Bar-Hopping Mod

24 hours of hooch, music and tableaux

Since Kitsch Bar opened Saturday in arguably the ugliest strip mall known to Costa Mesa—and Costa Mesa's got some strip bars that look like Johnny Winter—everything you need for a hipster grown-up's night out is comfortably ensconced under low teardrop lights, minus the 40-minute drive up the 5 freeway.

Saturday's "movers and shakers" preview before the bar opened to the general public the next day included Kitsch Bar silent partner and Wahoo's founder Wing Lam, who was hippie-haired and serenely chatty; the men of Memphisand Detroit; and Happy Magazine's Alibaba, who no longer looks puffy, pale and junked-out. "Sober" is a good look for him. Dreamy Paul Frank shwag man Austin Brown, whose whole job is to throw parties and give people presents, was expected but unseen. I was there as neither mover nor shaker—unless you're talking about shakin' that ass.

So why is Kitsch Bar so great? The music, though it was house, was organic (all beats on the tracks were played by actual musicians instead of some pink-Oakleys-wearing freak on a Moog), and the DJ kept the volume low so people could actually talk. Talk! How fashionably unfashionable! The d├ęcor—except for a wall full of retro lunch boxes, an "exhibit" space that will change every six weeks—was classic late-'80s black. And most of the smallish room is given over to low tables with enough groupings of comfortable black chairs for almost everybody to sit. (The DJ swore they would never go over capacity, which is a manageable and intimate 70.) Of course, the owner still does the shallow thing of describing his ideal clientele by the things they buy (Paul Frank) rather than the things they do, but that's not his fault: he's from Orange County. (I once saw an interview with designer Jeffrey Best, who said OC is underestimated. After all, he explained, the women of our county carry Prada handbags and are therefore sophisticated.) Plus, the owner was talking to Riviera magazine editor Kedric Francis at the time; perhaps he thought consumer choices are Riviera's only conversational currency. Go now before the kids take over. They will, you know.

Kitsch Bar, 891 W. Baker, Costa Mesa, (714) 546-8580.

I will spare you the details of Saturday's Artists Village opening, except for this: noted theater designer Joseph Musil, whose bitchen dioramas are reason enough to visit the Santora Building until Memphis finally opens its satellite (following years of waiting, it's now looking like just a few more weeks), treated the OC art world to a tableau extravaganza. We waited excitedly while listening to adrenalin-pumping music (Wagner? The Nutcracker?) until the exact stroke of the appointed show time. Then the velvet curtains parted to reveal . . . more velvet curtains. Which then parted to reveal more velvet curtains. Which then parted . . . (And then she called two friends. And then she called two friends.) When all the curtains were done parting, the revealed was a leafless tree with perhaps three red-wrapped presents beneath it. It was brilliant, and I thank him.

Joseph Musil Gallery, 207 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (949) 376-9994.

On Friday, we trekked to Pomona for Mod Night at the Glass House, an all-ages place that was mercifully free of young'uns because it was almost perfectly free of anybody at all. Band members outnumbered the audience, and that's how I like it. Fabulous! The lack of customers also meant there were no bouncers (the roughly 17 people in the sprawling venue weren't likely to riot, especially since all were there with their friends in the bands), so we sailed right in to the "band waiting area," a wood-accented two-story loft thingy with a kitchen and many groovy couches. This was a good move because (aside from the fact that I just like being places that are supposed to be VIP) the bands have got to have liquor, in contrast to the Utah-dry room for the general public. God, all-ages places suck.

So we drank tequila, scotch (Dalmore) and spiced rum, one after the other; when one bottle would run dry, someone would run to the liquor store for a new flavor. And in between, we moseyed out to check the bands.

They were uniformly rocking, except one poor lead singer with about as much charisma as Ben Affleck without the pretty-boy looks. Also, his suit didn't fit very well because he was kind of stocky. He looked miserable.

But standing out—even more than our own Lo-Fi Champion (who aren't mod, but do wear skinny ties) and The Organization, which features local legend R. Scott (of 00 Soul and The Helmut Stein Experience) on keys—were San Diego's The Shake-ups. Their lead singer slithered and did prat-falls like Little Richard, though with a Mick Taylor mop. And all the mod girls in their white Mary Janes swayed without moving their feet. We figured out why on our way out: once the DJ started up (after all the bands) and everybody finally started to dance, we realized Vespas and skinny ties are for white kids who long for the bygone era when nobody knew how to move. They're comfortable only when moving one foot to the side and then bringing it back to meet the instep of the other. Cue other foot. If any place in the world needs a full bar to loosen its patrons' inhibitions, it's the Glass House circa Mod Night. Cheers!

The Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 629-0377. Move to the beat with the Girl: CommieGirl99@hotmail.com.
 
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