In a letter to the Diamondback in 1969, a disgruntled student complained that other students “don’t know what they’re missing” in the music scene. Other universities hosted big-name bands like Jefferson Airplane, so why not UMD? Someone must have taken his advice because our campus exploded with music, from underground cult bands to big-name artists playing to sold out crowds. Scroll on for our list of 20 epic performers who rocked the UMD campus.
1. Elvis Presley – September 27 & 28, 1974
How could The King be anything but number 1? Although perhaps not his best years, Elvis still played to sold-out crowds in not one, but two shows in Cole Field House.
2. Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis & Bruce Springsteen – April 28, 1973
Believe it or not, The Boss was barely mentioned in the advertisements for this epic collaboration. Springsteen was still years from commercial success, but established rockers Berry and Lewis kept the crowds going until after midnight. So hyped was the show that several students were arrested for sneaking in through an open bathroom window.
3. Queen with Thin Lizzy – February 4, 1977
In a show heavy on special effects and skintight leotards, rockers Queen and Thin Lizzy lit up a crowd of 10,000 at Cole Field House, shutting it down with an encore performance of Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock.”
4. Stevie Wonder with Mandrill, Earth, Wind & Fire, and The Persuasions – March 25, 1973
Yet another historic musical collaboration hit the stage when Stevie Wonder came to town for this soul showdown. The six-hour-long show ended with his latest single, “Superstition,” although we are equally as impressed that UMD offered unlimited free parking for attendees.
5. U2 – April 25, 1983
U2 had yet to hit it big in the United States when they landed in College Park.
Before the days of metal detectors and bag checks, enthusiastic concert-goers climbed on stage to dance with the band and Bono rode on a fan’s shoulders through the crowd.
6. Frank Zappa – various dates
The Baltimore-born rocker played on campus at least five times between 1967 and 1978. After one such stay, several members of Zappa’s team skipped town without paying their hotel bill in full, so the owner of the local Holiday Inn sent a letter demanding payment to Zappa’s production company.
7. Billy Joel – April 30, 1977
It’s hard to imagine paying just $6.50 to see an artist who sells out stadiums for $300+ per seat today. The Piano Man just so happened to perform the same week as an up-and-coming comedian… look familiar?
8. The Clash – September 29, 1979
The gnarly British punk band almost (literally) blew out the sound system of Ritchie Coliseum. Despite technical delays and a restless crowd, The Clash destroyed their set list – and several guitars – to the delight of the sweaty, jam-packed audience.
9. Santana – October 19, 1974
As the title of the Diamondback article suggests, Carlos Santana was the focal point of his eponymous band’s nearly 3-hour-long set. The crowd of over 8,000 clapped and roared with frenetic energy through the popular hit songs and epic guitar solos.
10. The Grateful Dead – March 7, 1981
“Deadhead” students started lining up the week before ticket sales started to score seats for this long-anticipated concert. University officials, desperate to clear the Student Union of the throngs of un-showered hopefuls, decided to sell tickets before the band’s contract had even been signed.
11. The Beach Boys – March 28, 1972
The Boys may have been past their prime by 1972, but they proved their timeless appeal by drawing thousands to Cole Fieldhouse after the release of their 17th (!) album, Surf’s Up.
12. Ozzy Osbourne – February 14, 1983
The Prince of Darkness returned to UMD for a Valentine’s Day solo show after performing with Black Sabbath in 1972. A police report written by the University police expresses their concern of potential unrest due to Ozzy’s “abuse of animals… involvement with satanic groups, and desecration of monuments.”
13. The B-52s – September 11, 1980
The B-52s rode the wave of their newfound fame to college campuses all over the country after topping the charts with their first hit single, “Rock Lobster.”
14. The Ramones – July 14, 1981
One consistent thread throughout many Diamondback concert reviews is complaints about the terrible acoustics in Ritchie Coliseum. The Ramones were able to bop their way past the technical difficulties to jam through all of their biggest hits.
15. Rod Stewart with Faces – October 11, 1975
As one reviewer wrote, Stewart took the stage in satin pants and sang until his voice gave out, accompanied by guitarist Ronnie Wood (who soon moved onto the band he is most associated with today, the Rolling Stones).
16. Blue Oyster Cult – October 22, 1972
UMD didn’t know it yet, but what it really needed in 1972 was more cowbell. Poor ticket sales actually led to a huge loss of money for the university, most likely because the crowd did not yet know that you Don’t Fear the Reaper.
17. Cyndi Lauper – May 3, 1984
Lauper took home the Grammy for Best New Artist soon after she brought her quirky brand of fun to Ritchie Coliseum.
The post-show “security report” noted that there were no incidents… despite Lauper’s late arrival.
18. Devo – November 2, 1981
True to their quirky style, Devo’s performance was packed with flashing lights, video backdrops, and moving sidewalks. The crowd in Ritchie danced through the synthesizer-fueled “Whip It,” the song that cemented Devo as a cult favorite.
19. Steppenwolf ft. Don McLean – March 26, 1971
The Steppenwolf concert gains a spot for the sheer “rock n roll” factor of how it all went down. The Diamondback reported that disgruntled fans were arrested after turning violent and throwing rocks at policemen. The unrest threatened the future of student events on campus, as admins debated whether to invite rock musicians at all.
McLean, a little known musician at the time, was just a few months from releasing his hit song “American Pie.” His return to campus in 1973 drew a much higher turnout. Check out our previous blog post for more on the event.
20. The Talking Heads – October 13, 1978
Rock music gave way to a tide of New Wave groups as the ’80s approached. Lead singer David Byrne grew up in Baltimore and returned home on one of The Talking Heads’ first national tours.
The Shows That Never Were
As on any big campus, UMD has its fair share of “shows that got away.” Campus legends tell of the promising acts that never materialized – like the Rolling Stones and a Springsteen solo show. Perhaps most tragically, a much-anticipated and sold-out concert by Bob Marley was cancelled at the last minute when the singer grew ill. He was sadly never able to reschedule due to his failing health.
Still, this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to campus concert history. The University Archives holds the records of Student Entertainment Events (SEE); come in and see what other famous musicians you can find in our archives!