Rockin' Houston Site Is a Glorious Monument to Local Concerts Past
Bruce Kessler's RockinHouston.com is quite simply the best collection of Houston's rock and roll concert past, period. Kessler, a former Pace Concerts house photographer, has amassed a database of every show that he and others shot in Houston from 1965 up until 2005.
The works of the late Larry Lent and James Townshend are also sprinkled throughout the site. Townshend, who passed away around 1990, shot Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, no big deal. Lent passed away in 2000, and after he died, it was Kessler who went about bringing the departed photogs' body of work to light.
Kessler stopped shooting shows in 2005, but you can view his pictures all the way up to 1983 while he continues digitizing the rest of his archive. Right now he's working on 1984, including some killer Jackson reunion tour shots from the Astrodome. He has a long way to go until 2005, but it's a labor of love. Kessler wants the site to be a reference source for Houston rock fans and their kindred all over the world.
Kessler's mini-bio on the site reads like a Hollywood movie: Young, in love with rock and roll, and ballsy to boot. These days he's a lawyer in Downtown Houston.
Bruce learned all about access. Having never heard of a backstage pass - let alone a photo pass -- Bruce quickly learned from Larry how to gain better access to the front of the stage by impressing concert promoters or road managers with his photo portfolio.
The site is a wondrous time-suck, with thousands of images of some of the greatest rock shows to come to Houston, at venues that have been long since torn down for the sake of progress. Of course Numbers and Fitzgerald's are still standing.
Did you know that Stevie Ray Vaughan played on the same stage that your local favorites play on every weekend?
For a rock writer in Houston, my brain aches at the idea of having been able to cover some of these gigs. Iggy Pop at the Cullen Auditorium. U2 at Cardi's. T. Rex at the Houston Music Hall. The Clash at the Hofheinz Pavilion. Bruce Springsteen at Liberty Hall. The Doors at the Sam Houston Coliseum.
Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, Stephen Stills, Ringo Starr, and Isaac Hayes all at the Astrodome for Dylan's "Night of the Hurricane" benefit concert in 1976? Man, Rocks Off would have needed three photogs and two writers there. And the tweets would have been flying furiously.