Josh Pelta-Heller at Johnny Brendas | Photo by: Josh Pelta-Heller

“Space is the place” that the Sun Ra Arkestra will take you to, but Johnny Brenda’s was the place that they sold out this Halloween night, as fans leaned in over the balcony, lined the stairway, and pushed up against the walls to be escorted into the unknown by the seminal Philly free jazz collective.

Sixteen members of the Arkestra (whose crew currently boasts over two dozen, total) spilled off of Brenda’s stage with barely enough room to slightly swing a saxophone. Maestro Marshall Allen led the charge from stage right, with singer Tara Middleton by his side, though a kinetic set of carefully curated holiday-themed cuts, including “Halloween In Harlem,” and “Medicine For A Nightmare.”

Arkestra shows characteristically cultivate a communal energy that plays back and forth between the musicians and their audience, and the Saturday night set was no anomaly.  A setlist studded with fan favorites — at turns psychedelic space-jams and buoyant, big-band New-Orleans swing — encouraged audience participation and singalongs. Dressed as Dracula, sax player and former band manager Danny Ray Thompson, narrated one portion of the show from the floor, as he danced through the crowd and with smiling fans.