Dead & Company performing at Barton Hall at Cornell University.

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‘Sheer Awe’: Recalling the Legendary Grateful Dead Concert of May ’77

Our photo feature takes you in and around the “5/8/77” benefit concert, which drew fans from the Big Red community and beyond

Editor’s note: Be sure to check out our look back at the original show—and our special themed crossword puzzle!

By Lindsay Lennon

It clearly wasn’t a typical Monday on campus. On May 8, the Hill was alive with giddy energy, tie-dyed T-shirts, Birkenstocks—even vintage microbuses blaring classic Grateful Dead tracks from their speakers.

Dead & Company—and its gleeful, colorful fanbase—had arrived.

Dead and Co. fans wait outside of Barton Hall
He needed a miracle—and he got one!

For the second stop of its farewell tour, the band—which includes original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart—played a sold-out show to just under 5,000 fans at Barton Hall.

And to make the occasion even more special: it was 46 years to the day after the Dead played its now-iconic “5/8/77” concert under the same roof.

The event was a fundraiser for Cornell’s 2030 Project, which focuses on research to stem climate change, and MusiCares, a nonprofit that aids people in the music industry who are in need of financial support.

Lights stream down onto the stage during the Dead & Co show
Barton came alive as a vibrant music venue.

The ability to purchase tickets was chiefly determined by lottery, with nearly half earmarked for students, staff, and alumni.

Hours before showtime, a sea of fans in distinctive duds descended upon campus, their tie-dyed garb adorned with skulls, roses, dancing bears, and portraits of late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia.

They eventually joined a well-organized entry queue stretching down Tower Road and through the Statler Hotel valet parking lot, which the tour’s organizers transformed into a gateway to Barton.

(En route to the festivities, a number of concertgoers stopped by the Dairy Bar to sample the limited-edition flavor designed for the occasion: Barton Ripple ’23, chocolate ice cream with a marshmallow ripple and caramel-filled chocolates.)

Even after the show had started, dozens of hopeful Deadheads still paced around outside, holding their index fingers in the air and displaying signs pleading for a “miracle”—meaning a ticket.

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And in keeping with the Dead’s ethos of inclusivity, once the first set was well underway, the box office gifted a handful of unclaimed tickets to some two dozen ecstatic fans.

The crowd in Barton Hall during the Dead & Co show
The joyous crowd in the coveted “pit” in front of the stage. (Provided)

The concert itself offered plenty of nods to the 5/8/77 original.

The show kicked off with “New Minglewood Blues”—the same song the Dead opened with in 1977—and the second set included 5/8/77 favorites like “Scarlet/Fire” and “Morning Dew.”

It was clear that, like the crowd, the musicians felt the weight of the moment—and leaned into it with a magical combination of gravitas and jubilation.

Here’s an additional sampling of scenes from this truly special night, from the pre-show festivities to the epic performance:

Dead & Company: Alive on the Hill

Top: Photo provided. All images (unless otherwise indicated) by Cornell University photographers Noël Heaney, Sreang Hok, and Ryan Young.

Published May 11, 2023

Were you at the Dead & Company reunion show?


  1. Larry

    Grateful for the magical nite when Cornell was again the heart of the Grateful Dead world. Many thanks to everyone involved in making such a special event happen, particularly the band. Everybody’s playing in the heart of gold band.

  2. Lynne Mehalick, Class of 1975

    Thank you for the live video link to view from the comfort of home! I love watching these guys do what they do so well. Always a hoot. So grateful to be along for the ride. Peace, Love and Rock’n’Roll forever.

  3. Richard Stein, Class of 1975

    Cornell has twice the student population we had 50 years ago.
    I found a place to park by Martha Van right after 5PM when spots become open for all. But so many new buildings! Traffic on campus!
    Bucolia has become a little city. Refreshingly, a women 30 years my junior offered me some mushrooms on the stroll to Barton

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