Iconic San Diego concert stalwart The Belly Up is celebrating its 50th anniversary of bringing shows small and large through Solana Beach. ListenSD chatted with Chris Goldsmith, the President of Belly Up, about the upcoming milestone.

First, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with ListenSD about Belly Up’s 50th anniversary! We really appreciate it. How has the venue changed in the last 50 years, both physically and in feel?
The club started out as just a small watering hole for locals with a few stools and a couple of microphones at the end of the bar and peanut shells on the floor.  Through the years it expanded into the 600 cap room it is today, with world class sound and lighting, hundreds of employees, and about 150,000 people through the doors every year.   Over the course of all the changes, we’ve hopefully held on to that neighborhood vibe even while presenting bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mumford & Sons, but without the peanut shells.
What are your most memorable and surprising moments – the surprise guest appearances, the big shows, the oh-my-god I can’t believe that just happened?
In my early time there (late 1980’s) we had David Lee Roth wanting to do a surprise show on short notice.  We had to bill it as “The Yard Dogs” and no one knew what that was, so about a week out we started calling our friends about it (there was no email or social media) and then it sold out.  When he showed up he had one of the best bands I’ve ever seen, plus 4 go-go dancers, and they just played old soul and blues covers all night.  It was amazing.   And, oh yeah, The Stones played here a few years ago for a private event, which was probably the best thing we’ve ever done here, but everyone knows about that already…hahaha….
What has made Belly Up such a success, able to make it to 50?
I think the fact that we’ve been so consistently committed to a quality experience for our audiences, our artists, and our staff is the main reason we’ve been around so long.  In huge part, that is because the continuity of ownership, first Dave Hodges for the first 30 years and now Steve Goldberg and Phil Berkovitz for the last 20, and the fact that they all shared those values and a passion for live music.
Both generally, and with the addition of The Sound, what’s the vision for the next iteration of live music in San Diego for Belly Up?
The San Diego music scene is in a really good place right now, which hasn’t always been the case.  There are more great venues than ever, and at least a few all ages options, and a spirit of cooperation exists between all us that is rare for any town.   As for our company, our vision is to deliver those quality experiences at all the shows we promote, whether at the Belly Up, the Sound or anywhere else in the county.  For the Belly Up venue itself, our goal is the same ever year:  To do just a little bit better than last year.
To celebrate, Belly Up is hosting 50 shows for 50 years, including The Wallflowers, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ozomatil, Beats Antique, and Built to Spill (among many others!); tickets for all shows are now on sale.
Interview by: David Israel
Photos courtesy of Belly Up