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In what could be the first step toward establishing one of Northern California’s most scenic concert halls, the Quarry Amphitheater on the UC Santa Cruz campus announced Tuesday the first dates for its new summer musical series.
Mexican-born indie pop star Carla Morrison will perform live at The Quarry on June 24. Several weeks later, on August 12 and 13, electronic dance group Sound Tribe Sector 9 (often referred to as STS9) will play back-to-back nights at The Quarry. Additional summer concert dates in what UCSC calls “Red Rocks in the Redwoods” may be announced later this spring. The shows are a co-production of UCSC and San Francisco-based promoter Noise Pop.
Tickets for the newly announced shows are set to go on sale Friday on this site (which will be posted on Friday).
The Quarry is a secluded bowl-shaped amphitheater located in the heart of the UCSC campus, just steps from the Bay Tree Bookstore. The site has long been a touchstone of campus, having hosted a wide variety of events. In recent years, however, the Quarry has been transformed by further renovations in sound, light, staging and digital transmission.
On Saturday, the quarry will host the high-profile “Universe in Verse” poetry event which features writers, artists and scientists sharing poems that evoke awe and wonder about the universe. the “Universe in Verse” The event was originally scheduled to take place in April 2020, but was canceled due to the pandemic.
In this sense, said site manager Jose Reyes-Olivas, the 2022 career season is the continuation of what was to unfold in 2020.
“We were in pre-production for this event (‘Universe’) before COVID,” Reyes-Olivas said. “And if you look at the calendar, that’s literally where we left off before we sheltered in place, so it’s kind of a throwback to our first big public event.”
The quarry has a general admission capacity of 2,700, making it the largest outdoor venue in Santa Cruz County. That ability puts the quarry roughly on par with the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, which is slated for big name acts such as Lyle Lovett, the Decemberists, the Gipsy Kings and Elvis Costello this summer. There are still questions about the quarry’s ability to compete with other top Bay Area venues, including parking capacity, green rooms and security. But, Reyes-Olivas told me in 2021, he hopes to achieve that level of prominence in the minds of audiences and touring musicians. “That’s the vision,” he said.
The site renovation cost around $8 million, with benefits such as new high-capacity capabilities for streaming and digital transmission.
The Quarry was once a campus focal point, a location for events such as lectures, rallies, concerts, and ceremonies; it has hosted an array of well-known guests from Joan Baez to Buckminster Fuller. But over the next few years, the site lost its status as a campus hangout. At one point it was closed to visitors for several years.
As of 2017, after its renovation, it hosted a few musical events for the UCSC student population as well as graduation ceremonies. Reyes-Olivas said another purpose of the amphitheater is to serve as a sort of academy for UCSC students, especially students of color, to learn the art of presenting live events.
“In our first few years of operation, over 20,000 guests came in and out of the quarry for college graduation, so we certainly learned a lot about operations.”
Following Saturday’s “Universe” event, the Quarry will host two more high-profile events ahead of the first concert of the summer series: the John R. Lewis College Dedication Ceremony on May 6 and the “Abolition. Feminism. Now” with Angela Davis on May 21.
The summer series marks what may be the first major regular interface between the UCSC campus and the larger Santa Cruz community since the heyday of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, which hosted outdoor theater events in the Festival every summer. Glen covered in redwoods until it closed in 2013.
“I think it’s going to be so impressive for a lot of new guests,” Reyes-Olivas said, “because a lot of people just haven’t come to campus. It’s such an impressive space that I think it really showcases the university and not just the amphitheater.