Santa Cruz punk legends Good Riddance played their last show at the Catalyst in 2007—and return Sept. 26 for a reunion show.

Santa Cruz punk legends Good Riddance played their last show at the Catalyst in 2007—and return Sept. 26 for a reunion show.

Santa Cruz and its surrounding areas are lucky enough to have the kind of nightlife usually found only in much larger cities. Week in and week out, the foundation for that scene is the multitude of excellent live music venues catering to fans of every conceivable genre. Here are 20 great spots to find music in Santa Cruz.


1. 418 Project
418 Front St, Santa Cruz
By day, the 418 Project offers rehearsal space for artists and performers. By night, it’s the destination of choice for hardcore, screamo, doom-metal and crust-punk bands. The shows are put on by Bane Shows, who also put on some shows at the Catalyst Atrium. The perfect place to discover local and national bands.
2. The Abbey 
350 Mission St, Santa Cruz
The Abbey is the kind of coffee shop that has that certain undeniable charm of local art hanging on the wall, fair trade coffee brewing and local acoustic bands playing their hearts out.
3. The Blue Lagoon
923 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
For local and regional indie, punk and reggae bands, The Blue Lagoon is the dive bar of choice. They have live music nearly every night. The lighting is dim. The sound is loud. The beer is cold. What more do you need?
4. Boardwalk Bowl
115 Cliff Street; Santa Cruz Though shows are only once a week on Fridays, they bring in some good-sized local and touring indie/punk bands. Plus, there’s bowling.
5. Bocci’s Cellar
140 Encinal St, Santa Cruz
A surprisingly off-the-grid live music venue with a diverse blend of local cutting edge indie bands—rock, reggae, hip-hop and funk—with live music every night of the week. They served food, drinks and have bocci ball—which is most fun to play after a few drinks.
6. Café Pergolesi
418 Cedar St, Santa Cruz
The live music isn’t consistent, but the acts they get are diverse and cutting edge—Folk, punk, indie rock. It’s all there. It’s a good hangout for locals and college students alike.
7. The Catalyst
1011 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
The Catalyst’s status as the premier venue for local and touring acts was only further cemented after they opened the Atrium as a separate room, providing a stage for bands that draw 200 as well as those who can draw 800 on the main stage. They sometimes have concerts in both rooms in one night, featuring everything from punk, hip-hop, country, reggae, indie to electronic. Arguably one of the best venues in the entire Bay Area.
8. The Crepe Place
1134 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz
Though perhaps an unexptected setting for a venue with live music several nights a week—a restaurant with no stage per se—The Crepe Place has attracted lots of folk, punk, ska and Americana acts. Because of the top-notch talent it draws, the place can get packed.
9. Crow’s Nest
2218 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz
They have live comedy on Sunday, and Wednesday through Saturday is dedicated to live music. The bands play lengthy sets—sometimes original rock and reggae bands, sometimes cover bands.
10. Don Quixote’s
6275 Highway 9, Felton
Located in the Felton mountains, Don Quixote’s features regular live music—lots of big names in roots, plus rock and roll, blues and folk. They get their fair amount of tribute bands, too.
11. Kuumbwa Jazz Center
320 Cedar St, Santa Cruz
Kuumbwa is a plush, respectable jazz venue that attracts national, established names in jazz. They also feature soul, world beat and folk music. Local ska band Dan P and the Bricks even held their album release there earlier this year.
12. Moe’s Alley
1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz
Moe’s is known for their superb sound system and 6-day-a-week live music schedule. They feature mostly funk, soul, world beat, reggae and blues.
13. Motiv
1209 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
Dance music is Motiv’s particular bent. Sometimes that means DJ dance nights. But they also have live electronic, dubstep, reggae and world beat performers.
14. Poet and the Patriot 
320 Cedar St, Ste E, Santa Cruz
A quaint authentic Irish pub with occasional shows. They run the gamut from traditional Celtic music to loud local indie rock bands.
15. Rio Theatre
1205 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz
The Rio is easily the classiest venue in Santa Cruz, usually hosting a couple live shows a month (not to mention film festivals and other offbeat events). They bring respectable indie acts and singer-songwriters. Yo La Tengo, Aimee Man, They Might Be Giants and Architectures in Helsinki have all played there in recent history. There are actual theater seats for a comfortable night of entertainment.
16. Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
307 Church St, Santa Cruz
The Civic is Santa Cruz’s biggest auditorium. They get big name musical acts and comedians (not to mention theater productions and roller derby). The Pixies played there not too long ago. Bill Maher, Jane’s Addiction and Green Day are playing there soon.
17. Shadowbrook
1750 Wharf Rd, Capitola
The Shadowbrook is a fancy restaurant in Capitola with four acoustic performers who play there on different nights of the week. Romantic, indeed.
18. Streetlight Records
939 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
A record store doesn’t always provide the best ambience for live music, but they get great local and touring indie acts—often during the day, before they head out to whatever club they plan to play that night. Perfect chance to talk face to face to the performers.
19. SubRosa Anarchist Café
703 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
SubRosa offers an intimate space for select acoustic performers and open mic nights. It is a community space run by volunteers, featuring a library filled with underground, left-leaning political books, organic coffee and just a nice meeting place for like-minded folks to congregate.
20. Ugly Mug
4640 Soquel Dr, Soquel
They’ve got everything at the Ugly Mug—great coffee, delicious pastries, the best name for a coffee shop and lots of heartfelt folk, Celtic and bluegrass music.
  • Mar Waters

    21. The Coconut Grove, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz The concerts are sporadic at best, but with the full bar, lit up nighttime beach and bay views and a beautiful space in general, this is most definitely one of the best places to catch a show in The Cruz. From David Crosby to Primus to Willie Nelson, the shows there are really the best and it’s a shame we don’t see more acts perform at The Nut.

  • markweiss86

    Terry and I stood outside the legendary Crepe Place on Soquel but felt a tad too old to mosh with the three local bands and their fans last Friday night. We might go back over the hill to peep out The Dirty Dozen at Moe’s next month. (No live music in Palo Alto, although I can think of five places I’ve seen shows that are now office space here).