By Adam Lovinus
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By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
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By Mike Seeley
By October, many things had changed. When experimental electro Canadian band Crystal Castles hit the Galaxy's stage, they performed to a room full to capacity of drunk, dancing, sweaty and smelly hipsters; according to Weekly reviewer Mary Carreon, "It smelled as if I was walking into a 24 Hour Fitness." The duo played on a brand-new $600,000 L-Acoustics Line Array and presented a "blinding light show," although, Carreon said, "as far as the Galaxy goes, better speakers, ventilation and air fresheners might be a good idea for next time!"
The review raised Reiser's hackles; apparently, one thing he does get pretty defensive about is his new baby, and he sent the Weekly a couple of angry/frustrated texts and emails.
"I'm trying my heart out to bring talent to Orange County," he wrote. "I think it is a unique market from LA. It isn't easy to get people to play OC—and I am trying to change that. Why can't we just build a community and do stuff that's cool?"
3503 S. Harbor Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Category: Music Venues
Region: Santa Ana
On a national level, Orange County is still seen as a Los Angeles appendage, without a delineated identity. So it's a challenge for music venues to lure both touring artists and audiences to local shows, but Reiser says it's possible. "LA County has more than 20 venues that do music, and they're all doing well," Reiser says. He thinks Orange County's 3 million people can sustain more venues. In fact, the more venues the better—it's good for their business to define Orange County as a separate market from LA County, and there's not necessarily any competition.
Jon Halperin, the talent buyer for the Glass House in Pomona, agrees. "Yost is concentrating on the dance [music]; House of Blues will continue to book a wide gamut of artists that wouldn't work anywhere else, not to mention their proximity to Disneyland allows them to book pop shows; Galaxy books the pretentious indie-rock bands not interested in playing a mainstream room; Chain Reaction will continue to book the hardcore and punk and upcoming screamo artists; and the Glass House will continue to book the screamo/indie/pop punk/hardcore/ska, as well as secret Coachella shows," he says. "This isn't a 'me against them' mentality. Everyone has their niche, and there is room for all of us . . . as long as patrons continue to support live music, of course."
As Michaelis says, "We're going for a renaissance of music in OC."
Even as they've already implemented many changes (all while keeping the Galaxy operational), Michaelis and Reiser are still in the process of renovating and updating. "We want to send a message that what we're doing is different," Reiser says.
The décor, Michaelis says, is "eclectic/rustic/industrial"; it looks like a more streamlined steampunk. There are no food or drink minimums, no charging tickets for children, no selling tables. There has been talk of selling the place's naming rights to VIZIO, but as of press time, Reiser says he's definitely changing the venue's name to the Observatory. The name still has universal connotations, Michaelis says, because "we wanted to honor what's happened here before," and it was chosen by Michaelis' boyfriend, Justin Suitor, who fronts local metal band Railroad to Alaska. (The band, incidentally, are holding their residency at the Constellation Room this month.)
Luckily, that hit-the-ground-running management style was coupled with years of dreaming. "We had years to plan all this," Michaelis says. "Now we're just all on the same page, and we're doing everything we can to do well."
This article appeared in print as "To the Galaxy—and Beyond: Despite the grumbling over his departure from Detroit Bar, Jon Reiser is determined to be an OC music game changer."