Grateful Dead: Ithaca, NY, 5/8/77 – the band’s greatest live show ever?

On May 8, 2012 by Will Hermes

As The New York Times has documented, some have made that claim.

As far as I can tell from bootlegs I’ve heard, the show — which took place 35 years ago today — comes close. But my judgement might be colored by sentimentality. As I wrote in Love Goes To Buildings On Fire, I missed that particular concert:

In March the Voice ran a cover story titled “Why We Hate The Subways,” and everyone had their own tales. Me, I’d been mugged on trains a few times, twice at knifepoint, coming home from Manhattan shows alone at night. But the worst was in May, when I was stuck on a broken-down E train for an hour en route to Port Authority to meet a girl I was cross-eyed crushed-out on. She had tickets to see the Grateful Dead five hours north that night, at Cornell University’s Barton Hall. When I finally arrived, the girl and the bus, the last of the day, were gone. At the time, I was more upset about missing the girl. But in time, via magnetic tape, Barton Hall 5/8/77 would enter Dead lore as arguably the single greatest show the band ever played.

Fucking subway.

You can stream an excellent recording of the show I missed here.

2 Responses to “Grateful Dead: Ithaca, NY, 5/8/77 – the band’s greatest live show ever?”

  • Lawrence

    Definitely not the greatest Grateful Dead show ever. While the ensemble playing is impressively together, and Garcia’s guitar work is more fleet than it was in, say, 1968-1972, they sound like they’re playing to a “click track” for the entire concert. St. Stephen is completely problematic and in none of the improvisations will you hear the free timing and magical SPACE of the earlier work.

  • redemption searcher

    There is no single “greatest night ever”. I’d pick ’72 as the greatest year, but only if I literally had to because some ****er was holding a gun to my head. That said Lawrence is on drugs; the St. Stephen is awesome, as is the whole show. This story by Will Hermes made me want to cry.

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