A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a band called the Jefferson Airplane. You may remember tunes like “White Rabbit’’ and “Somebody To Love,’’ with unforgettably searing vocals from Grace Slick. Marty Balin contributed beautiful renditions of ballads like “Coming Back To Me.’’ Lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady made musical magic before departing to form Hot Tuna and other ventures. The late Paul Kantner, who founded the band with Balin after the two of them met each other at a San Francisco folk club, played rhythm guitar and was the driving force behind albums like After Bathing At Baxters.
The sometimes contentious Kantner was also famous for calling out the Hells Angels after they attacked Balin at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont concert in 1969.
As the spirit of peace and love dissipated, so did the Airplane, though. By 1974, Kantner formed the Jefferson Starship spinoff, joined by their old friend, bassist/vocalist/keyboard player David Freiberg.
Kantner died of a heart attack in 2016. But the Starship lives on. Current members include Freiberg, who was also in the seminal, unjustly neglected Quicksilver Messenger Service, drummer Donny Baldwin, vocalist Cathy Richardson, keyboardist Chris Smith and lead guitarist Jude Gold.
No stranger to these parts, Freiberg recalls playing with Quicksilver at the Monterey Pop Festival.
“I got to watch Otis Redding while leaning on the elbow of [Redding’s bass player] Duck Dunn,” he says, laughing. “We didn’t even have a record contract yet [but] the Airplane, the Dead and Quicksilver were all about equal in drawing power in San Francisco.”
Freiberg shared a place in Venice with Kantner and David Crosby before a pot bust, returning to the Bay Area – only to get busted again.
“Paul visited me in jail when he was starting the Airplane and we kept in touch,’’ Freiberg says. “I played on Blows Against The Empire, and when Marty left the band, I signed on.”
Freiberg, now 81, remains known as one of the nicest guys in rock and roll.
Vocalist Cathy Richardson is the voice of the present-day Starship. “We met Cathy in 2007 when she was with Big Brother for the Summer of Love anniversary – she’s an amazing talent,” Freiberg notes. “From the moment I heard her sing, I thought, ‘Whoa, listen to that girl.’”
JEFFERSON STARSHIP 8pm Thursday, Feb. 27. Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $44-$77. 649-1070, goldenstatetheatre.com