Houston 101: You Knew We Would Have To Do This One -- Liberty Hall
Liberty Hall, by the 1970s, had somewhat survived its time as a church and an American Legion hall to become probably the hippest rock club in the city.
Comfortably seedy, the Hall hosted legends like the Velvet Underground, Gram Parsons (with Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt sitting in), the Ramones and even Ted Nugent.
But it's most famous of all, around here, for launching Bruce Springsteen in the state. Thirty-five years ago, he played seven shows over four days at the hall, which could seat up to 400 or so. Opening act was Jimmie Spheeris, an eclectic musician who, if The Boss is to be believed, was in a western-swing mood that night.
In a 1974 interview whose tape was found last year, Springsteen describes the Liberty Hall gig:
On the first night we went to play in Houston, they had a country-western band on. Everybody's got fiddles and they're playing the "Orange Blossom Special" and I said "Oh man, they ain't gonna dig us here. We're on the wrong side of the tracks. We are on the wrong side."
And the joint went crazy. I couldn't figure it out. We don't get this kind of reception on the East Coast.
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Setlists included such things as a ten-minute version of "The Fever," a 14-minute version of bootleg favorite "Thundercrack" and a ten-minute version of "Blinded by the Light."
Springsteen also did two interviews with KLOL-FM, one that included a mini-concert featuring bits of Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" and the "Beer Barrel Polka."
The Houston Chronicle review of Springsteen's Liberty Hall gig said he "has brought with him a celebration of life so intense and vivid that only the most hardened cynic could avoid becoming involved."
By 1978 the club had closed, becoming a Chinese-language movie theater. But that didn't last long, either, and now the fabled spot is a piece of vacant land near the Toyota Center.
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