Brandeis at 75

From Bob Dylan to Kendrick Lamar: Music Icons Who Found a Stage at Brandeis

By David Marino

Throughout Brandeis’ 75 years, iconic musicians from a wide variety of genres have performed on campus. In some cases, students were treated to performances by generational talents at the peak of their careers. In others, artists performed at Brandeis before they achieved fame, booked by students with an eye and ear for talent. 

Here’s a sampling of some of the incredible concerts that formed the soundtrack of Brandeis’ first 75 years.

Left: The Supremes perform on campus on February 12, 1966. Right: Kendrick Lamar performs at Brandeis’ Springfest on April 28, 2013.
Photo Credit: Left: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University. Right: Mike Lovett

Bob Dylan

May 10, 1963 and November 22, 1975

The towering folk singer turned rock star performed twice at Brandeis, first as a relatively unknown 21-year-old, and later once his musical immortality was fully established. His first set, part of a campus folk festival, was recorded by a music critic. Decades later, the critic’s son found the recording gathering dust in a basement, and it was released as a standalone live album in 2011. It was also his last full concert recording before the release, just two weeks later, of his breakthrough album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” His second show, in 1975, was a stop on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour with Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell.

Clipping from The Justice featuring Bob Dylan
Clipping from The Justice promoting Dylan's first performance at Brandeis in 1963.
Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University
Bob Dylan and Joan Baez
Joan Baez, left, and Bob Dylan, right, serenade the audience in a concert at Gosman gym at Brandeis University on November 22, 1975.
Photo Credit: Rosina Rubin ’76/The Justice

The Supremes

February 12, 1966

Led by founding members Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard, the Motown legends treated Brandeis students – as well as concertgoers from as far as New York – to a selection of hits, including “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Come See About Me.” Vassar College’s student newspaper reported “pandemonium” at the scene, noting police had to “persuade” the rapturous audience to leave after the show.


March 23, 1968

Cream didn’t take the stage until after 2 a.m. due to a flight delay. The sold-out crowd, however, was rewarded for waiting with a set of the band’s psychedelic blues hits, including “Sunshine of Your Love.” But it was a biting review of the performance written by a then-Brandeis student for the university newspaper and later reprinted in Rolling Stone magazine that made the after-hours show famous. The piece described Cream’s music as clichéd and its members as aimless. Years later, guitarist Eric Clapton said the article had “the ring of truth,” and played a part in the dissolution of the band. The student who wrote the review? That would be Jon Landau ’68, H’19, who would go on to become Bruce Springsteen’s tour manager.

David Moran ’69, however, enjoyed the show. And he still remembers the long night.

“The Summer of Love had been the summer before, so to see a band like Cream at that time was just astounding. It was terrific, and feels a bit surreal in hindsight,” said Moran. “They were brilliant, very polished, and extremely solid, musically. A lot of groups around that time, they’d have these long drum solos you just wished would stop. With Cream, you could easily enjoy 11 minutes of that kind of thing.”

Other notable concerts of the decade include Thelonious Monk on February 27, 1965, Simon and Garfunkel on December 10, 1966, and Jefferson Airplane on April 28, 1968.

Article on Cream performing at Brandeis in The Justice
A review for the Cream concert by Jon Landau ’68, H’19, in The Justice shortly after the concert -- it later reached an international audience when it was reprinted in Rolling Stone magazine.

Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University


December 11, 1972

The English progressive rock band played their first American concert at Brandeis. Still an obscure act in the states, Genesis attracted fewer than 50 people despite attendance being free. Even after fame, the band never forgot their stateside debut. At a 2021 show in Boston, Genesis drummer Phil Collins asked the crowd if there were any Brandeis students in attendance and recalled how, during that first show, many students were studying for midterms and eating lunch during the performance.

Clipping of article on Genesis performing at Brandeis in The Justice
A sparsely-attended Genesis show in 1972 is referenced in comparison to the band’s sudden rise to global fame in an October 8, 1974 issue of The Justice.

Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University


April 24, 1982 and December 4, 1986

Ramones blasted through more than 30 punk anthems at their 1982 show, including “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” and “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” before playing multiple encores. Speaking with The Justice, lead singer Joey Ramone said he enjoyed playing universities like Brandeis because “college kids are a bit more radical.”

The Ramones performing at Brandeis
Johnny Ramone, left, plays guitar as Joey Ramone, right, sings alongside him at a April 24, 1982 show by the band Ramones on Brandeis’ campus.

Photo Credit: Larry Slotnick ’82/The Justice

Elvis Costello

April 13, 1989

Elvis Costello performed an acoustic set for which tickets sold on the secondary market for more than $100, making it a hot commodity, as shows of the time typically cost a fraction of that. Those who were able to get in enjoyed stripped down renditions of many of Costello’s hits, including “Alison,” “Watching the Detectives,” and “Pump It Up.”

