Classic Rock Corner

On-Campus Houston Concerts Now Ancient History

For lots more posters from Hofheinz, see below and our slideshow.

Essentially, universities in Houston don't have rock concerts anymore. In fact, pretty much all across America, institutions of higher learning are focusing less on bringing in live entertainment for students and more on building their collegiate resumes. But Rocks Off assumes that colleges that still do host concerts follow the model of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Georgetown attempts to offer all types of music including the "Guild of Bands," a consortium of student rock bands for which students are eligible for academic credit. One of the requirements for these student bands is to give on-campus concerts.

Private schools with a lot of money bring in entertainers as part of their program board, where students vote about who/what they want to hear. And the campus concerts must celebrate diversity; they engage the students and are a collaboration between several on-campus groups.

But what about Houston? Rice and the University of Houston seem to care less these days. But it wasn't always this way.

Rice and UH were lively settings for all kinds of entertainment back in the day. Let's not forget that the Super Bowl was played at Rice Stadium in 1974 - in fact, the gigantic stadium was originally called Houston Stadium, because it was designed to be shared by Rice and UH.

We specify, because Houston Stadium was the site for many events that involved both UH and Rice students. For example, the Texxas Jam, which lasted from 1978 through 1988, was mostly a Dallas event, but it also hopped down to Rice Stadium and the Astrodome during its decade-long run.

Today, however, it just isn't so.

Besides the Super Bowl, Rice Stadium has held many major concerts. Huge crowds came out for Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Elton John, Billy Joel and George Strait. And any music fan who lived in Houston in the '70s is well acquainted with UH's campus, which used to be party central with live music aplenty.

So Rocks Off decided to talk to someone who lived in Houston and was a student at UH during its musical heyday.

"The gate underneath Hofheinz has a lock on it," said Chris, who graduated in 1979 and asked we not use his last name. "I got a key to the lock, and we let people slide in through there."

Chris wasn't an employee of the university, and he didn't have any affiliation with the bands playing or the groups who put together and promoted the concerts either.

"You can go to a hardware store and get a match for (the lock) if you've got the lock number," he said. "It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, but you can always do that."

Chris simply checked the lock number in the tunnel, took that number to a hardware store and got a key made.

"You really still have the same three venues that you had back then," said Chris, who began his UH tenure in 1976. "They just don't really utilize them anymore."

In his time at UH, Chris and plenty of his friends saw Grateful Dead in Hofheinz, Pink Floyd at Robertson Stadium on the Animals tour, and even Van Morrison in Cullen Auditorium.

True, the venues at Rice and U of H were pretty much the only places in in town besides the Astrodome that could accommodate concerts of that size until The Summit/Compaq Center, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Reliant Stadium and Toyota Center opened in 1975, 1990, 2002 and 2003, respectively. But Chris believes some of U of H's smaller facilities are being underutilized.

"Cullen Auditorium is a heck of a venue for singers, and now you've got the Moores Opera House on top of that," he said, adding that he doesn't understand why the university doesn't host concerts other than Frontier Fiesta more regularly.

"Hofheinz was an excellent venue - of course, you didn't have that big-ass scoreboard up there back then - and I remember seeing Steve Martin and Bob Hope, of all people; comedians. Big stars would come out."

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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever