Cornell celebrates 40th anniversary of famous campus Grateful Dead concert

ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - Cornell University is celebrating the 40th anniversary of one of the most famous concerts in music history— The Grateful Dead’s 1977 performance at Barton Hall.

They’ve played well over 2,000 shows, but this is considered to be the most famous Grateful Dead show ever. 

"A few days before May 8th, I was given an assignment by the Ithaca Journal to come up and go to the Dead concert,” said photographer Jom Reis

Reis, a freelance photographer, remembers getting in to Cornell’s Barton Hall about the same time the crowd did. Students paid $6.50 in advance for a ticket, and the general public spent $7.50 at the door. 

“The band had gelled and the magic between the members of the band and the stage— I could feel that in the front row,” Reis said.

After shooting about 36 frames, with a 10 p.m. deadline looming, Reis reluctantly left at intermission to develop his film.

Surprisingly, not much was recorded of the huge event, but Cornell collections assistant Kristen Reichenbach pulled together what little the university had in its archives, like the rider that included things like bottles of Perrier water, colorless cream soda, rum and red Boudreaux.

"They wanted their meals on ceramic plates and of course, you have the expected tea and honey, very specific brands,” Reichenback said.

But until about a year ago, very few good photos of the show existed, until Reis’ negatives of the photos he took surfaced.

A chimes concert of Grateful Dead songs took place at Cornell on Monday evening, after the Tompkins County legislature declared May 8 ‘Grateful Dead Day.’ 

The concert has been inducted into the national recording registry by the Library of Congress. 

Click the player above to hear more of Reis’ stories from that night.

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