RIP Santa Monica Civic Auditorium: Former Punk Haven Finished Holding Concerts
For the last 55 years, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium has had all types of boring conventions, cat shows and craft fairs. But it's also held some amazing concerts; truth be told, its importance to the local rock and punk music scenes cannot be overstated.
Courtesy of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Due to a combination of obsolescence and budget cuts, the landmark venue -- located at Pico and Main -- is finished hosting concerts, though the auditorium will still have some city events.
This news has gone largely under the radar. But that's a shame, because artists like Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Queen performed classic shows there in the '70s, and in the following decades the spot helped propel the national punk movement, hosting acts like X, The Misfits, The Cramps, Bad Religion, and Black Flag.
Built in 1958 as the third piece of the Santa Monica Civic Center -- following the City Hall and the courthouse -- the Civic Auditorium was designed by celebrated Los Angeles architect Welton Becket, whose design played a vital role in bringing the talent and audiences of Hollywood and downtown L.A. seaside.
As one of the fathers of mid-twentieth century International Modernism, Becket specialized in impressive buildings with sleek exteriors and geometric patterns. The Civic Auditorium's 3,000-seat venue had a futuristic façade and immediately attracted a youthful audience.
It became the permanent home of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra, not to mention the home of the Academy Awards from 1961-1968. But it also attracted a rabble surfing lot in those years; auditorium employees would complain about the amount of sand brought in for surf fairs and screenings of documentary surf films featuring local long boarders.
The events came complete with skateboard competitions in the parking lot, and performances by SoCal surf bands like the Beach Boys and Chad and Jeremy. Bruce Brown's groundbreaking film The Endless Summer (1966) premiered at the auditorium -- selling out the state-of-the-art, multi-purpose venue for an entire week.
While the auditorium's first years were filled with classic acts like Liberace, the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the Rat Pack, in 1964 they ran the T.A.M.I. Show (Teenage Awards Music International), a promotional concert film featuring The Rolling Stones, James Brown, The Supremes, Chuck Berry and more. High school students converged, and bookers were encouraged to skew to a younger demographic. Acts like David Bowie, Van Morrison, Iggy Pop, Queen and Lou Reed became venue regulars in the '70s, visiting the coastal music Mecca a couple times every year.