The Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz’s Iconic Music Venue

Those who are music aficionados and enjoy seeing their favorite bands play live are sure to know about the iconic Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz. For over 50 years, the Catalyst has been just that for the Bay Area: a place to embrace and express change while experiencing the top musical performers of the past 5 decades.

History of the Catalyst Club

It all began in 1966 in the Old St. George Hotel. Al and Patti DiLudovico, U.C.S.C. Administrator Bryan Stockey and Santa Cruz community leaders financed the opening of the Catalyst Coffee House and Delicatessen by selling shares to help fund its creation. UC Santa Cruz was brand new and the Catalyst was a place for students and faculty as well as residents, politicians, authors and musicians to socialize and express themselves.

Inexpensive food and coffee was served up alongside poetry and book readings, chess games and musical performances. The Catalyst appealed to the ‘hip-hippie’ crowd of the day.

Three years later, the Catalyst was sold to Randall Kane, an eclectic businessman easily identifiable by his trademark rainbow suspenders. Born in Minnesota, his family moved to Ohio when he was 9. At 18, spurred by what he’d seen happen at Pearl Harbor, he joined the Army, serving for 5 years and upon being discharged, earned an English Literature degree from Ohio State University.

Kane moved to California in 1954 and was Dean at the San Francisco Institute of Art for 3 years. Passionate about art and adventure, Kane decided to embark on his own entrepreneurial venture and purchased the Catalyst Coffee House, transforming it to a premiere venue for live music. His first order of business was moving it to downtown Santa Cruz on Pacific Avenue in what is now the Bookstore Santa Cruz location. Years later, it moved once again to its current location, the former site of a bowling alley.

“[Kane] gave birth to The Catalyst. It was the best nightclub around because he wanted it to be,” said Gino Krum, who worked 10 years as a bartender for Kane. “The Catalyst changed everyone in this town, and so did he.”

States Gary “Bo” Tighe who viewed Kane as a father figure, “He’s a Santa Cruz icon. He was definitely a unique person.” Tighe booked performers for The Catalyst since 1978.

The Catalyst Club Today

One of the most popular and renown live music clubs from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the Catalyst Club is an intimate setting offering an ‘up close and personal’ interaction between concert goers and performers.

The Club has two main concert areas: The Main Floor is standing room only while the Atrium room is ideal for smaller shows. There are three bars as well as an in-house pizza kitchen, Rocker’s Pizza that can be ordered in advance. The nightclub has a full bar, pool tables and lounge upstairs.

Randall Kane created what is arguably the most impressive club venue on the planet. I’d be surprised if any other club could create a list of bands equal to what The Catalyst has booked over the years,” said concert programmer Tom Miller of Felton-based Don Quixote’s International Music Hall.

Shows at The Catalyst Club

The Catalyst nightclub features performers of a number of musical genres including rock, hip-hop and reggae. Acoustic and Indie acts are also among the entertainment line up. Among those who’ve played at the Club include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, Switchfoot, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Beach Boys.

Today, The Catalyst draws a diverse crowd from all around the Silicon Valley, from Millennials to teens, high tech engineers to UCSC students, all who appreciate the variety and caliber of performances the nightclub has to offer.

Upcoming concerts are available on the nightclub’s website with most shows being general admission. The most recently booked shows are announced on their website’s home page.

The Catalyst Club
101 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz