The Twilight Concert Series is an annual showcase of live musical performances held over several evenings on the Santa Monica Pier. The Series began in 1984 and has been known as the Twilight Dance Series, Twilight Concert Series, and is now known simply as Twilight on the Pier. The concert and has featured a diverse lineup of award-winning and up-and-coming musical acts. Over the years, the Twilight Concert Series has become a defining event for the beachside city and is often lauded as a “must go” event for people from all over the Los Angeles area.
2018 Video Recap:
2018 Line Up Announced:
Orquesta Akokán, Jarina de Marco, Sister Mantos, Quitapenas
Betty Who, Touch Sensitive
Judy Mowatt, Bokanté, Twilight Steel Drums, Dj Danny Holloway
Brazilian Girls, Sudan Archives, Capyac, Yoya
Fela! The Concert, Tiffany Gouche, Twilight Drum Circle, Dj Nnamdi
Red Baraat, Vidya Vox, Discostan, Dj Rekha
Twilight has not always been a top-billed music festival with corporate sponsors, VIP cues surrounded by acres of beach blankets. The summer concerts had a humble beginning in 1984 when a group of enthusiastic Santa Monica citizens organized the first-ever Twilight Dance Series, as the event was originally known. The Santa Monica Pier had fallen into disrepair after neglect, winter storms, and even fire threatened the Pier’s viability as a utility and destination. The Twilight Dance Series was part of a herculean effort to not only rebuild the aging Pier, but to remind people how important the Pier was to the identity of Santa Monica.
Over the summers, the Twilight Dance Series hosted performers such as Earth Wind and Fire, Mavis Staples, George Clinton and many, many more. Several of the performers have returned more than once, always sharing stories of the unique stage looking out at kids zooming by on the Pacific Park roller coaster and Pacific Ocean beyond. The series itself also took on new looks, new sounds, and new names. In 2007, the series was rebranded to “The Twilight Concert Series” with a stronger focus on national musical acts.
The 100-year-old Santa Monica Pier can only accommodate so many people, so the tradition for locals become setting up a blanket on the sand and enjoying the music from afar. Many Santa Monicans often reminisce summers out on the sand listening to the bands serenading the beach from high upon the Santa Monica Pier as the lights of the Ferris wheel dance to the rhythms.
In 2018, the Pier re-imagined the series once again, this time under the name Twilight on the Pier. The series, which had for many years been held on summer Thursdays, was pushed into the fall to be held on Wednesdays. The weather in Southern California is seasonably warm, and September nights are just as enjoyable as August, so why not hold the series later in the year to take advantage of milder beach days fewer out-of-town guests are likely to fill up the parking lots? Twilight on the Pier also renewed focus back onto the Pier encouraging visitors to return from the sand to enjoy the musical performances up close; organizers added new ways to experience the Pier by placing smaller acts and art installations throughout the Pier’s 7-acre expanse. Concert goers are encourage to browse through the Pier’s offerings stopping by the various performance destinations in Pacific Park’s Seaside Pavilion, inside several Pier restaurants, and outside at the far west end of the Pier. The performers selected reflect both the diverse population in Southern California, but also the many cultures throughout the world that influence the art and music we enjoy every day.
Since its inception in 1984, Twilight has been managed by the Santa Monica Pier Corporation (formerly the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation), a non-profit entity led by a City Council appointed board of directors. The SMPC vets new acts and programming every year as well as manages the budget, provides planning and steering for the concerts production, and seeks out new funding opportunities through corporate sponsorships and grants. Through these efforts, Twilight on the Pier is free and open to the public, just as it has been since the 80s. It is only through the generosity of the City of Santa Monica and its citizens that Twilight on the Pier is possible.
Want to plan your visit to Twilight on the Pier? Be sure to follow these steps to make your evening in Santa Monica the best it can be:
Getting there and away. Twilight on the Pier takes place on the Santa Monica Pier (200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401). There are many ways to reach the Pier including driving, Metro, biking, or taking a ride share service. Check out our tips and tricks to get to the Pier. As a reminder, lots and garages fill up early, so we strongly encourage visitors to take the Metro or other means of transportation. Additionally, when the concerts end (usually around 10 PM), there’s a mad dash to get back out on the freeway and home. This often means the exits to lots and garages become even more congested than normal and lead to wait times in excess of an hour just to exit the garage. If you absolutely must drive to the Pier, try parking in Lots 4 & 5 south, or park at some of the Metro’s parking garages and take the train down to the Pier.
Security is always the number priority for the concert organizers who work hand-in-hand with the Santa Monica Police Department, Harbor Guards, Santa Monica Fire Department, Life Guards, and Pier tenant security personnel. Expect extra uniformed security officers on concert nights that will randomly check bags, provide directional assistance, and keep a tidy perimeter around the Pier and different public experiences. While coolers, bags, cameras, and chairs are not prohibited, it is best to pack light and not carry heavy bags or coolers that will slow down random bag checks.
Bring a picnic, or eat on the Pier. There are many restaurants and food carts on the Pier, in Downtown Santa Monica, and along Ocean Front Walk offering everything from Lobster to corn dogs. Save yourself the hassle of toting a picnic basket or cooler from your car to the beach by trying the sandwiches at Seaside on the Pier or grabbing a sharable pizza from The Pacific Wheel Pizza Company. Picnics can be fun too if you plan on posting up on the sand. Whether you are packing it in or purchasing when you arrive, please remember to help keep the beaches clean by tossing your trash in the bin.
Arrive early and watch the sun set. During September, the sun sets sometime between 7-7:30 PM. Although the beach is best enjoyed during the day, the sunset belongs to the Pier. From the seating area at the far West end of the Pier you can watch the sky run through a prism of pastels as the sky gives way to night. From the far end of the Pier, you can also look back at Santa Monica to watch the last rays of twilight glint of white facades of beach front hotels and the Ferris wheel’s lights start their nightly dance. Want an even greater view, ride the Ferris Wheel. It periodically stops at the top where you can drink in 360 degree views of the beaches, mountains, and sweeping city beyond as the sun slips into the Pacific at the end of Point Dume.
Whether you come to the Pier concerts every summer, or are planning your first visit, Twilight on the Pier promises to be a unique and immersive experience into the culture of Santa Monica, and the world around us, offering art, live music, food, and entertainment for guests of all ages and backgrounds.
About the Santa Monica Pier Corporation
The Santa Monica Pier Corporation, formerly Pier Restoration Corporation is a 501c3 non-profit organization responsible for marketing, programming, promotions, sponsorships, and fundraising. Overseen by a seven-member board of directors, the Pier Corporation produces many of the Pier’s time honored events, such as the Twilight on the Pier and Pier 360.