, seemed to stop when the Beatles started.

“And then when we went to see the Beatles movie, we were like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what we want to do.'”

But they didn’t do it together at first. While Kantner formed Jefferson Airplane with the late Marty Balin, Freiberg and several other musicians started Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Both bands played at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, which also included The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin’s band), The Grateful Dead, Ravi Shankar, The Mamas and the Papas and many more. others.

“It was memorable,” Freiberg said. “It was kind of like the first big festival that ever happened. And it was probably, in fact, the best.”

He laughs, then notes that Jefferson Airplane was also in Woodstock.

The Quicksilver Messenger service was not.

Kantner brought Freiberg into Jefferson Airplane shortly before the group, including vocalist Grace Slick, became Jefferson Starship. Balin, who had left, returned and sang lead vocals on several of the group’s other hits.

“That group kept changing,” Freiberg recalls. “There were people coming back, people going out – and it always worked that something good happened, you know, so it all went well.”

To stay positive

These days, Freiberg is joined by teammates Donny Baldwin, Chris Smith, Cathy Richardson and Jude Gold. But he says fans of all eras will hear their favorite tunes on Tuesday night.

“We’ll do Jefferson Airplane songs for sure. And we’ll do a lot of Jefferson Starship songs and we’ll do a few Starships songs, probably – because people mix and we don’t want people to be disappointed,” he said. “So if ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ was your wedding song, we’d love to play it.”

Not that they are resting on their laurels; Jefferson Starship released their last album last year.

“We released a new album which came out right at the start of the pandemic,” he noted. “That’s when he needed to come out. So rather than holding him back, we let him out – at least it would give us something to promote him a bit. We got him. promoted on Zoom if we couldn’t go play.”

Last year, in fact, the group gave “about two” concerts. Usually, he says, they play about 70 a year.

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The new album is a mix of old and new.

“We wrote a few songs, then we get things from the past…Jude plays a guitar instrument that Jorma (Kaukonen) originally played on Jefferson Airplane’s second album ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ called ‘Embryonic Journey.'”

But whereas the composition “was an acoustic fingerpicking song at the time with just an acoustic guitar… Jude is a master at, you know, he’s got his pedal board and a bunch of effects and stuff that he plays really well And so he just did it. So it’s different. We put it there. But it was a really good start. And it still sounds really, really good.

Just like the band, the members and the music have evolved, but the dynamism is constant.

“Everyone who came into the group was encouraged to sing the song, but sing it the way you sing it,” Freiberg said. “I mean, just because Grace Slick sang a song doesn’t mean you’re supposed to sing it exactly the way she did. That wouldn’t be fair.

“But we try to retain the spirit and the feeling of the song. And I think we do that pretty well. Cathy Richardson sings Grace Slick songs, and I think you can feel the spirit as more or less the same — even though it doesn’t sound exactly the same because she’s just a wonderful singer, like Grace was, and Cathy is a great singer in her own right, so it’s still really, really nice.

“And we don’t try to play all the songs exactly the same. We play them like we feel it that night, you know, like the band has always done; we’ve never tried to imitate the record. Paul always used to say, ‘Well, we didn’t really know the song when we recorded it; we were just writing it. We rolled it out and found out how it was really supposed to go. “

In a discography that spans over 50 years, does he have a favorite?

“It’s kind of like asking who your favorite kid is,” Freiberg said.

“Any night in particular, it could be any of them. I mean, we’re so lucky to have… so many songs that… came from this band, great writers like Paul Kantner and Grace Slick and Marty Balin.

“I love ‘Miracles’. I have to love ‘Jane’ because she was my girlfriend.”

If you ever wondered if this was a real person, now you know.

“It’s about someone, but you can bet her name wasn’t really Jane,” Freiberg joked.

Back to the future

You might think that after more than half a century, Jefferson Starship has explored the musical frontier as much as possible.

Think again. New albums are in preparation.

“We have more music in the box,” Freiberg said. “We started recording; we’ve recorded some basic tracks for about five more tracks, and so we’re looking for a time when we can all get together and hang out in the studio and finish it.

“And we have a live album that’s pretty much done…And we’ve been doing a few other things on the side that are still under wraps until they’re ready.”

Yet the same dynamism that inspired Jefferson Airplane in the beginning drives the band forward today.

“I think we’ll keep writing about what’s going on,” Freiberg said. “And not that we’re going to solve anything – it just has to be done with people coming together and realizing that things aren’t as polarized as people think.

“All of these people are still human beings, every single one of them, and they have the same wants and needs as anyone else. And their blood is the same color.

“The way I see it is we just have to go out and play and be among people, and just show that really, you know, America really should be a country. And there’s room for everyone. world.”

If you are going to …

What: Jefferson Starship in concert

When: 7:00 p.m. December 7

Or: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

Cost: Tickets cost between $39 and $109

Contact: Go to www.themarylandtheatre.com/starship or call 301-790-2000.