Barton Hall – Ithaca, New York
February 14, 2010
Contributing Writer : Garret K. Woodward
“To Cornell Building Coordinators:
This Sunday, February 14th there will be a concert hosted in Barton Hall featuring a band called Further. This band in part has members from the old Grateful Dead band and will certainly generate an active crowd of what are affectionately referred to as “Deadheads”. This fan base is very loyal to the Grateful Dead and their remaining members. We are confident that they will be showing up in large numbers as early as this Friday.
Our concern is that this particular group of fans will set up camp wherever they can and will certainly avail themselves to the warmth of any open building. Even if they do not have tickets to the venue, they will still come in the hopes of gaining access to the concert, and they will be seeking shelter from the elements over the weekend.
Please be extra vigilant in securing your buildings this Friday and throughout the weekend. If you have staff working in the buildings over the weekend, please request that they secure their areas and report any persons who look like they may not belong in their building to the Cornell Police at 255-1111 or if an emergency; 911.
Thank you for your help and support to keep your facilities safe!
Sgt. Philip D. Mospan
Coordinator, Office of Professional Development
Cornell University Police”
A few days prior to my trek to Ithaca, I received this email from a friend who is a teaching assistant at Cornell. For the past 30 years, the campus has had an intertwined history with the Grateful Dead, for good or ill. And any catching wind of this upcoming performance had sugarplum fairies dancing in their head.
Fat snowflakes were strewn across central New York as troves of the Furthur Faithful emerged from every direction of the Eisenhower Interstate System. The parking garage adjacent to Barton Hall became engulfed with exhaust from running cars, portable grills, cigarette smoke and offerings of the peace pipe. Hundreds looked for a miracle as others finished their drinks and merged like a cattle run into the historic, perhaps sacred, site of a show long gone yet forever cherished.
Entering the enormous gymnasium, which holds around 5,000, I took up space in the seats high up against the back wall. Awaiting the 7:30 p.m. curtain call, a couple in the next row turned and began to reminisce.
“Yah know, the last time he was here was in ’81,” the middle-aged soccer mom said.
“Yep. ’81. Great show. I told her this was the best place to sit. This is the exact seat I sat in during that show,” her companion said with gusto while smacking the well-worn armrest. “I remember watching this guy, who definitely took a few doses, climb up into the rafters, screaming his head off. It was the craziest thing seeing him up there. Thank God we eventually coaxed him down.”
We shared our trials and tribulations on the road, following our beloved band and any splinter groups that formed after the passing of Captain Trips. Tales of cruising through snowstorms, sleeping overnight in vehicles and meeting lifelong friends along the way. A group consensus resulted in a vote for “Uncle John’s Band” as the opener.
Our conversation was cut short when the house lights went down to the deafening roar of the raucous multitude.
With love lost and love found as the theme throughout the night (seeing as it was Valentine’s Day), several selections bared a sentimental and emotional tone amongst the audience.
Though the paternal presence of Phil Lesh during “Peggy-O” cast a touching silence over the jubilant mass, it was the grunts and shouts of Bob Weir during the 11+ minutes of “Looks Like Rain” which truly exposed the pent up anticipation. “Sugaree” showcased the endearing vocal, improvisational and technical talents of guitarist John Kadlecik (not to mention the soothing octaves of backup singer Sunshine Becker, daughter of Jerry Garcia). Yes, his addition has sparked controversy, but his contribution already puts hearts at ease and provokes spirits to soar from his menacing finger licks.
Besides, I’d rather have some Dead, than them being dead. It is what it is, and what it is sounds invigorated, inspiring and incendiary.
A sing-along echoed to the heavens as “Uncle John’s Band>Peaceful Valley>Ashes & Glass” commenced the latter of the evening. As if a friendly “hello” to Jerry above, the melodies rang true, putting those on the perimeter of the crowd into a reckless abandon of perspiration and laughter.
Yet, just when you think you have them pinned down, when you think you know their next move, like a mother that knows best, they are always two moves ahead with your best interest at hand.
Tattooing a childish grin on even the most cynical of Deadheads, “Unbroken Chain> Morning Dew>The Other One> China Cat Sunflower” erased any doubts about Kadlecik with his tear-jerking vocal take on “Morning Dew”.
“Standing On The Moon>I Know You Rider” poignantly capped off the momentous occasion with an ominous reminder (Lesh’s 70th birthday is around the corner), “I know you, rider, gonna miss me when I’m gone…”
And as the predictable “Samson & Delilah” came to bear, an air raid of snowflakes greeted the troves of humanity wandering out into the mysterious night. Old friends said goodbye once again. New acquaintances shook hands and parted ways. It was business as usual for this community, now going on its 45th year.
Onward and upward, my brethren.
In The Midnight Hour>They Love Each Other, Beat It On Down The Line, Tennessee Jed, Fennario, Looks Like Rain, Sugaree, Good Lovin’
Uncle John’s Band>Peaceful Valley>Ashes & Glass, Unbroken Chain> Morning Dew>The Other One> China Cat Sunflower, Standing On The Moon>I Know You Rider
Encore: Samson & Delilah