By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
The most successful of the all-ages venues in the county, Chain Reaction hosts shows nearly every night. The bands are always either punk, hardcore, indie or emo, and it's not uncommon for a big name to stop by for a secret (or not-so-secret) show. There's a decent-sized area in front of the stage for dancing, swaying, moshing, whatever. For a full band schedule, visit the website. 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com.
The Doll Hut
Rocking the OC music scene for damn near a generation, the Doll Hut (once famously known as Linda's Doll Hut) gave acts such as Social Distortion and Blink-182 a home when no one else would. The epitome of a punk rock dive bar, the ceiling is painted black (from what you can see through the millions of band stickers), and the stage is covered in leopard print. Wine and beer only (yes, they have Pabst tallboys), the drinks are cheap, and the bands will remind you why OC music kicks so much ass. 107 S. Adams St., Anaheim, (714) 533-1286.
This place is awesome if you wear clear-heeled stilettos and those pleated skirts that measure about 10 inches in length. Held every Thursday at JC Fandango, Glam doesn't open until at least 10 p.m., so if you get there early, you'll have to wait in line. Two dance floors complete with poles and go-go boxes give ladies a chance to show off the moves they learned in aerobics class, while the DJ spins fun and energetic hip-hop and Top 40 from years past. In the corner of the club, hungry patrons can buy little carne asada soft tacos to soak up the booze. At JC Fandango, 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 758-1057.
The Avalon Bar
The Avalon Bar is one of the coolest little places in Costa Mesa. Your first clue? It's owned by Mike Conley of the '80s punk band M.I.A. Careful when trying to find it, though: The only distinguishing characteristic from outside is the wooden half-wall that separates the smoking patio. Unless you go on a weekend, then you can find it by the swarm of cool kids overflowing onto the sidewalk. The space is small (really small), but it packs in the hipsters, thanks to DJs spinning '60s garage and electronica rarities. Get there early and score one of the coveted black-vinyl benches. 820 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-4650.
Club Vegas offers all the glitz and attitude of the real Sin City, just without the gambling and hookers. The layout is stunning. An outdoor patio leads into two flowing rooms: an absolutely huge hip-hop/Top 40 one, plus a smaller techno room for whichever mood you're in. The bartenders are sweet as sugar, and upon handing over your credit card, you get a numbered disc that allows your tab to be accessed at any of the bars. However, if you're going VIP, be forewarned: The staff can get pretty uppity. 1901 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa.
Goat Hill is one of those places that's crowded at any given time, even at 3 on a Tuesday afternoon. There's a certain casual appeal about this bar; maybe it's the little cardboard boxes of peanuts for sale, the shells of which you're encouraged to throw on the floor. Or maybe it's the impressive number of beers on tap (we tried counting once, but lost track). Three separate rooms with pool tables and tabletop shuffleboard keep things amusing in the most easygoing way possible. 1830 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 548-8428.
If you don't know where to look, you won't find it. Kitsch Bar is so posh, they don't even have a sign (though they used to). Located in a Costa Mesa strip mall, an unassuming front door leads into a swank lounge with red lighting, black Mod chairs and benches, and '70s Playboys lining the walls. DJs spin nightly—everything from disco punk to downtempo and chill. The dress code is reasonable (no shorts or sandals), so dress cute, or you won't be let in. 891 Baker St., Ste. A10, Costa Mesa, (714) 546-8580; www.kitschbar.com.
One of the top spots in ever-crowded downtown Fullerton, Plush hosts everything from acoustic live shows to hip-hop DJ nights. In a long, narrow space, the atmosphere is clean and minimal with bright pops of neon orange. Closed Sundays and Mondays, weekend nights belong to the college crowd. Packed with twentysomethings, Plush can get so crowded that a line will form around the back door, but if you get there before 10 p.m., it shouldn't be an issue. Check their website for a complete music calendar. 207 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 738-5100; www.plushcafe.com.
Club Xile is a Goth/industrial crowd for those night crawlers who don't want to wait until the weekend to show off their tragic loveliness. There is a spacious dance floor, and the DJs have names like Asphyxiation, Thermal Detonator and Toxic to provide hardcore-industrial bliss and a weekly dosage of darkwave. Everything is black and blood-red to set the melancholy mood, but the drinks are too good for things to stay that way. At Belluno, 12361 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove; www.clubxile.com.