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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

The MIT Spring Concert by Matt McGann '00

This year's concert: Jason Derülo and Janelle Monáe.

Every year, MIT brings to campus a national act to headline a big concert on campus. This year’s Spring Concert features Jason Derulo and Janelle Monae.

Over the years, many awesome bands have played MIT’s Spring Concert. Here is a somewhat complete list of the history of MIT Spring Concerts:

MIT Spring Concerts

2011: Jason Derülo / Janelle Monáe
2010: N.E.R.D. / Super Mash Bros.
2009: Ben Folds / Sara Bareilles
2008: Third Eye Blind / Howie Day
2007: Ying Yang Twins / Ozomatli
2006: CAKE / matt pond PA.
2005: Fabolous / Lloyd Banks
2004: Live / Slick Rick
2003: Jurassic 5 / OK Go
2002: Sugar Ray / Spin Doctors
2001: The Roots / Blues Traveller
2000: They Might Be Giants / Reel Big Fish
1999: Busta Rhymes
1998: Maceo Parker / Fishbone / Five Fingers of Funk
1997: Battle of the Bands (no headliner)
1996: Soul Coughing
1995: Sonic Youth
1994: Belly
1993: They Might Be Giants
1992: Violent Femmes
1991: Jesus Jones
1990: Psychedelic Furs
1989: ‘til tuesday
1987: Squeeze
1986: Ministry / Face to Face
1985: R.E.M.
1984: Cheap Trick / ’til tuesday
1983: The Tubes
1982: The Ramones
1980: Battle of the Bands (no headliner)
1977: Aztec Two-Step
1976: Don McLean
1975: The James Montgomery Blues Band
1974: Aerosmith
1973: Sha-Na-Na
1971: Chuck Berry
1970: The Grateful Dead
1969: Janis Joplin / Dave van Ronk / Chuck Berry / Julie Driscoll
1968: Jefferson Airplane
1967: The Brothers Four
1966: The Beach Boys
1965: The Rooftop Singers
1964: Maynard Ferguson
1962: Dakota Staton
1962: The Four Preps

There are two concerts at MIT (one listed above) that are particularly impressive, each deserving their own section:

Nirvana Played MIT.

Perhaps MIT’s most (in)famous party is Steer Roast. Each spring for nearly half a century, the residents of MIT’s Senior Haus dormitory throw a big party; dorm alumni from decades past return for the event.

[Previous blog entries about Steer Roast: Jessie ’07 | Keri ’10 ]

Sometimes described as “an extreme barbecue” or “a 3-day bacchanal,” Steer Roast is a celebration of mud, meat, and music. Mud, because of the mud wrestling pit and matches. Meat — well, that’s obvious from the name of the party, “Steer Roast.” And music: because (IMHO) Senior Haus residents tend to have the best taste in music on campus, they tend to get the best bands.

Perhaps the best example of Senior Haus being ahead of the (music) curve is Steer Roast 1990. That year, for a mere $1,000, they brought an up-and-coming three-member indie band from Seattle to play.

Nirvana played Steer Roast in 1990.

Here’s the contract:

One report says that “during the show, Krist [Novoselic, the bassist] ripped one or two bones off the wall from a sign spelling out ‘Sport Death’ (a Senior House motto) and used one to play half of a song on his bass.” Apparently, the concert happened in the dorm basement, as rain prevented the band from using the outdoor stage that had been built for the performance.

Anybody have audio or pictures of this concert? Would love to hear it / see it…

The Grateful Dead Played MIT.

On May 6th and 7th, 1970, the Grateful Dead played at MIT. Somehow, I had missed this. Luckily, my MIT contemporary, Joel ’99, dropped me an email to let me know about this glaring omission. Here’s the story, as I have come to understand it:

The Grateful Dead were scheduled to play MIT’s Spring Concert on Thursday, May 6th. Here’s the promotional poster:

Note the Great Dome in the background. The small text at the bottom reads:

LSC Presents The Grateful Dead in concert May 7 1970
MIT Armory 8:00 p.m. $3.00 $3.50 at the door

LSC is the Lecture Series Committee, an MIT student group. The MIT Armory is now called duPont Athletic Gymnasium (W31). And yes, that really does say a ticket is just $3! (Even considering inflation, ~$16 is still quite a bargain!)

Recall that during the 1969-70 academic year, student unrest about the Vietnam War was at a peak. Just three days before the scheduled MIT Spring Concert, the Kent State massacre occurred. On the same day, according to The Tech, “Well over 1500 members of the MIT community, most of them students, voted overwhelmingly to strike ‘in solidarity with the national university strike.'” The next day, the faculty met to affirm the community’s desire for a strike. The ~700 professors at the faculty meeting voted (again) overwhelmingly to cancel classes.

Wednesday, May 6th was the first day of canceled classes — the strike — at MIT. With the Grateful Dead already in Boston, they came to MIT a day early to perform a free outdoor concert, joining in the student protest (although, cheekily, the “schedule of events” listing in that day’s special issue of The Tech said: “2 pm – There will not be a free concert by the Grateful Dead today.”). The band set up on the Student Center steps, with the crowd all across Kresge Oval:

There is even an audio recording of the concert, from MIT’s radio station (via, which was able to patch directly into the band’s amps:

The Grateful Dead returned to MIT the following night to perform the Spring Concert. Once again, the MIT radio station was able to patch in (and has the audio):

Would you have rather been at the Nirvana show or the Grateful Dead show?

Which Spring Concert do you most wish you could’ve attended?

5 responses to “The MIT Spring Concert”

  1. Anna H. '14 says:

    @Katherine: That was my first thought, too.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Janelle Monae? FFFF– AWESOME :DDDD

  3. Manu says:


    one reason: being in dirt and mud is fun.

    second: I have already heard ‘The Grateful Dead’ from your post and I liked it. But, even after searching Nirvana for a while, I was unable to find that. So I would like to experience that event inside the densely occupied dorm – it sounds better – echo everywhere – awesome loudness! :D

  4. Stephanie says:

    I only went to a few of the Spring weekend concerts when I was at MIT (I went to the CAKE / matt pond PA and the Jurassic 5 / OK Go concerts).

    It would have been cool to go to a lot of the concerts back in the day. It’s pretty awesome how many of those artists are super famous. I’d be curious to know how many bands/artists were “nobodies” when they performed at MIT…if students saw them before they got really famous.

  5. Katherine says:

    The number of artists on this list whose songs are on the CTY (Lancaster) Canon is impressively high.