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Packing the House

by Ali Hibbs on February 7, 2013

Rock history is full of famous (and infamous) shows on college campuses. The Who’s performance at Leeds University in 1970 became arguably the best live record of all time. And the Grateful Dead are said to have performed the best show of their entire career at Cornell University’s Barton Hall in May 1977.

Sportsmen: Passion Pit (pictured) will play RPI's Houston Field House on Monday (Feb. 11) with Matt and Kim.

Within Capital Region rock lore, the Houston Field House at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has played host to a laundry list of the area’s biggest shows. Through the late ’80s, the venue featured almost weekly shows of that era’s largest touring acts, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stevie Wonder, Iron Maiden, Neil Young, Yes, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, Sting, Metallica and the Beastie Boys. In the fall of 1988, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant seperately played the venue within two weeks of one another. The ’90s brought acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Slayer, Living Colour, the Smashing Pumpkins and one strange yet incredible double bill of Anthrax with Public Enemy. Yet, over the past decade, booking at the field house fell off, with only occasional shows leaning toward jam bands like moe., the String Cheese Incident, O.A.R. and Guster on the one end and emo-pop like Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco on the other.

On Monday (Feb. 11), the Houston Field House will host its first show since 2009, featuring Passion Pit and Matt and Kim. So, why the long delay?

“I get asked that a lot,” says operations manager Norris Pearson, who has worked with the venue for the past 13 years. “RPI’s hockey programs have grown significantly and we have thrown more support behind the ice programs over the years. Also, a lot depends on what the artists are looking for, as many of them are looking to sell out a significantly smaller venue than play in the HFH (capacity 6,900).” With a number of regional appearances under their belts at this point, Passion Pit and Matt and Kim are good candidates to bring those larger crowds to the venue. Whether this will herald a return to the field house’s days of rock glory, though, are yet to be seen.

“Not sure if we’re looking to fully immerse like the ‘old days’ of the HFH quite yet,” says Pearson, who says much of the programming initiative falls on local promoters like Step Up Presents, who are behind the Passion Pit show, but “ we take enormous pride in the building’s prominence within the Capital District.” Pearson’s first show was Matchbox Twenty in 2000, but he says, “all of them are special because it gives you a great natural high to stand backstage and look out over the venue and see our students and community enjoying concerts and knowing you were in a position to help make it happen.”

Passion Pit and Matt and Kim will play RPI’s Houston Field House (1900 Peoples Ave., Troy) on Monday (Feb. 11) at 8 PM. Tickets are $38. Call 276-6262 for more info.