So what did the Grateful Dead themselves think about their legendary performance in Cornell’s Barton Hall in 1977? Well, to be honest, they were midway through a pretty grueling tour schedule: 26 dates in just over a month. They played New Haven on the 5th of May. Boston on the 7th. The show in Ithaca took place on the 8th...with a concert in Buffalo booked for the next night.
The harsh reality is that their world was just blur at that time. And Cornell, according to author Peter Conners, “was just another college trying to put on rock ‘n’ roll shows in a terrible sounding multipurpose field house that also served as training ground for their branch of the ROTC. How terrible sounding, you ask? The story goes that in 1980 when the Dead came back to play Barton Hall,...Garcia called the space a ‘toilet bowl’ and Weir changed the chorus of ‘Playing in the Band’ to ‘playing in the barn.’”
But the Dead were known for rising about their circumstances. Steve Brown of Grateful Dead Records described the experience of a great Dead show magnificently:
“When it was really cooking and they were really having fun, when it was making that magic—there would be this thing where Jerry would turn to the band and get this smile, which was the smile that let you know that not only were you having fun, they were having fun. The whole place was having fun. It was like a perfect moment: ‘This is what we’re here for!’”
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Source: Peter Conners, Cornell ’77: The Music, Myth and Magnificence of the Grateful Dead’s Concert at Barton Hall