Student Survival '05
Sammy starts to get freaky after a few Fat Tires.
The 13th Step
Or, how to escape the Sylvan landscape and tranquility of campus for the Bacchanalian pleasures of town
By Peter Koht
College is essentially divided in half for those on the four-year tour. The first half is spent in pursuit of illicit alcohol, whether through older friends, fake IDs or randomly propositioning customers as they go into Liquor-Saves-U on Mission Street.
No matter how you deal with actually finishing school, the latter years of your education will be spent paying four bucks for beer and flirting with strangers in between bouts of panic about what is going to happen after graduation--that magical time when neither Mom nor the federal government will pay your rent. But that's a long ways away, so for now, have some fun. To aid you in this pursuit, here's a list of where to spend evenings when you get away from Uncle Charlie's Summer Camp.
The Dry Half
While some caffeine addicts go for the tasteful elegance of Lulu Carpenter's, Caffe Pergolesi is the ultimate student's coffee shop. Before that whole noise ordinance thing got way out of hand and the cops stepped in (see page 19), this tiny converted Victorian dentist's office used to host the best in local rock talent, but now it mainly programs unplugged music. Most don't come for the tunes, as Pergs has a lovely porch that's the perfect place to experiment with nicotine while idly spending long spring evenings flirting while with your, uh, "study date." 418 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; 831.426.1775.
Not only does the Attic have the best lemonade and kombucha in town (trust me you'll learn about that nasty stuff before Thanksgiving break), it also has been featuring some of the most exciting music in town. It's pretty awesome to see the Brazilian Girls or the Dead Hensons in such a small venue. There's also artwork and teak furniture, so lounging around is fully permitted. The food is amazing, and for those of you on a tea jag, they have quite an impressive variety for sale. There's even a piano. 931 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.460.1800.
While the Teen Center has some of the best punk shows in town, the Vets Hall and 418 Project are the best bets for the over-18 crowd to see barre chords in double time. The main room of the Vets Hall has a Masonic Temple gone woodsy vibe to it while the basement is a punk rock palace complete with linoleum floors, drop ceilings and a smoking corral. It's visceral, it's raw and the lighting is totally vintage '46. 846 Front St., Santa Cruz; 831.454.0478.
This former bakery on Center Street is the home of jazz in Santa Cruz. It doesn't seat as many folks as Yoshi's or Birdland, but the advantage to having low volume is the fact that there isn't a bad seat in the house. The big names roll through on Monday nights, while Thursdays are reserved for up-and-coming talent. Trust me on this one, young lovers, dates tend to go very well when this joint is involved. Not all the class in town is up on the hill. 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; 831.427.2227.
The Rio/Cayuga Vault
University bus lines terminate across the street from Streetlight Records, but this town has a few other neighborhoods you might want to explore. Midtown is one of these. Centered around the '50s era gem that is the Rio Theatre, Midtown features the Black China Bakery, Charlie Hong Kong's and Malabar in the eats department and both the Rio and the Cayuga Vault for nocturnal musical excursions. The Cayuga Vault, a converted bank, tends to book interesting world music, chamber ensembles and emerging talent, while the Rio features larger touring acts like Zap Mama, Tortoise and Cesaria Evora. Both are as unique as they are awesome. Cayuga Vault: 1100 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.421.9471.
Rio Theatre: 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.8209.
Uh oh, too much fun for Sammy.
The Wet Half
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon used to be Santa Cruz's premiere gay bar, and while the Blue's restrooms are still decked out dungeon-style, that scene has mostly moved over to the impressively large Club Caution on Front Street, where, as they say, size does matter. Despite the now quite high breeder ratio, the Blue is a great place to dance, featuring the gothic-themed "the Box" on Mondays, Britpop on Wednesdays and hip-hop on Saturday night. It's also a genuine rock club now, with bands chunking it out on Wednesdays and Fridays. Midweek it's usually locals, while the weekend features more established indie acts. 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.7117.
The Catalyst does have all-ages shows, but the true glory of this former bowling alley can only be found on nights when the Budweiser is flowing on the main floor. Whether you want to get down with the KDON dance party in the Atrium, shoot pool and pound Jäger upstairs or catch the biggest names in town on the main stage, the Catalyst is the place to head downtown once you can legally ask for a long-neck. It's got this weird Jimmy Buffet gone Van Halen aura to it, but it's the only place to catch acts like Handsome Boy Modeling School, Queens of the Stone Age and Cake. 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.1336.
The Red is really two bars. Downstairs, the original Red Room is a smoky, ghetto-fabulous dive where the talk is all about postmodern interpretations of Camus. The Red, which lies above, is a chamber reminiscent of an Edwardian hunting lodge. The woodwork in this room would do the Titanic proud. It's elegant, the food is incredible and the drinks are divine. It's a place where you can shameless ask for a Lagavulin neat or a Campari with lime without a trace of guilt. Every single person who works there is beautiful, and somehow, despite all the ambient elegance, the place has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Chill soul, hip-hop and lounge DJs as well as the occasional jazz band supply music almost nightly. 200 Locust St., Santa Cruz; 831.425.1913.
The Poet and the Patriot
This pub is, bar none, the most comfortable place in Santa Cruz to kick back a pint. Though the world's greatest bartender, Chris, has left the bar, it's still one of the most convivial places in town to practice liver chemistry. With a giant painting of Tom Scribner dominating one wall of the main room, this bar is the epitome of a working class hang out. There are dart boards, political placards and more than enough random bric-a-brac to keep your eyes interested while you mosey your way through a glass of bitter. Just don't ask for a Bass--after all, it's an Irish Pub. 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; 831.426.8620.
The Rush Inn
If your bike has a fixed gear set or you sport an asymmetrical haircut, then the Rush Inn is your home away from home. While most of the daytime clientele is there for the Budweiser and ESPN, on weekend nights this bar is crammed with hipsters whose lives are a calculated study in irony. But there is nothing really ironic about the Rush Inn. It's an earnest dive replete with video games, a pool table and a jukebox. The bartenders are friendly and you can get a Greyhound without any hassle. In short, it might be the best bar in town. Besides, they have a Johnny Mnemonic pinball machine. That's a thesis waiting to happen right there. 113 Knight St., Santa Cruz; 831.425.9673.
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