Is the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series becoming too popular for its own good?

RÜFÜS DU SOLBy Josh Herwitt //

RÜFÜS DU SOL with Marc Baker //
Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, CA
August 11th, 2016 //

Nothing says summer in Los Angeles quite like the Twilight Concert Series. Whether you live near the beach or not, the free shows at the Santa Monica Pier have become one of LA’s best summertime traditions over the years.

But as we found out at BØRNS’ headlining performance (read our review of the show here) last month, the series may be getting too big for its britches. At least part of that sentiment can be attributed to NPR member station KCRW’s curation process, which seemingly gets better and better with each passing year. And of course, it’s worth noting that the recent tragedies across this country have only forced increased security measures and a larger presence from local law enforcement.

That said, the crowd that arrived last Thursday to take in RÜFÜS DU SOL’s show was unlike anything I or anyone else had seen before. Whatever the attendance number was, whether it was 40,000 or 80,000, simply didn’t matter. The fact was, the concert viewing area on the pier couldn’t handle the sheer number of bodies that showed up to watch the Australian alt-dance outfit perform before it headed off to Palm Springs for a special late-night set at Splash House the following day.

What transpired at the pier this time was everything we experienced at the BØRNS show four weeks prior and worse, if that’s even possible. At one point, I didn’t even know if I was going to photograph RÜFÜS DU SOL because the fire marshal shut down the backstage VIP area due to overcrowding (when I finally got escorted back in, the photo pit was completely packed to the gills with mostly VIP guests who were there to watch the show). Had I known it was going to be that much trouble to re-enter, I never would have left to say hello to a friend after opener Marc Baker played for no more than 30 minutes, leaving a longer changeover than expected. I guess I underestimated just how far the Aussie trio has come since first releasing its RÜFÜS EP in early 2011.


“RÜFÜS … RÜFÜS DU WHO?” some of you might be saying. Though die-hard fans may laugh at those who haven’t heard of the band by now, I’ll be honest — I hadn’t heard of them either until April when I noticed they were listed on this year’s Coachella lineup. Clearly the joke is on me then, because after everything I witnessed from Tyrone Lindqvist (vocals, guitar), Jon George (keyboards) and James Hunt (drums), this shouldn’t have served as my introduction. Yet, there I was, sandwiched in between a bunch of bodies with my camera equipment in tow as RÜFÜS ran through material off their 2013 debut LP Atlas and this year’s follow-up Bloom, both of which have topped the charts in their home country.

There’s something about RÜFÜS DU SOL that makes them undeniably catchy. At times, their sun-drenched, beat-driven songs sound like a cross between Disclosure, Gorgon City and Bob Moses, with Lindqvist hooking listeners with his smooth vocal stylings. Knowing how popular those aforementioned groups have become, it made perfect sense that the pier was as packed as it was for RÜFÜS less than a week after they performed for the first time at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival (read our review here) in San Francisco.

So, is there anything that can be done to keep the Thursday night crowds at the Santa Monica Pier to a more reasonable level going forward? If it means having to issue tickets — either on a first-come-first-serve basis or even for a small fee — for those who want to watch the show on the pier, then so be it. And while that change may not happen this year with only four shows left, don’t be surprised if it happens in 2017, assuming the Twilight Concert Series returns for its 33rd edition next summer.

After all, when in doubt, you can always still catch the show from the sand.

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