SDSU alumna Jaime Lennox ('05, '08) was originally given two pages to cover the history of all the concerts ever held at SDSU. She soon discovered two pages would not be nearly enough.
She needed a book.
Lennox, an anthropologist and self-proclaimed music geek, is an assistant coordinator at San Diego’s South Coastal Information Center. Normally, she can be found excavating at more traditional sites, but, to her delight, the music project sent her in an entirely different direction.
It all started back in June 2010 when Seth Mallios, chair of SDSU’s Department of Anthropology, wanted a two-page spread on the history of campus concerts for his new book, “Hail Montezuma — Historical Archeology and the Artifacts, Legends and Legacies of San Diego State University,” a history of SDSU based on its artifacts.
It was after Mallios asked Lennox to do the research on the music section that they both realized they had enough information to fill another book.
It’s all rock n’ roll
Lennox began to compile data and run analysis from the first date of live music on campus (Bill Rossi Orchestra in 1931 at a pep rally) to the most recent concert (91X Wrex the Halls with Smashing Pumpkins and six other performances in 2010 at Viejas Arena).
She found that, from the 1930s through the 2000s, there were approximately 1,500 concerts on campus, featuring 2,000 different bands, in 3,000 individual appearances.
“These have included all genres of music in about 20 different venues on campus, from big names to local artists,” Lennox said.
But, it wasn’t long before she discovered that rock n’ roll dominated the performances with more than half of all the concerts being from that genre. With that information, she began to focus more of her research on that particular style of music.
Venues, visitors and voltage
Pawing through the memorabilia, Lennox pulled out a poster of the first official rock concert — Buffalo Springfield in 1968. It was held at the Peterson Gym, which previously hosted folk acts and more formal entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr. and Ray Charles.
According to Lennox’s research, the Buffalo Springfield concert constantly blew fuses during the performance. The new sound system that was installed in 1963 in preparation for the Peter, Paul and Mary show, which was the largest concert hosted on campus, had outgrown the technology required for the new rock musicians.
Eventually, the new Aztec Center’s Montezuma Hall, Backdoor and the Open Air Theatre replaced Peterson Gym for concerts.
Rock has contributed to the history of the campus and to the history of San Diego.
Sifting through the data she has collected so far, Lennox commented on the changing role of student involvement in rock concerts.
“In those days, bands were booked by students for students before you had outside promoters involved,” she said.
But, by the late 1970s, when the promoters arrived and joined the mix of students and venue availability, it created the perfect storm, which produced the highest overall number of concerts.
“Rock has contributed to the history of the campus and to the history of San Diego,” Lennox said. “Rock was a part of student life and still is.”
The Backdoor, which opened as a student-run, self-supporting venue on Sept. 26, 1969, was built by student volunteers. Initially it was to be a coffee house, but went on to hold more concerts than any other venue on campus.
Solid gold memories
Lennox is not only interested in collecting artifacts from the heyday of rock n’s roll on campus, but also stories, which is why she is now asking Aztec alumni and others for input as well as mementos. She would like to add individual memories to the items she is collecting for her research.
“I don’t care what kind of memory it is, just any kind of recollection,” Lennox said. “A memory of a show or recollections of people who attended are important, along with the memorabilia.”
Her ultimate goal beyond the book is to have a permanent library exhibit in Love Library, which would feature the memorabilia and the mural that was once in Aztec Center.
If you have memorabilia, photos or stories of rock concerts at SDSU, contact Jamie Lennox at firstname.lastname@example.org.