Williamsburg's ties to the Grateful Dead run back to the 1970s, when the band played several shows at William and Mary Hall.
Jack Marahrens, a lifetime resident, attended all four of the William and Mary shows, and he said the Grateful Dead scene at the time was different — the band hadn't yet hit the big time.
But one thing remained unchanged throughout the years: "You never knew what you were going to get," Marahrens said.
Geoff Scheibel described this experience, an experience found at all Grateful Dead shows, as the magic of the unexpected.
"Every single night was a different experience in its own way, shape or form. And not only that, but they shared that connection with the crowd as well," said Scheibel, bassist of Williamsburg-based jam band Blind and Dirty.
Last year, Blind and Dirty frontman James Drake, a longtime fan, wanted to recreate that experience locally in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead. Even more, Drake hoped to tap into a local community of Deadheads that he remembers growing up with, but had since faded.
The response overwhelmed, Drake said.
"Not Fade Away" sold out the Kimball Theatre with nearly 400 people. Many abandoned their seats when the music started, flooding to the front of the stage.
"I saw a lot of people that were coming together as community. A lot of hugs, a lot of joy, and people just really genuinely setting everything aside, other than focusing on community and the music," Scheibel said.
"Not Fade Away! A Grateful Dead Celebration" returns this Saturday, Nov. 19, and the band hopes to make it an annual event.
For a band that often plays bars like Cogan's Deli in New Town, performing at Kimball Theatre offers a completely different experience, one centered wholly on the music. The band hopes to continue seeing similar opportunities arise for the bands and musicians in Williamsburg.
"As much as I love playing in bars — it's fun and it's part of what we do, it's what we come from — but I would like to see it grow," Drake said.
Blind and Dirty has seen growth since the first tribute show last October. The band played The National in Richmond on two separate occasions, opening once for Pink Talking Fish and another time for moe., a well-known jam band. The band also headlined a Bob Dylan tribute at the Kimball in June and played a Grateful Dead set in Merchants Square during the Summer Breeze Concert Series.
"They stay true to the spirit of the music," said Marahrens, who attended the tribute last year. "And I would say that's the most important thing."
Similar to last year, the tribute promises several hours of music. Fixity, a trio from Virginia Beach, will open the show, followed by two sets from Blind and Dirty. The band assured, however, that the show and the music this year will be different.
Expect a few surprises, Drake said.
Corey Schmidt of Twisted Guerrilla Projections will again complement the music with projection work, combined this year with lighting design from Scott Light of Addictive Lighting. John Schönberger and Todd Cooke of Kimball Theatre are part of the production as well.
"We'd like this to be something that happens every year, and something that people look forward to," said keyboardist Greg Gernon.
They hope to create a space where people can expect the unexpected.
As Scheibel noticed last year, "they are really looking and searching for that connection of the unexpected," he said. "Like, 'Man, what's right around the corner ... I better not go and take a break and get a beer or go to the bathroom because I might miss something.' That was totally there."
Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.
Want to go?
When: 7-11:30 p.m., Nov. 19
Where: Kimball Theatre, 424 W. Duke of Gloucester St.
Tickets: $15, available from Blind and Dirty (by calling 297-1250 or through Facebook), from Kimball Theatre or online at colonialwilliamsburg.com/plan/calendar/kimball/second-annual-not-fade-away.