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The Most Famous (and Grooviest) Musical Acts That Have Graced Penn State

Over the years, Penn State has witnessed some pretty impressive musical performances. Just this year alone, contemporary musical icons like Jay-Z and Kanye West performed on the Bryce Jordan Center’s stage.

This stage has also been filled with a wide range of great artists, which would make any music fan jealous of those lucky former Penn State concert-goers. Here’s a look at some of the past Penn State performers that have stopped in Happy Valley.

Simon & Garfunkel—February 20, 1966

The duo that brought you songs like “Mrs. Robinson,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” and “Sounds of Silence” also brought their serenading talent to Rec Hall in 1966, performing in front of 4,700 students.

Janis Joplin—October 19, 1968

Joplin crooned her way into almost 6,000 Penn Staters’ hearts with her Rec Hall performance in 1968. According to AlumnInsider, Penn State had the Jazz Club to thank for booking Joplin to Rec Hall in order to hear her signature tracks, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart.”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band—February 19, 1975, April 15, 1976, February 28, 2000, May 8, 2009, November 1, 2012

The Boss just can’t stay away from Penn State. Known for his terrifically long and passionate performances, Bruce’s first performance here continued for almost three hours in Eisenhower Auditorium. When he returned the next year to Rec Hall, he was hot off of his new album’s release and tickets sold out within three hours in the HUB. It took another 24 years for Bruce Springsteen to make his way back to Happy Valley, and we are glad he did, or else we wouldn’t have gotten this amazing version of “SHOUT” at his latest tour in the BJC:

Grateful Dead—May 8, 1979, May 6, 1980

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Grateful Dead made their way across the United States and recorded a series of live albums titled “Road Trips.” The 12th album was recorded on May 6, 1980, and included the entire set that the Penn State Dead Heads experienced at Rec Hall. If you want to relive the Grateful Dead’s performance at Rec Hall, you can check out their “Road Trips” album.

Red Hot Chili Peppers—November 17, 1991, April 5, 2000, September 16, 2003

Prior to Super Bowl XLVIII, where RHCP performed alongside Bruno Mars, some rocking Penn State alumni witnessed the “Californication” of Happy Valley. The band held three concerts at Penn State in the early 1990s and 2000s. Here is a clip of one of their popular songs:

Dave Matthews Band—October 7, 1996, December 8, 2000, April 5, 2002, December 12, 2003, October 1, 2004, December 6, 2005

Dave Matthews Band, known for having different sets for every performance, definitely crashed into the BJC for their six performances that made a lasting impression. There is even a DMB Fan Club at Penn State, which looks for “fans of the greatest band on the planet.” While it may not be the “greatest” band on the planet, Dave Matthews Band always brings it when it performs.

Bob Dylan—November 6, 1999, November 11, 2001, September 3, 2006, November 9, 2010

Bob Dylan, who has been undoubtedly influential in American music and culture, finally graced Penn State in 1999, nearly forty years into his successful music career. His numerous appearances show that he was tangled up in the blue and white spirit of Penn State.

Backstreet Boys—February 11/12, 2000

The Millennium was a good time for Penn State students. The ever-popular heartthrobs, Backstreet Boys, definitely didn’t quit playing games with all the girls’ hearts, especially when they donned their personalized Penn State football jerseys.

Billy Joel and Elton John—January 16, 2002

Sir Elton John and “Piano Man” Billy Joel are two classic-rock legends that have toured together seven times. Luckily, one of their tour stops brought them to Penn State. The duo didn’t start the fire, but with songs like “Crocodile Rock” and “Only the Good Die Young,” I’m sure everyone in the BJC had a great kickoff to their spring semester with this concert.

These were some of the top musical acts who have made their way to the stages of Penn State, but the BJC has been a temporary home for countless artists. Did we miss any of your favorite artists? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Bridget Markham

Bridget is a junior majoring in journalism with minors in Spanish and art history. She still hasn’t figured out what she wants to do with her life yet, hence the art history. Like the typical north Jersey native that she is, Bridget enjoys Bruce Springsteen, the Yankees, and the Jersey shore… and she refuses to acknowledge that she has an accent from her home state. She can usually be found at either Saint’s or Webster’s, and if not there, the hiking trails. You can contact her at [email protected]

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