In the early ’60s, modernist landscape architect Robert Royston took on an ambitious project: designing what’s now the Quarry Amphitheater on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Like Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, Royston’s approach to creating the venue centers around environmental preservation. After all, the Quarry is located in a majestic setting cuddled by a canopy of towering redwoods, and the space’s limestone provides natural acoustics far superior to most indoor concert halls.
Royston used the elements of nature, carving the venue out of the former lime quarry. The layout is unique and asymmetrical, but there isn’t a bad seat in the joint.
Since its construction, the Quarry has hosted experimental theater and Shakespeare. Students have held Bollywood tributes and political rallies; renowned cultural figures, including Angela Davis, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, have spoken, and notable musicians, from Ravi Shankar to Joan Baez, have performed. The Quarry also made an ideal spot for topless sunbathing in the ’70s.
Following an $8 million renovation that includes upgrades to the stage, electrical infrastructure and capacity expansion—the amphitheater now seats 2,700, making it Santa Cruz’s largest outdoor venue—the Quarry reopened in 2017 after lying dormant for more than a decade.
Fast forward another five years: Last April, Quarry general manager Jose Reyes-Olivias announced a collaboration between the venue and Noise Pop.
“Noise Pop’s connection to independent music and culture felt like a perfect fit to find some great artists to play here,” he said.
Noise Pop Industries founder Kevin Arnold delivered an initial statement that resonated with the same excitement: “We’re fortunate to have forged a partnership built on a shared vision and passion for the potential of the Quarry with the UCSC community.”
In addition to founding the Noise Pop Festival and co-founding Treasure Island Musical Festival and Another Planet, the San Francisco-based Noise Pop Industries has produced hundreds of shows throughout the Bay Area and beyond. As champions of up-and-coming indie artists, the organization’s impressive resume features the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse and early White Stripes shows.
Mexican singer-songwriter Carla Morrison kicks off the Quarry-Noise Pop alliance on June 24—she’s touring for the first time in six years. Morrison’s international following is impressive—multiple platinum records, 3.2 billion streams, stadium sellouts—but her courage in writing about her mental health struggles has proven more captivating. Especially since her music breaks through language barriers—most of Morrison’s songs are sung in Spanish—and touches listeners deeply.
Morrison’s acclaimed 2022 release El Renacimiento (The Rebirth) is just that—a return, a “rebirth,” after an extended hiatus.
“I just felt like people were more enamored with my work than I was,” Morrison told Billboard. “Now that I think back on it, I was really depressed. But at that time, I didn’t know I was.”
El Renacimiento is a deep emotional dive. The 12 carefully crafted tracks exude love, forgiveness, mourning, anxiety, healing and hope through acoustic compositions, electronica, indie rock and straightforward pop. “Te Perdi” (“I Lost You”) is a stripped-down, heart-on-her-sleeve ballad with a gentle percussive backbeat. Morrison’s delicate alto vocals build up to a poignant eruption about letting herself let go.
Meanwhile, the Quarry-Noise Pop 2022 Summer Concert Series continues Aug. 12-13 with two nights of very different music. For 20 years, STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9) has branded itself as being undefinable. Eventually, the jam band community embraced the five-piece instrumental outfit for their live improvisational musical expanses that can go on—and on. STS9’s fully immersive live shows also include mind-bending light shows in sync with the music. A STS9 show might be what Ken Kesey envisioned acid tests could look like in the future.
Carla Morrison performs Friday, June 24, 7pm. Irene Diaz opens. $44.50/$50; $34.50/students plus fees. STS9 plays Friday, Aug. 12 and Saturday, Aug. 13, 7pm. $47.50/$54.50; $77.50/premium; $37.50/students plus fees. Two nights $95; $155/premium; $77.50/students plus fees. Quarry Amphitheater at UC Santa Cruz, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz. quarry.ucsc.edu.