Can The Santa Monica Pier Become A Great Concert Venue?

Concert photos by the L.A. Times

Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / September 26, 2013) Also By Mikael Wood October 5, 2013, 7:00 a.m. A stiff breeze blew across the Santa Monica Pier on a recent afternoon, kicking up sand and sea spray as visitors munched fried food and watched a man paint names on a grain of rice. But sheltered inside a seafood joint, Mitchell Frank and Martin Fleischmann didn’t seem concerned with the weather perhaps because they were busy describing winds of change. “What we’re trying to do is create a destination for locals on the pier,” said Fleischmann, a veteran Los Angeles concert promoter. “Tourists are here all day long, but otherwise it’s underutilized.” Added Frank, another promoter hired by the nonprofit group that oversees the pier, “The mandate was to bring content here.” PHOTOS: Concerts by The Times Content in the form of musical performances isn’t unheard of on the pier, which last month wrapped its 29th annual Twilight Concert series with a free show by the reggae star Jimmy Cliff. The gig drew 30,000 people, according to some estimates. But this year the promoters expanded the menu with a slate of ticketed festivals, including All Bands on Deck! (with indie acts such as Poolside and Yacht) and September’s Beach Ball (featuring Aloe Blacc and Sly & Robbie). This weekend the pier is to host Way Over Yonder, an inaugural two-day roots-music event connected to the venerable Newport Folk Festival with performances Saturday and Sunday by Neko Case, Conor Oberst and Calexico. And Oct. 19 will bring the comedy-based Festival Supreme, assembled by Jack Black and his mock-rock band Tenacious D. The shows are part of what pier official Jay Farrand called “a larger effort to get people to take a second look at the pier to think of it not just as somewhere you take Grandma from Kansas.” But for Frank and Fleischmann whose respective companies, Spaceland and Rum & Humble, put on concerts at the Echo and the Hollywood Bowl, among other spots the activity also reflects their desire to establish a new home for music on the Westside, where a dearth of large and mid-sized venues intensified with the closing this summer of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. PHOTOS: Unexpected musical collaborations “People here need a place where they can gather in large numbers for music,” said Fleischmann, who pointed to high rents and restrictive permitting as reasons the Westside generally lacks such spaces. The century-old Santa Monica Pier, an instantly identifiable but historically significant landmark, makes for a complex solution to that problem.

A unique perspective on concert photography from a blind music fan, Ahmad Zaghal

An artisan gives finishing touches to an effigy of demon king Ravana in preparation for the upcoming Hindu festival of Dussehra in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh October 8, 2013. The effigies are burnt during the festival which commemorates the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana, marking the victory of good over evil. REUTERS/Ajay Verma (INDIA - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Then, he points and shoots. If theres nobody to chat with between sets, hell caption the images and post them to Instagram straight from the gig. That isnt the case at last Tuesdays Rocketship show. Between bands, Zaghal is hanging out in the front yard, chatting with the singer of Neonates, a band he photographed in August, and the guitarist of Fell Types, whom hes about to snap in a few minutes. The social demarcation line that usually separates bands from fans is nonexistent here an attitude of acceptance and inclusion passed down from Washingtons storied hardcore punk scene. Which is to say, the blind guy shooting concert photos is really no biggie. I dont get asked about [being blind] as much as youd expect, Zaghal says. Maybe thats what keeps me coming to these shows, subconsciously. . . . I never thought about it. An alterna-rock beginning Zaghals taste gravitates toward the vanguard, but his first concert was anything but Limp Bizkit, Everclear and other alterna-rockers at the 1999 HFStival at RFK Stadium. After that, he dipped his toe into the jam band circuit but didnt start attending concerts regularly until 2003.