Houston Music Scene
Lauren Wells | March 16, 2014
Houston’s 1950s Blues scene got up and running with talented Texans like Guitar Shorty and Johnny “Guitar” Watson leading the genre. The late 1950s introduced country legend Kenny Rogers onto the scene as he crooned Texas hits that reached international fame. Bearded Blues rock legends ZZ Top hit the Houston music scene in 1969, going on to achieve international acclaim. Gospel/R&B artist Yolanda Adams honed her Soul sound in Houston just before Izora Rhodes of the Weather Girls released the 70s hit “It’s Raining Men.” Carleen Anderson kicked off the early 90s by combining jazz, R&B, and soul into her signature sound. Stealing the fame cake is Beyonce, who founded the girl group Destiny’s Child with fellow Houston native LeToya Luckett in 1997. Now a pop diva icon, Beyonce has always stayed true to her Texan roots, as Houston gets notable mentions in her songs. Also emerging from Houston during the late 90s was pop singer/actress Hilary Duff, who still continues to have an active recording career.
The House of Blues Houston opened in 2008 and keeps with the House of Blues’ tradition by storing a box of mud from the Mississippi Delta under its stage and by hanging the famous “Crazy Quilt” for guests to admire. Hosting a who’s who of up-and-coming music, the House of Blues brings in bands like St. Vincent, Bring Me the Horizon, and Children of Bodom.
Fitzgerald’s opened in 1977 and has since become one of Houston’s most popular music venues. The building was originally built in 1918 and housed a Polish center for over fifty years before transforming into an iconic music venue. Each of Fitzgerald’s two event spaces has a full stage, professional audio and lighting equipment, and two full-service bars. Having hosted ZZ Top, James Brown, Etta James, R.E.M., the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Blues Traveler, Keith Urban, Iron & Wine, Weezer, AFI, and the Misfits, Fitzgerald’s is no stranger to talent.
Houston’s Arena Theatre has hosted Robin Thicke, Willie Nelson, BB King, Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin, Rick Springfield, Pitbull, and Smokey Robinson. With four bars, a high-end lighting system, and crisp acoustics, the Arena Theatre is a beloved Houston mainstay known for large crowds and even larger talent.
An intimate concert venue, Warehouse Live features the Ballroom for larger acts and the Studio for bands with a smaller following. The primarily standing venue has featured acts like Slim Thug, Juicy J, A$AP Ferg, Kendrick Lamar, Of Mice and Men, Curren$y, and Tegan & Sara. Whether you’re there to see a band on the small stage or the larger stage, you’ll leave the place with some new names in music to go home and download.
The Bayou Music Center, owned by Live Nation, is located in the Bayou Place entertainment complex. Nas, Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Velvet Revolver, Owl City, the Killers, Elton John, Kylie Minogue, and Alanis Morissette have performed at this 2,815-capacity venue. Opened in 1997, the Bayou Music Center is also a great space for private and public events and parties.
Opened in 2003, the Toyota Center is a 19,000-capacity music and sports arena that is home to the NBA’s Houston Rockets. The arena features concession stands, VIP suites, and has hosted icons like Destiny’s Child, Beyonce, Fleetwood Mac, P!nk, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Christina Aguilera, Roger Waters, Aerosmith, Taylor Swift, the Rolling Stones, and Guns N’ Roses.
Stereo Live has a large main room, spacious outdoor terrace, and intimate upstairs loft so that you’ll never be left without a space to enjoy some of the most talented names in music. Thirsty? No problem– Stereo Live has seven bars to quench your thirst. Good luck choosing which one to lean on as you enjoy the show!
Jones Hall for the Performing Arts is the 2,911-capacity home of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and was opened in 1966. The building’s marble exterior, eight-story columns, and elegant lighting provide for a night of classic entertainment. Named after Jesse Holman Jones, Jones Hall features lush red velvet seating, golden walls, and sculptures aplenty. With over 250 events occurring per year, Jones Hall keeps Houston locals and tourists busy with theatrical and music performances. Try not to gawk too much as you walk around this stunning venue.
