By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
From the cool, all-too-rational mind of Q (a.k.a. Timothy Wiles), the producer behind Łberzone, came "The Freaks" the first bona fide DJ culture dance hit crafted in OC. It dropped in 1997 with a one-two punch of breakbeat rhythms and machine-age melodies that made it sound like the second coming of Afrika Bambaataa—the first big splash in Q's technophile career of summoning dance music from a collection of cold contraptions. Q developed a reputation for being the county's know-it-all about studio gear while spinning (and occasionally releasing) vinyl during the '80s and '90s. That made him the patron saint of local DJs, an advisor extraordinaire for many befuddled electronic dudes dying to craft that perfect beat. His rep is still good, two years after Astralwerks released his first full-length album, Faith In the Future.
111. Freddie Brooks
Harp maestro Brooks would place higher on this list were it not for the fact that he wasted too much time in supporting lesser musicians (most infamously, useless fecal dumpling Jim "My Dead Brother Was Famous" Belushi) and only emitted a single album. What an album it was, though: 1999's One Little Word, among the finest, most unique West Coast blues releases of the decade, with Brooks' soaring harp work, bemused vocal style, hot-swinging band (featuring former Rank & File guitarist Jeff Ross) and a buttload of leering, lecherous original tunes that took the effort leagues beyond the often rigid structures and humorless dogma of the blues genre. Sadly, Brooks has since retired from music. Freddie, we hardly knew ye!
Though many of the songs on the band's lone Dr. Dream album, 1990's Sad Astrology, are throw-away novelty pop (think uninspired Swamp Zombies), everything guitarist Jon Melkerson contributed was golden. "Grandma's Whistling," "Loose Ends," and his cover of Tom Verlaine's "Breaking in My Heart," are frustratingly good. Frustrating because, of all the musicians who toiled for so many forgettable bands that hovered about the county in the late '80s and early '90s, Melkerson deserved—and, let's hope, deserves—to be heard. He displayed a distinctive voice both in his songwriting and fluid guitar playing. He resurfaced in the mid-'90s with Eli Riddle and Lunar Rover, but we haven't heard much from him since. Time to file a missing guitarist's report?
113. Tony Guerrero
Guerrero, though long associated with Orange County's active jazz-fusion crowd, is a hard act to pin down. Sure, he plays jazz with strong beats, but he's also been known to work with folk and country singers. The trumpeter always pleases with his Satchmo sound, his funk, his devotional and holiday programs, and his ability to spin tales of romance or grungy backbeat with equal aplomb. Even heathens can't help loving his sinful fluegelhorn.
114. Standard Fruit
Standard Fruit's claim to fame was singer/songwriter/guitarist Andrew Lowery, who also had a burgeoning acting career (his credits include School Ties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My Boyfriend's Back and A Different World). Far less embarrassing than Keanu Reeves' Dogstar atrocity, this Placentia band excelled at crafting offbeat jangle-pop songs about romantic misfits, unrequited love and actress obsessions, all tied up whimsically on its lone self-titled 1995 album. Live, lead singer Denys Gawronski had a crazed stage presence and made goofy expressions, while Lowery possessed a wise-ass demeanor not unlike that of his OC Weekly-employed brother Steve. A typical set would include: a quirky, German cabaret-styled number complete with accordion; a romantic clarinet-accented song; and then something about . . . consorting with sheep! Too bad the Fruit never ripened any further.
115 Vitamin L
If ska is Anna Nicole Smith, then third-wave ska was her cousin Shelley—a little cruder, trashier, dumber, and with worse teeth. Vitamin L were all this and more. Bizarre, demented, atonal, spazzy and downright frightening at times, Vitamin L weren't afraid to get naked onstage or dress up like cheese or pelt their audiences with Mexican foodstuffs. Fronted by a pierced pervert with a nasal voice and featuring a trombone player who managed for the first time in the history of brass instruments to appear menacing while playing a trombone, Vitamin L owed more to punk, porn and cinema than to any of their more upbeat forebears.
The hardcore lifers in Farside were playing emo back in the early '90s before anyone was calling it emo, or actually, they were playing it right around the time people started asking "Emo? What the hell does that mean?" and then other people would respond with, "You know, just like . . . emo." Widely used and ill-defined that word is, but before the term morphed into a catchall for anything with angst, the term referred to hardcore with melodies, which is what Farside—who came from a scene that included fellow Revelation Records bands like Inside Out and Sensefield, played. Great, churning, edgy, sludgy, blistering rock, with lyrics about the gravity of life and everything in it. Onetime member Zack de la Rocha later took this philosophy to the masses in Rage Against the Machine.
117. The We Five
Sixties folk-rock quintet whose airy "You Were on My Mind" is an annoying KRTH-FM 101.1 staple. Not annoying, however, is the vaulting voice of Santa Ana native Beverly Bivens, whose breezy laments soar over the Byrds-ish 12-string guitar chiming throughout the tune. The Mamas and Papas would go on to usurp the group's vaguely hippie-ish style, condemning the We Five to one-hit hell.