Airplane Family to play ‘Blows Against the Empire’ and more in Newton

airplane family newton

The Airplane Family performs at the Newton Theatre, Oct. 23.

The Airplane Family will present a 50th anniversary tribute to the Blows Against the Empire concept album, released by Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship, Oct. 23 at the Newton Theatre. Performers will include Peter Kaukonen, who performed on the original album, as well as Slick Aguilar (Jefferson Starship, David Crosby), Tom Constanten (The Grateful Dead), Tom Karan (Rat Dog, The Other Ones), Robin Sylvester (Rat Dog, Live Dead), Mike Falzarano (Hot Tuna, New Riders of the Purple Sage) and Clair Maloney.

The album was released in 1970. This 50th anniversary show was originally scheduled for March 20, 2020 (which would have been close to the 79th anniversary of Kantner’s birth, on March 17 of that year) but was postponed because of the pandemic.

In an interview on the “Morning Dew” show on WFDU (89.1 FM) that is archived, Aguilar said the show will feature not just songs from Blows Against the Empire — which features contributions from David Crosby, Graham Nash and members of The Grateful Dead, among others, and is notable for its science fiction theme — but “a lot of stuff that we’ve all been a part of,” meaning music by groups such as The Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage.

The album is only 43 minutes long, said Aguilar, “so we can’t really go in and just do the record and say, ‘Good night.’ We have to add some other music.”

“Morning Dew” also played parts of an old interview with Kantner, who died in 2016. Kantner said he read science fiction writers such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick when he was young, “and they supported me, mentally, all through high school, even, and into college and well beyond. I just loved, for some reason, the spirit of exploration and adventure that science fiction provided for me. Going beyond the norm, beyond the pale, beyond the expected.”

For more on the concert, visit

Here is “Have You Seen the Stars Tonite?,” from Blows Against the Empire.


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