Best of OC

Best Of 2011

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Band Gimmick

Looking for a gimmick for your indie band? Some musicians choose to assemble players with a glaring lack of musicality. It's what Long Beach band Cunt Sparrer did, and despite not being musical virtuosos, they display delightful ingenuity and palpable charm—and are a joy to watch. Comprising recent art-school grad student Jennie Cotterill, co-vocalist Sara Lyons and drummer Jen Kirk-Carlson, the trio lovingly rock covers of 1970s east London oi! band Cock Sparrer. With ironic abandon, they blithely retool such classics as "Because You're Young," "Bird Trouble" and "Runnin' Riot," using a panoply of quirky instruments from toy glockenspiels and melodicas to wheezy, flea-market keyboards. Fans expecting to see three Mohawk-donning bruisers snarling and sneering at the crowd will be disappointed. In person, as in their performances, Cotterill and Lyons come across as mischievously sweet girls from the neighborhood—though it's not all innocent smiles and sunshine. During an interview last year with the Weekly, Cotterill randomly mused on the soundness of interrupting a lover mid-coitus with frivolous questions. In the end, what comes across in Cunt Sparrer's performances isn't the tinny sound or the gals' occasionally colliding two-part harmonies, but their unwavering optimism and joy while playing cynical, working-class punk—perhaps the most impressive gimmick of all.

Best Music Festival
Lightning In a Bottle

We heard that electronic experimentalists Do LaB started putting on Lightning In a Bottle because they didn't want to be twiddling their thumbs between Coachella and Burning Man every year. The three-night, four-day festival at Oak Canyon Ranch features DJs, bands, installation art, spiritual talks, yoga and organic food, ensuring a lot of Hula-Hooping, fire-dancing and brain-wobbling from attendees. Bringing a crunchy-granola vibe to antiseptic Orange County is a feat in itself (be prepared for poi spinning and worm-composting classes), but it's so family-friendly that circus performers and freaks on stilts commingle with 5-year-olds racing toy boats on the lake. The sun floats down in dazzling shades of orange, pink and blue over Irvine Lake every day, giving way to the festival's neon lights, four-on-the-floor house beats, and performances from such big-name acts as Booka Shade and the Album Leaf. Transcendent.

5305 Santiago Canyon Rd., Silverado, 92676
MAP
714-563-9778
Best Concert to Dress Up For

The Hootenanny serves as not only an annual rockabilly festival, but also a retro fashion show. Though respect must be paid to those talented gentlemen who pull off gravity-defying pompadours, the main attraction is the women. They need not bare all to turn heads, as they parade in lavish updos, vintage-cut dresses and stilettos. No hair is out of place, and their makeup is always flawless despite early-July temperatures that reach toward the triple digits. Some girls look to the likes of Bettie Page, Mae West and Dita Von Teese for inspiration. Others take Old Hollywood glamour or 1950s-housewife style and fuse it with punk and tattoo culture. The result is modern homage to midcentury styles at the largest local rockabilly event.

Best Album of the Past 12 Months

Good God, this album rocks. From beginning to end, listening to this 11-song set generates the same apoplectic anxiety and guilty fun you experienced as a 15-year-old sneaking out in the middle of the night to ride on the back of your boyfriend's motorcycle and drink beers in abandoned warehouses. Consider the anthemic swagger of "Jules' Story," or the exultant, heart-stopping breaks of "Always Afraid." Crystal Antler's sophomore release uses the requisite five-man-band instruments to display a sophisticated take on arrythmic beats, shrieking vocals and shredding, rollercoaster-y, feedbacking guitars. And somehow (especially on songs such as "Fortune Telling"), the overall set conveys a sinister, sexy mood that makes you greedy for song after song after song, until you've listened to the album 20 times on repeat without noticing.

Best Rock Band
Railroad to Alaska

"Rock band" may be a bit generic a descriptor for this quartet, whose sound righteously struts the battlements of metal, rock and indie. But the "best" part is apt. Winners of the award for Best New Artist at this year's Orange County Music Awards, Railroad to Alaska bring to the stage an invigorating blend of visceral energy and inventive artistry. While banging their heads behind sprawling waves of cascading hair, guitarists Justin Suitor and Jeff Lyman pluck out a nimble interplay of classic-rock-era riffage in the vein of AC/DC mixed with psychedelic, reverb-laden ambiance. While their songs sound great on an iPod, their live shows are the main event: Witness Suitor abandoning the stage to howl amongst the metal monkeys in the pit. Interesting side note: Suitor demonstrates his range of talent and lends his songwriting services to local pop band Honeypie.

Best Punk Band

The Cosmonauts are punk as fuck, just not in the sped-up-and-spit-out-lyrics-to-three-chord-guitar-songs way. No, they're punk as fuck in that careless, who-gives-a-shit, it's-all-about-honest-to-goodness-rock-&-roll way. Just don't equate that with sloppiness. Their songs have garbled vocals, spun-around choruses and distorted, spacey guitar drones, but they're deliciously hook-heavy and incredibly danceable. Watching the band live, prepare to sweat your socks off.

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Best Band Gimmick: Cunt Sparrer

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