See and Be Scenes

The many subspecies of OC bands in their natural habitats

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The Scene: Bro Metal
Hear it at Surf City Saloon, Huntington Beach
At least one Huntington Beach bar has taken to posting signs discouraging entry to anyone wearing Affliction gear—you know, those mixed-martial-arts-inspired black shirts festooned with interlocking, tattoo-esque patterns, usually snuggly covering enormous pecs. But the prohibition is an exception in beach-close regions of Orange County. And where there are MMA fans, there is metal. It is, of course, a diverse genre, but go along the coast or inside venues such as the Galaxy Theater, and the rocking comes with a distinct whiff of energy drink and a paucity of self-consciousness. We’re talking bands such as the Octane Mob, who proudly name check P.O.D., Godsmack and Black Sabbath as their influences.

Even the ’roided-out stuff doesn’t seem a far cry from the punk-derived metal that came out of OC earlier in the decade in the form of Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu. After all, skinny kids can wear graphic tees, too. But there’s a crop of metal bands that flirts with the indie crowd as well, such as WulfBane, Pistolero and Beta Wolf—all musically serious yet willing to play alongside goofier and froofier acts. They may be the next ones to rise out of the scene; they already seem able to go anywhere.

Steve Greenberg

Location Info


Detroit Bar

843 W. 19th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Music Venues

Region: Costa Mesa

The Continental Room

115 W. Santa Fe Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Music Venues

Region: Fullerton

Doll Hut

107 S. Adams St.
Anaheim, CA 92802

Category: Music Venues

Region: Anaheim

The Juke Joint

735 N. Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805

Category: Music Venues

Region: Anaheim

The Crosby

400 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Santa Ana

Surf City Saloon

18528 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Huntington Beach

Chain Reaction

1652 W. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Music Venues

Region: Anaheim

Downtown Santa Ana Artists Village

208 Spurgeon St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Santa Ana

The Coach House

33157 Camino Capistrano, Ste. C
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Category: Music Venues

Region: San Juan Capistrano

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The Scene: Hot Topic Rock
Hear it at Chain Reaction, Anaheim
Orange County’s best, most iconic all-ages venue boasts a nightly lineup that rotates through genres. The constant, though, is the distinct vibe of youth. Don’t think that means all boister and smiles: This is the county’s emo capital, and the punk, metal and hardcore bands who come through here prize, above all else, anguish.

But the newest crowd on the block is inspired by the hip-pop success of Gym Class Heros and 3OH!3. This movement should have been predicted as the inevitable outcome of mall music’s evolution—after all, they’re just mashing up the sugary elements of pop, punk, hip-hop and rock. Huntington Beach’s Hellogoodbye almost predated the scene, throwing an AOL Instant Messenger sound effect into one of their early singles. Now, the soundtrack to teenage chat-speak is everywhere: Locals Uh Oh! Explosion even hit you with a lyrical “OMG” within seconds of visiting their MySpace. EyeAlaska’s sensitive white-boy R&B has made them a rising star in the Warped Tour world, while Close But Not Quite have racked up tens of thousands of MySpace plays with what sounds like a pepped-up rehash of rap rock. Like it or not, this stuff might just be the future.

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The Scene: Rock y Roll
Hear it at Downtown Santa Ana

The years have seen the county’s alternative-Latino-music world swell and contract; in 2004, scene booster Jesús “El Pelos” Olvera told the Weekly, “I’m in love with Orange County rock en español, although it’s like an abusive relationship.” The seed sown by him and his amigos led to a renewal in the middle part of the decade, but with the shuttering of Latin club JC Fandango’s Anaheim location, the loss of the SolArt gallery and bands moving on or breaking up, the scene may be in semi-hibernation again.

But Santa Ana still grows young, intriguing bands who draw inspiration from lands to the south. And with the multi-ethnic hipsterfication of downtown over the past few years, there’s a more diverse space for them to fill. El Centro Cultural de Mexico hosts occasional shows and open-mic nights. Proof Bar’s Sunday-night Wreck Hall regularly features such as scrappy indie rockers Street Spirit and My Machete. The promisingly adventurous jarocho rockers ¡Aparato! formed this past June, just in time to play Santa Ana’s Downtown Summer Block Party. SolArt puts on an online radio program spotlighting the bueno stuff, and acoustic alternative act Taller Sur have been rocking Chicano-studies crowds for more than four years now.

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The Scene: Beach Buds
Hear it at the Coach House, San Juan Capistrano
Where there are surfers and medical-marijuana licenses, there are surfer bands and stoner bands and bands who cross the two. The sudden rise of Huntington Beach reggae rockers the Dirty Heads—their single “Lay Me Down” has hit No. 1 on the alt-rock radio charts—came after more than a decade and a half of gigging in a scene replete with acts heavily influenced by Sublime. Up next might just be Seedless, whose well-produced and cavernous takes on white-boy dread grooves are going to sound reallllly good if a certain ballot proposition passes in November.

The Coach House and sister club the Galaxy in Santa Ana play host to a number of these bands, as well as those in a related universe: earnest, singer/songwriter surfer-bum acts such as Marc B. There is also swaggering, sorority-girl-approved beach blues stuff such as Pawn Shop Kings. All of this material is pitch-perfect for sound-tracking chillaxed parties, which means it’ll never really go out of style.

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