Box of Rain returned to Ithaca’s The Haunt last Saturday night with more of their virtuosic improvisations and solos, along with memorable sing-alongs that drew a crowd of fans from all over the city.
The band, named after the Grateful Dead’s “Box of Rain” from their 1970 album American Beauty, “pays tribute to the formative and most prolific period of the Grateful Dead, 1968-74, channeling the Haight-Ashbury sextet at the height of their songwriting and improvisational prowess.” Their usual lineup features Bob Stirner, Dave Berg, Jerry Marks, Bud Burroughs, Tim Kelly and Jon Bernstein playing two guitars, bass, keys, drums and harmonica. For this Saturday’s event at The Haunt, however, Dave Berg and Jerry Marks were, unfortunately, unable to make an appearance, and the group saw different faces fill in on the rhythm guitar and bass.
Upon entering The Haunt, I was greeted with the warm glow of neon lights. People bustled around the joint bar and dancefloor, their murmurs of conversation filling the room. Sheets of tie-dye were draped on the wall behind the stage, displaying the group’s inspiration from the psychedelic era. As the band began to warm up, all eyes were on the stage as Box of Rain began their mixture of country, psychedelic rock, blues, folk and jazz tunes.
Despite having very little previous contact with this genre, I quickly found myself immersed in the music, unconsciously tapping my foot to the thrumming groove. Audience members swarmed the dance floor, swaying and spinning without a care in the world; arms raised, hands splayed, the room was filled with entranced people reminiscing of past times and memories. Couples, friends and family alike flocked The Haunt, enjoying their Saturday evening with pints of good beer and even better music.
Box of Rain was able to spark an interest within me that I was totally unaware of; the striking guitar solos and spectacular improvisations were as impressive as they were enjoyable. The band members were both entertaining to watch as well as to listen to — it was evident that these men were dedicated to their craft and took pleasure in doing so. Lead singer and guitarist Bob Stirner even told the audience that the group did not expect to get rich off of performing, and simply did it out of sheer love of the music and genre.
Amidst the fun and dancing, the band also took a solemn moment during the performance to honor the recent passing of the Grateful Dead member Robert Hunter, with a fan presenting a bundle of flowers in memoriam.
It was a great pleasure to watch the members of Box of Rain sing and dance at The Haunt, showcasing their proficient skills on the various instruments and vocals. The amazing atmosphere of casual fun made the experience incredibly memorable, and I would highly recommend checking them out and attending their live shows if they ever decide to visit Ithaca again.
Brian Lu is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.