The Grateful Dead performed at Barton Hall in 1977 in what the Rolling Stone called its “most legendary” concert of all time. Forty one years after the celebrated performance, the rock band will once again rock Cornell from atop McGraw Tower on May 8.
Liz Field, communications specialist at Cornell Information Technologies, proposed the very first Grateful Dead chimes concert last year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band’s visit to Ithaca. She saw it then as just a “one-time thing,” but the enthusiasm of the crowd last year made a second one possible.
“About 200 people brought blankets and scattered around the tower on the Arts Quad, on the slope and on Ho Plaza,” said John Lee ’18, Cornell Chimes head chimesmaster, about last year’s event.
“We certainly didn’t anticipate such a turnout,” Field said in a phone interview with The Sun. “But people loved it, so this time the chimesmasters really got it going themselves.”
Field, who used to spend her college summer vacations following the band’s tour, attributed the band’s uniqueness to the fact that “their shows were never the same … you don’t hear the same show anywhere else.”
In a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly, drummer Mickey Hart said that the 1977 concert ended in a rare but “very magical snow storm.” He also mentioned that his wife, Dr. Caryl Hart ’79, whom he first met in 1990, actually didn’t go to that concert despite being a student at Cornell at the time.
The recording of the renowned May 1977 concert, titled “Cornell 5/8/77,” was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2012. The album has “achieved almost mythic status among ‘Deadhead’ tape traders,” The New York Times commented.
According to Field, the chimesmasters have picked three new songs of the band to the setlist, in addition to the five played last year. However, she declined to reveal the titles of the newest additions.
“I just don’t want to spoil it,” she said. “I really want people to experience the surprise themselves.”
Field added that she wants the commemoration concert to become a tradition that lives on. Even though there hasn’t been much discussion around this, Lee said he could “totally see it going.”
“Going forward, even if I’m not here to ask [the chimemeasters] to do it, [I hope] they will just do it themselves,” Field said. “[The Grateful Dead] is the first jam band there is. That’s kinda a thing now … but it’s the Dead started all that.”
The concert will be livestreamed on YouTube and the tower will be closed to the public during the performance, according to Lee.