Other notable concerts of the decade include The Jerry Garcia Band on November 14, 1982, Adam Ant & INXS on April 12, 1983, and Black Flag on April 13, 1986.

Elvis Costello performing at Brandeis.
Elvis Costello plays acoustic guitar at Brandeis University on April 13, 1989.

Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University

10,000 Maniacs

November 22, 1992

Quirky alternative rock legends 10,000 Maniacs and their lead singer Natalie Merchant stunned the crowd by inviting several students to accompany her on a few songs, according to The Justice. A reviewer for the paper delivered high praise comparing the show to “time in Eden,” in reference to one of their most successful albums.

Howard Jeruchimowitz ’94, P’23, attended the concert and remembers the outsized atmosphere of the whole event.

“The gym was absolutely packed, from the main floor up to the front of the stage, and all the way to the back, and I remember it was loud,” he says. “It put in our heads that Brandeis could host these huge, popular events on campus, and that we were more than a small, academically excellent university. Brandeis felt like a place where the arts could thrive at a large scale.”

Alanis Morissette

February 10, 1996

Canadian alt-rocker Alanis Morissette was already one of the biggest stars on the planet when her “Intellectual Intercourse” tour stopped at Brandeis. She performed despite being sick with a cold, and as a nod to Valentine’s Day, threw several long-stemmed roses into the crowd.

Alanis Morrisette performing on stage with a band with hair covering her face.
Alanis Morissette performs at Gosman on February 10, 1996

Photo Credit: Shawn London ’98/The Justice

No Doubt

June 1, 1996

No Doubt, the ska pop legends led by Gwen Stefani, rocked Gosman still hot off the success of their breakthrough album “Tragic Kingdom” and  lead single “Just a Girl.” Funky alt-metal veterans 311 also performed, all for $7.50 a ticket.

Clipping from the Justice promoting an upcoming concert featuring No Doubt, 311 and Shootyz Groove
Announcement in The Justice that No Doubt is playing on April 23, 1996.

Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University

Jane's Addiction

November 7, 1997

The November show was part of the band’s reunion tour following a six-year hiatus. Unfortunately, the crowd may have been a little too eager to welcome them back, according to the Justice. When concertgoers pushed forward during the first song, a barricade collapsed, injuring 40 people and sending 10 to the hospital. The band continued, however, and alluded to the incident later in the set. "Two broken ankles is a small price to pay for the atmosphere of the evening,” lead singer Perry Farrell told the crowd. 

Other notable concerts of the decade include Blind Melon on April 16, 1992, Morrissey on September 19, 1992, The Beach Boys on November 27, 1993, and Beck on May 30, 1997.

John Mayer 

March 14, 2004

More than 4,500 people came out to see John Mayer at the height of his popularity and fresh off the release of his album, “Heavier Things.” His set included hits like “No Such Thing” and “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” along with covers of songs by Mayer’s own idols, including Stevie Ray Vaughn and Bo Diddley.

Other notable concerts of the decade include Ben Folds on October 30, 2002, Wilco on October 2, 2004, and The Decemberists on April 26, 2009.

Clipping from The Justice featuring coverage and a photo from John Mayer's performance.
Spread of John Mayer concert coverage in the March 16, 2004 edition of The Justice.

Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University

Kendrick Lamar 

April 28, 2013

Kendrick Lamar hadn’t yet become the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize when he performed at Brandeis, yet he was already well on his way to becoming rap royalty. The tour stop came in support of his breakthrough album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” and attendees sang along to hits like “Swimming Pools (Drank).” Lamar, who performed in a Brandeis sweatshirt, went on to praise the crowd for their enthusiasm, and suggested he would someday return. 

Reed Zukerman ’13 helped book the show. 

“Kendrick was huge at the time, and Brandeis hadn’t booked as many rap acts as it had musicians in other genres, so we really wanted him to perform,” he says. “He was wearing a Brandeis sweatshirt and was really nice and accommodating after the show, taking photos with us. It was definitely a highlight of the spring semester.”

Jessie J

April 26, 2015

English pop singer Jessie J was on top of the world when she headlined in 2015 on a well-received bill that also included singer St. Lucia. She launched into a variety of her hit songs, bringing particular energy with “Bang Bang” and “Domino” while changing into numerous pieces of Brandeis apparel over the course of the show. 

Other notable concerts of the decade include Of Montreal on May 1, 2011, Childish Gambino and Fun on April 29, 2012, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard on October 20, 2014. Flo Milli headlined Springfest on May 1, 2022 and Doechii on April 30, 2023.

Jessie J with pink hair on stage with a band in front of a green background.
Jessie J performs at Brandeis’ Springfest on April 26, 2015.

Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University