It might be said that the psychedelic movement in American music kicked off with the 1967 release of Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow," a record that still defines the sound of late-'60s West Coast rock, with its blend of folk, blues, psychedelia and pop.
Hindsight suggests that the Grateful Dead were always the hub of the San Francisco scene and sound, but there was indeed a time when Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Jorma Kaukonen, Spencer Dryden and Jack Casady were it, their shows the stuff of fuzzy, billowing, twilit legend.
The Airplane had trouble surviving the era it was emblematic of -- drugs, booze and the inevitable collapse of the bleary-eyed idealism of the age conspired to irreparably crack the foundation.
Kantner, however, never called it a day. He released ambitious, far-reaching solo albums (check out the brilliant one-two punch of "Blows Against the Empire" and "Sunfighter" for proof), pulled the Airplane into the repair shop and rechristened it the Starship, in essence finding a new banner under which to chart an extended flight.
Jefferson Starship featured a rotating cast of characters throughout the '70s and '80s, and was certainly strongest when Kantner was flanked by the distinctive vocals of both Slick and Balin. Even at its most pop, though, Starship had something to offer, and if the '80s were unkind to the band's legacy ("We Built This City," perhaps?), well, they weren't too kind to anyone, so all is pretty much forgiven.
Today, Kantner's Starship sits in a unique position, able to pull from all aspects of its storied career and in full possession of one of its finest, most versatile lineups. Slick has retired from music-making, for the most part, and Fredonia State graduate Diana Mangano has been more than ably handling the lead vocalist position since 1993, when Kantner reportedly hired her after after one listen of her demo tape.
With a steady roster that includes Kantner, Mangano, Balin, former Tubes/Todd Rundgren/XTC drummer Prairie Prince and original Airplane/Hot Tuna bassist Jack Casady -- certainly one of the most immediately recognizable four-stringers this side of Cream's Jack Bruce and the Dead's Phil Lesh -- Jefferson Starship promises to live up to its considerable legacy.
On Tuesday, when Jefferson Starship shows up for a rare area appearance inside Club Infinity, the band will be playing two sets and offering, in addition to Airplane classics, interpretations of Grateful Dead tunes.
Former Gamalon and the Need guitarist George Puleo's Haiku will open the show.
WHO: Jefferson Starship with Haiku
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Club Infinity, 8166 Main St., Williamsville
TICKETS: $20 advance, $25 day of show
INFO: 565-0110 or www.clubinfinityonline.com