Santa Cruz county has always been known for its live music scene. The constant music downtown Santa Cruz venue since 1967 has been The Catalyst. Since its inception, The Catalyst has grown into a world renown live music venue which has brought a list of amazing bands to Santa Cruz, especially back in the mid to late 1990's.
1999 was an especially amazing year for live music in Santa Cruz county. To me, 1999 seemed to be the height of the live music scene and so many amazing bands came through town, it was hard to choose who to see on any given night. So many bands came through Santa Cruz in the late 1990's it warranted a second, large, live music venue, know as Palookaville. Actually, I am not sure what was first, all the awesome bands coming through town, or the fact that Palookaville was bringing so many awesome bands to Santa Cruz. Either way, I saw a ton of life-changing shows at Palookaville in downtown Santa Cruz between 1998 and 2000. Not only did Palookaville have awesome shows, they printed these amazing handbills, advertising which bands were playing for each month. Palookaville would give them out at every show, (much like the Fillmore does in SF). I had many posters, included the one inserted into this blog post from June 1999. I saw Dick Dale and also Vinyl that month at Palookaville and even got my poster signed by the King of the Surf Guitar himself, as Dick Dale would hang out for hours after every show signing anything and everything anyone asked him to.
Many times it was hard to choose between the bands playing at The Catalyst and the bands playing at Palookaville as many times both venues had awesome music playing on the same night and you would have to choose who to go see. (and that was not even taking Moe's Alley into consideration) It truly was an amazing time for live music in Santa Cruz county and I am glad I was there to experience it.
The music scene in Santa Cruz is still vibrant and ever changing, and it always amazes me how old places shut down and new places pop up to take their place. Local bands come and go, kids graduate from USCS, but popular and important artists always make it a point to stop in Santa Cruz when they are on tour, much like Willie Nelson did a few weeks ago.
I hope the future will bring more and more awesome venues and great musicians to our area, but I will always remember those special shows I saw at Palookaville and hope someday another mid-sized venue is able to be supported somewhere in the county, as nothing beats an live show at a killer venue!