The Bands That Made Numbers One of America's Great Music Venues

Peter Murphy plays the club back in 2002.
Peter Murphy plays the club back in 2002.

While it doesn't always get the credit it should for having a great live music scene, Houston has been the home base for plenty of great local bands over the years, and it's always been a solid place for touring bands to play. Recently the website Clickitticket compiled a list of its top 50 picks for America's best small music venues, and honored one of Houston's more interesting concert spots.

Numbers, located at 300 Westheimer, has been an essential part of Houston's live-music scene for more than 30 years now, and Clickitticket had this to say about the iconic nightclub:

There are families in Houston where grandparents, parents, and offspring all saw their first concert at Numbers (Not at the same time of course). Come Friday night for "Classic Numbers" (Music, videos, the 1980s, and a DJ). It's Houston's longest running weekly event. One more thing you need to know: Numbers is home to a huge dance floor.

Iggy Pop played there in the early '80s.EXPAND
Iggy Pop played there in the early '80s.

Indeed it is, but while the club has long been an oasis of underground dance music, and a local sanctuary for Houston's goths, industrial-rock fans and other assorted P.I.B.s ("People In Black"), that famous dance floor has often been packed with live-music fans watching their favorite bands play. Looking back at the concert history of Numbers, one realizes just how important it was and is to Houston audiences as a concert venue, and how the club's stage has hosted an enormously diverse cross section of talent going back decades.

The club's website has a listing of bands that have played there throughout the years, with the first concert listed as being "The Village People." But as the '80s got rolling, now legendary groups like Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Damned and The Stray Cats graced the club's stage. Iggy Pop played there in 1983, REM in '84, and so did The Cure. The Red Hot Chili Peppers also performed that year, and in 1986 The Cult came through.

For Houston's fans of underground rock, Numbers became one of the most important venues operating in the '80s, and by the latter part of that decade, bands like Skinny Puppy, Jane's Addiction, Love & Rockets and the Butthole Surfers were playing there. Thrash-metal bands like Nuclear Assault, Death Angel, Voivod and many others proved the club could cater to the tastes of audiences of all kinds of non-mainstream musical styles.

Like a lot of young Houstonians who listened to "weird" bands, I caught quite a few great shows at Numbers throughout the '80s and '90s, and it's good to see the place recognized as one of the nation's best music venues, because it has certainly earned that pedigree. It was one of the better clubs to see a band that was too big to play smaller clubs but hadn't graduated to enormous venues yet. In the case of bands like Soundgarden, Hole, White Zombie, Weezer, Marilyn Manson and many others, those gigs at Numbers were the last chance for Houston fans to see them before they rocketed to mainstream fame and the distance between band and audience became much greater. Many of the bands playing early gigs at Numbers in the late '80s were headlining stadium tours or playing festivals like Lollapalooza just a few years later.

And Numbers has continued to bring great live music to Houston, as promoters like Pegstar, Past Present Productions and the New Beat have brought legendary bands such as Front 242 to its stage. Numbers is still proving that it's a vital part of Houston's live music scene — bringing shows up close and personal to Houston audiences since 1979.

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