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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Classic concerts that rocked the ‘deis

Published: March 2, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Many students will be able to reel off all of the bands that have performed at Brandeis in recent years, including O.A.R., Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Matt Pond PA and Flogging Molly. To some, this list is quite impressive, while it might be lackluster to others. Perhaps what is less commonly talked about is the impressive list of groups that have come to Brandeis in the past several decades and the circumstances that surrounded their respective shows. Here is a brief overview of some of the talent Brandeis has brought to campus throughout the years that you may not have known about.

A jazzy beginning
Starting with the Universitys very first arts festival in 1952, Brandeis has hosted some great talent. The festival was founded by the legendary American composer Leonard Bernstein and featured performances by jazz legend Miles Davis and composer Aaron Copland. It only makes sense that five years later, in 1957, French horn master Gunther Schuller first used an immensely important phrase in the jazz community, third stream, while inaugurating a jazz festival at Brandeis. Another jazz legend, Charles Mingus, also composed a piece for the festival.

Rock and Roll comes to Waltham
The Sixties meant rock and roll, and Brandeis certainly hosted its share. Coming off the success of their highly popular second album, Sounds of Silence, and third album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Simon & Garfunkel appeared at Brandeis as part of a charity week. Opening up was a contemporary of the Grateful Dead and one of the worlds first jam bands, the Blues Project. This could all be seen in the Shapiro Athletic Center for a paltry $3.50, barely enough to buy a brewski today. The following year, the Rat Pack came to Brandeis when Sammy Davis Jr. came as part of Springfest. His performance was the first one at any colleges in Massachusetts and subsequently the only show in the Bay State that entire year. Motown legends the Temptations opened for him.

The year 1968 proved to be quite a landmark for Brandeis as far as the bands it was able to host. Within a month of one another, Jefferson Airplane and Eric Clapton-led Cream performed at Brandeis. The events that occurred prior to and during the Cream concert in March 1968 have become quite legendary. With the concert scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. for less than five dollars per ticket, Brandeis students crammed the gym. Unfortunately, the band was delayed because of an intense storm in Indiana. Anticipatory fans were given semi-regular updates on the bands progress in the air. After finally landing in Boston, the band was escorted by motorcade to Brandeis, arriving around 2:30 in the morning to a huge ovation.

Perhaps most amazingly, only a small handful of the people had left the building to go to sleep. Following the show, an interview and review for The Justice later published in Rolling Stone by famous music critic and alum of Brandeis University Jon Landau was so scathing that Clapton himself is rumored to have fainted after reading it. The review is said to have had a profound effect on Clapton and the band that helped hasten the groups demise.

Following Cream in April of 1968 was Jefferson Airplane, who went so far as to perform two concerts back to back in the Shapiro Athletic Center at 4 and 8 p.m. A full year before serving as one of the key headliners at Woodstock Music Festival, Brandeis students could brag about seeing the acid rockers from San Francisco.

Cult icons visit Brandeis
During the decades to follow, Brandeis continued to bring in quality performers, often artists who had or would have enormous cult followings. In December of 1972, Genesis, a band that featured Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, made its first appearance in the United States by coming to Brandeis. A decade later, punk legends The Ramones came as part of the Louis, Louis festivities, while hardcore punk band Black Flag also made an appearance in the 1980s. WBRS The Joint saw an intimate appearance by Boston locals The Pixies on a Thursday night in June of 1987.

Another golden era for Deis concerts
The early 90s seemed to be another golden era for Brandeis concerts. Kicking off an impressive string of live acts at Brandeis was the ska band the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Performing at the Stein in November 1991, the group who hadnt even released an official debut album were able to ignite the crowd in what Justice columnist Jeff Korenman said resembled a cockfight. One of the biggest concerts the University has ever seen was part of the MTV 120 Minutes tour partnering with the Boston Phoenix in 1992 at Gosman. Coming to Brandeis were Big Audio Dynamite, a post-punk group led by Mick Jones of The Clash, Public Image Ltd., which was another post-punk group led by ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten, alternative rockers Live, and finally a little known band at the time by the name of Blind Melon (who later achieved one-hit wonder status with their hit No Rain). Lead singer Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon would start the madness during the opening act by dropping his shorts. The show proceeded to get especially hectic after a shoe was thrown at Lydon, who refused to give the shoe back to the fan. During the bands first song, Lydon removed a few condoms from his crotch and chucked them at the nearby crowd. He even went so far as to moon the audience, and then remove something from his cheeks and again throw it at the crowd. The same year, Brandeis nearly had two of the most recognizable faces in alternative rock perform. These faces included Morrissey, the crooning legend from British icons the Smiths, and the soon to be mega-god Kurt Cobain along with his group, Nirvana. Long before students were heartbroken over the cancellation of the Mos Def concert in 2005, Nirvana backed out of a gig at Brandeis as well. Scheduled to play at Brandeis in April of 1992 on the second wave of their Nevermind tour, the band canceled the entire tour due to exhaustion. Morrissey, on the other hand, came at the very beginning of the following academic year, quizzically asking fans during the encore, What does the picture mean… What does it mean?

Recent headliners
In the years to follow, Soundgarden, Run-DMC, Beck, Janes Addiction, Sloan, George Clinton, B.B. King, and Steve Miller Band have all graced Brandeis with their presence. The list of names certainly goes on and on, and will certainly continue in the same vain for years to come, with the occasional condom throwing included.