Abandoned for a year, the Santa Ana live-music venue makes an unlikely return
The Galaxy Theatre is back. And that doesn’t make sense.
Which is not to take anything away from the live-music venue that closed its doors “for good” back on Feb. 23, 2008. It’s just that this is a time when businesses are disappearing in droves, not being resurrected. And yet, in a move that rivaled the return of Family Guy to network TV for unlikeliness, live music once again filled the Galaxy last Saturday, in its same tucked-away location on Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana, just north of the Costa Mesa border. A full slate of shows is scheduled for the future, including a VIP reception and concert this Saturday.
This Capra-esque ending must be especially satisfying for Gary Folgner, owner of the Galaxy as well as the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, who didn’t want to leave in the first place. “We lost our lease,” he says. The Galaxy was to be replaced by a higher-paying tenant: the stillborn Revolver, a club/restaurant planned by the much-maligned, much-litigated Mor Project (see Vickie Chang’s “Less of Mor,” Nov. 21, 2008).
“The people who leased it basically had their hand in their ass someplace,” Folgner says. “They were trying to make a nightclub out of it. Santa Ana wouldn’t allow a nightclub. That was a joke.”
Folgner never gave up on the Galaxy, despite prospects looking pretty bleak for much of the past year. “We were looking around for another location,” he says, “but we didn’t find anything we liked.”
When it became clear that the ridiculously ostentatious Revolver (reportedly, plans were for its interior to change every six months, each time with a different pretentious theme) would never become a reality, the opportunity opened for the Galaxy to return to its original location. Shows began to pop up on the venue’s online schedule, kicking off with a March 14 gig from legendary hip-hop trio De La Soul. It appeared, though, that Folgner and his crew were a little too ambitious with that date, given the work involved in getting the dormant-for-a-year building back up to code. The De La show was moved to Brixton South Bay in Redondo Beach; a March 26 performance from LA hardcore punkers the Bronx was straight-up canceled.
But—in another semi-surprising twist!—the Galaxy was able to open up by the weekend of the De La Soul show after all. That Saturday, hard rock and punk ruled rather than rap, with a lineup of local acts headlined and booked by Franki Doll, of Huntington Beach’s Franki Doll & the Broken Toys. The concert was well-attended given that Doll had, in her words, “literally five days to throw the show together and no time to promote.” Though the upstairs was still closed, the downstairs held a good number of those about to rock, with the lead singer of Kansas City Gunfight declaring the night as “the grand fucking reopening of the Galaxy.”
Folgner, though, doesn’t believe in grand openings, saying, “I don’t like to open with a bang; I like to work my way into it.” The Galaxy will continue to work its way into it with shows later this month from Doors cover band Wild Child (March 27) and long-running punks Fear (March 28). Things continue to be rock-heavy and older-demographic-skewing in April, with ’90s two-hit wonders Candlebox (April 2), Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (April 10), and Adler’s Appetite on April 17, fronted by Guns N’ Roses/VH1-reality-show icon Steven Adler.
It’s not like Folgner isn’t aware of what kind of folks will be at these shows, and he thinks that the nature of the Galaxy—there’s a standing area but also plenty of tables and dinner service—makes it perfect for an older crowd.
“When you’re 35, 40, you want to sit down for a while,” he says. “We get those old punk groups, and old guys that used to be fans of them, they’re not going to stand in the pit for four hours like when they were 21.”
Folgner sees the return of the Galaxy as a victory for independent, locally owned businesses, and he considers the Live Nation-owned House of Blues in Anaheim to be his main competition.
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“We’ll get music from bands that don’t want to be corporate here,” he says (the House of Blues, with its Mouse House address, is essentially corporateness incarnate). “They want to play some place where it’s fun and the people are real. It’s pretty hard to go to Disneyland to watch a concert.”
Galaxy Theatre at 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.galaxytheatre.com.