45 Years Later, Colgate Remembers the Grateful Dead’s Homecoming Performance

The Grateful Dead, one of the most formative and beloved jam bands in history, graced the Colgate community with their presence on the evening of Nov. 4, 1977. 45 years later, the Colgate community looks back at this seminal event with fondness.

It is fitting that the anniversary of this concert comes in the wake of Dead & Company’s announcement of their final tour, which will be taking place this summer. Led by frontman John Mayer, the spin-off band has paid tribute to The Grateful Dead with three of the original members contributing to the well-known songs and iconic culture of the shows since 2015.

Similar to the University’s recent concert by American-Jamaican rapper Sean Kingston, the 1977 performance took place at Cotterell Court and began with a spirited rendition of “Bertha,” which played for almost eight minutes in classic jam band fashion. Followed by “Good Lovin’” and “Brown-Eyed Woman,” the Dead captured the imagination of the Colgate community with a total of 21 songs, making this show the length of an average Grateful Dead concert.

Current fans of the band will automatically become entranced by Jerry Garcia’s opening chords of this recording of “Bertha,” and it is hard to believe that this show, which brought the energy consistent with all of the band’s performances, occurred on our very own campus just 45 years ago on Colgate’s Homecoming Weekend.

With two full sets and an encore of “Johnny B. Goode,” Garcia and the band played for a sea of excited students and Colgate graduates. While some Dead Heads critique the show for its hints of sloppiness, the inclusion of songs such as “Cold Rain & Snow,” which had not been played yet in this year of touring, highlighted the band’s ability to take chances and have fun in front of excited college students at the height of their success.

While the acoustics of the show were not ideal, considering the fact that it took place in the University’s gym, edited recordings of the show are available to the public, consistent with the Dead Head tradition of recording shows to highlight the unique nature of each one. No show is ever played the same way, and thus Colgate students can take pride in the fact that one of the most famous rock bands in the world took the time to bring this unique playing style to our campus.

Recorded as Dave’s Picks Volume 12, this show is available for fans to listen to and reminisce about the show that put Colgate on the map for music fans. With unique cover art that depicts Colgate’s campus, a copy of this live album seems like a treasure chest of Colgate’s musical history and cements the University in the world of the Grateful Dead’s lasting legacy.

On the anniversary of this iconic show, I invite you to listen to this album and any number of the other recorded shows by the band that changed the history of rock. Favorite songs include “Shakedown Street,” “Eyes of the World,” “Playin’ in the Band” and “Candyman,” although it is impossible to not be impressed by each and every performance from the Dead.