The 349,000 square foot Reliant Arena is a concert and sporting event venue in Reliant Park. An 8,000-capacity space, the arena has the main performance space in addition to smaller meeting rooms and offices to accommodate a wide array of events. Completed in 1974, Reliant Arena hosts Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo events, professional wrestling tournaments, and was even a safe temporary residence for Texans affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Big names like Jake Owen, Jason Aldean, Maroon 5, Keith Urban, Hunter Hayes, Luke Bryan, Robin Thicke, Blake Shelton, and Florida Georgia Line have stopped at the Reliant Arena to perform their chart-topping hits.
Scout Bar is a great place to people-watch, stay out ridiculously late, and enjoy the dive bar scene. Bands like the Spazmatics, Salvia, Erase the Virus, Agent Orange, and Rainchild rock the house while concert-goers dance and thrash their heads to the metal music blaring through the speakers. If you can’t handle a little bit of grime and edginess, maybe you should rethink heading to Scout Bar. But really, what’s a rock show without a little bit of sweat and volume?
The Hobby Center Foundation, a nonprofit organization, seeks to put Houston on the map as a “world-class cultural center.” Their venue receives a lot of community support and was even built solely using money donated by the Houston community. Promoting arts education, musical theater, and the performing arts, the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts has two event spaces: Sarofim Hall and Zilkha Hall. Sarofim Hall, primarily used for touring Broadway productions, has a capacity of 2,650 and Zilkha Hall, used for smaller dance and orchestral showcases, has a capacity of 500. Opened in 2002, the Hobby Center brings in popular shows like American Idiot, Evita, War Horse, Mamma Mia!, and Once.
Downtown Houston’s Wortham Theater Center opened in 1987 and has two performance areas: the Brown Theater, a 2,405-seat opera and ballet venue, and the Cullen Theater, a 1,100-seat ballet and small event space. With a glass archway and atrium, the Wortham Theater Center features chandeliers, sculptures, and strategically designed acoustics to make their events an immersive, sensory experience.
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is an outdoor amphitheater that hosts performing arts events and educational outreach programs. The venue hosts the Houston Symphony and the Houston Ballet during the summer season. Past shows have included the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera, Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler, Jimmy Buffett, Tina Turner, Elton John, Sting, John Mayer, Linkin Park, Cher, and Tim McGraw, among many others. A great outdoor space for the whole family, the 19,500-capacity Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion brings in only the biggest names in music as promoted by Live Nation. Enjoy the Texas sunset as you listen to your favorite stars!
A part of the 124-acre Buffalo Bayou Park, Eleanor Tinsley Park is home to a skatepark, a Shady Grove Victim Memorial, a Henry Moore sculpture, a Houston Police Officers’ Memorial, a cemetery, a playground, jogging trails, and a volleyball sand pit.
The park has been home to the Free Press Summer Fest since 2009, hosting names like Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Zedd, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Childish Gambino, Deftones, Wu-Tang Clan, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Chvrches, DMX, Die Antwoord, the Kills, Cage the Elephant, the 1975, the Naked and Famous, Drive-By Truckers, Sky Ferreira, and Ying Yang Twins, among others. Art installations throughout the park are coupled with food and beverage vendors to make for a successful two-day festival in late May.
In Mission, Texas, the Never Say Never Festhas been going strong since 2009, featuring acts like Bring Me the Horizon, Asking Alexandria, Of Mice and Men, We Came as Romans, Chiodos, and Attila. A one-day festival held in March, Never Say Never Fest takes place at the Las Palmas Race Park.
The Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival was founded in 1990 for the purpose of challenging young professional musicians to hone their orchestral, chamber music, and solo skills. A four-week fellowship program at the University of Houston, the festival hosts guest conductors, members of Houston’s orchestras, music school faculty members, and successful artists.
In Old Town Spring, the Texas Crawfish and Music Festival combines music and crawfish for an unforgettable (and tasty!) experience. Since 1986, the Texas Crawfish and Music Festival features acts like the Charlie Daniels Band, Kevin Fowler, Los Lonely Boys, Ben Kweller, and Bob Schneider, among many others. With music performances, local vendors, and plenty of family-friendly activities, this festival won’t leave you hungry!
A music festival, conference, and trade show all in one, Springboard South works with indie musicians to teach them how to reach the next step with their music careers. Music professionals, budding artists, famous musicians, and fans come together for three days. Over 120 bands perform on the five stages (some of which are free to the public) for record labels, managers, sponsors, fans, and the media.