1977 was a great year for The Grateful Dead. They took a much needed break from touring in ’74. When they came back in the summer of ’76, they felt rejuvenated. The winter of ’77 found them excited about a new album they were working on, Terrapin Station. And when they launched into a new tour that spring, they were eager to go.
The first part of May brought them to the East Coast: Philadelphia; Springfield, Massachusetts; New York City; and especially the college towns such as New Haven, Buffalo, and Ithaca.
Ah, Ithaca. Home of Cornell University. The Dead played there on the 8th of May in 1977. And time has proven that set to be considered one of the most memorable...if not the most memorable performances of their career. As with most of their shows, a recording was made and shared among fans. But this recording is considered one of the best of the more than 2,000 concerts that have been captured over the years. It’s so popular, in fact, that when Cornell tour guides take prospective students and their parents around the campus, they still single out Barton Hall and speak reverently of the show that the Dead played there years before.
So what was it that made that show so special in retrospect? Well, without a doubt the Dead were on a hot streak, musically speaking. The fans who braved the cold winter weather were primed to enjoy themselves. The recording that was made that night was sonically one the best for that era. But as we often used to say in those days of vinyl records, what matters most is what’s in the grooves.
Yes, it was a very special set of songs.