In the late '80s and early '90s, Houston's local music scene was booming, and one of the most interesting venues in town was housed in an old icehouse across the street from Rudyard's British Pub on Waugh. Pik N Pak was run by Ralph Ullrich, a music-loving Houstonian who saw an opportunity to run a bar and provide Houston bands with a place to perform. Sadly, Ullrich had to close down in 1993, but Pik N Pak remains a fondly remembered local venue. This weekend a ten-day Pik N Pak reunion party kicks off at Super Happy Fun Land, featuring an enormous lineup of legendary Houston bands and other talent. Earlier this week, the Houston Press spoke to Ullrich about the days when his little icehouse rocked the Inner Loop.
Houston Press: How did you end up opening the place, and how many years did Pik N Pak operate?
Ralph Ullrich: I always wanted to have a bar, and the place had some financial and structural issues, and we were able to go in there and take it over and do repairs, get it rolling again. It was built by the same guy who'd done the West Alabama Icehouse, about 1928. I had the place from '85 to '93.
Did you always intend to have bands play there? Was being a resource for local music always part of your plan?
We always wanted to feature music, and to be a real earthy launching pad for people to perform or just hang out. There were a couple bands that turned their weekly event into a practice, and that worked out for them and me. At the time, I'd just reopened and remodeled the place, so it gave me an opportunity to have some music going on, and them an opportunity to polish their acts. One of those bands was Spunk.
Pik N Pak was a small venue. Did that ever present challenges?
I had deadhorse play there under the condition that I not advertise. They said too many people would show up if I did...that there would still be 300 people who'd come, but if I advertised, it would be a thousand, and it would be too many. Capacity was only 100, but we had a large backyard, so you could legally have a bunch of people in the backyard.
Were there any other challenges because of the unique layout of Pik N Pak?
Just the parking, which ended up being the issue that closed me down, you know, not having enough parking.
A lot of people who were in bands or seeing shows back then have really fond memories of Pik N Pak and Houston's music scene from that era. Can you tell us more about the reunion show at Super Happy Fun Land?
It runs from December 23, which is this Friday, until January 1, which is a Sunday. I had an event about six years ago and had been wanting to do another one, and I decided a year ago to try to get things rolling and get a bunch of out-of-town bands involved. I figured that the Christmas holiday season would be the easiest time to get people to come into town, and a bunch of good people are coming from out of town to perform.
Looking at the schedule, I'm seeing a lot of bands from Houston's live-music past.
Some of them haven't played in 20 years. December's Child is coming in from California; they brought their band back together to play here. Along with a number of other bands.
The Pik N Pak reunion takes over Super Happy Fun Land between this Friday and January 1. For more complete and updated lineups, check superhappyfunland.com.
The Awful Truth
DJ Jeff Smith (11:30 p.m.-close)
Jammin' Jeff Maximum
Bad Credit Band
Poor Dumb Bastards
Wild Rabbit Salad
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Ronnie Gaitz Hallevai Klezmer Band
TC and the Cannonballs
Feared Alien Voodoo
Screech of Death
Other acts TBD