Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
People are overrated. Hype them up a little bit, and next thing you know, they get caught popping molly, driving drunk or actually being a sociopath. That's why this year's best local celebrity isn't a person, but rather UC Irvine's most visible couple: Harold and Maude, two regular ol' mallard ducks. The pair has been wandering around the campus, particularly the Mesa Court housing area, since at least 2010, earning the affections of new Anteaters, the school's PR people and a few local business owners. If you're lucky, you can find the two lounging in the physical sciences infinity fountain or eating some rice at one of the local Japanese restaurants. Don't worry if you can't find them, though, they've survived rumored deaths (though no one can say for sure if the two walking around today are the same from 2010), have had a clutch of 11 ducklings, and still manage to clog UC Irvine Snapchat every day of the school year.
Downstairs, adjacent to an art classroom, Laguna Art Museum's (LAM) unpretentious Young Artists Society Gallery features work by local grade-school and high-school students. Working in a number of mediums—mixed media, paintings, sculptures, collages, photography and watercolors—and in a number of styles over the years, the work is often surprisingly accomplished, sophisticated and untainted by art-school bias. LAM is our hero for giving these young artists their first showing, for treating the work with respect, hanging it professionally, and for allowing young people the opportunity to see that art is for them as well as us old farts. We know that a museum's main purpose is not to sell art, but to attain, preserve and show it off . . . but a nice tie-in with the museum's gift shop would be offering the young artists' work for sale. It would make inexpensive art available to potential collectors who can't afford the big guns, put money in the pockets of young people (rewarding them for their labor and ingenuity), put a paltry sum in the museum's coffers (allowing them enough to maintain the tiny space) and get the ball rolling on the next generation of Southern California artists. We're just throwing that idea out there—and looking forward to writing that story if they take it and run with it.
Summoning creativity at the drop of a hat can be the bane of every artist's existence. But imagine giving yourself 48 hours to write and record a song, then produce an awesome music video for it. It's the sort of rush that drives Robin Davey and Greta Valenti of pile-driving riff rock band Well Hung Heart. In their YouTube series Made In 48, each episode focuses on the husband-and-wife team taking another band's song and turning it into a fully polished product from scratch. Well Hung Heart may have earned their stripes by winning Best Live Band at this year's OC Music Awards, but they also deserve a spotlight for their chops as producers; all the webisodes are released via their grassroots company GROWvision. Best of all, the web series offers a raw, entertaining look at the caffeine-fueled insanity that inspires this duo. Way to make the rest of us look lazy, guys.
Again? You know it! The Venetian Gentlemen's Club has won this prestigious award each year pretty much since it opened—and with good reason. It's as close as you're gonna get to a Vegas-style gentleman's club this side of Bat Country. We went to a bunch of strip clubs this year just to make sure, and the Venetian is still the best. It's clean and classy, it spans two stories, and the babes can't be beat. They look good; they're fit, friendly and actually know how to work a pole. The only drawback is there's no buffet or limo service as you'd find in Sin City, but there is a world-class sushi bar on the second floor, and that's almost as good, right?
To appreciate the recent rise of Tapioca and the Flea is to recognize the power of persistence and dedication to the idea that a bedroom project is always just a song or two away from blowing up. For Samuel Jacob-Lopez Jr., the lead vocalist and brainchild of the OC-bred outfit, tinkering with electronic music in between gigs as a hired gun for gritty garage bands was something he'd seen as a spare-time outlet with no intention of gaining an audience. Fast forward a few years, and songs such as "Mellotron" and "Home" are being blasted over the airwaves and getting clicked on like crazy. As they continue to do big things with their electro-rock hybrid, best believe we'll be watching.
It still seems odd that some of the grittiest trapstyle beats could come from good ol' Newport Beach. But DJ duo Slander have spent the past year making club rats fiend for their hip-hop, 808 cranking EDM like fiends on the dance floor. Derek Andersen and Scott Land might've gotten their start playing house music, but it was trapstyle that launched the pair into a new stratosphere. They started by turning heads as opening acts for such renowned DJs as Dillon Francis and Madeon. Now they're a full-fledged festival act, garnering slots on big stages at events such as Nocturnal Wonderland. At this point, anyone who says this pair of beat jockeys isn't legit is just being, well, slanderous.