Best Of Arts & Entertainment
Best Punk Band
We really wanted to do a new up-and-coming punk band for this one, but we just couldn't find one that tops the masters. Until that happens (or until the older bands stop touring), OC punk remains Social Distortion and its contemporaries. And given this year is the 25th anniversary of...
Best Rock Band
You might not have heard of Hiatus, and that's probably because they only play a few times per month—whenever the dozen or so members can find free time between other gigs. Their show schedule might seem a little spare, but you won't think so when you actually check out one...
Best Theatrical Ensemble
Avenue Q is part of the relatively new wave of anti-musicals that poke fun at musical conventions while also adopting most of them. This mash-up of Sesame Street and Gen-X reality is a bit overrated (unlike its contemporaries such as Urinetown and The Book of Mormon), but that wasn't the...
Best Theater Programming
Long Beach's finest storefront theater doesn't produce many plays; for instance, this year it has only produced three. But two were world premieres, and the third was the local premiere of Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries. Head honcho Eric Hamme and his intrepid band of creatives get this nod for...
Maple and Vine
Jordan Harrison's 2011 play Maple and Vine turned Mad Men-like nostalgia on its head, as contemporary urbanites, fleeing from the frightening ubiquity of 24-7 technological connection, sign up with a strange movement that has meticulously re-created 1955 in a huge gated community in Somewhere Middle America. No Internet, smartphones, poly...
Best New Play Festival
This is the fifth year of Orange County's lone festival for new plays from greater OC-area playwrights, and based on reading the scripts, it was the finest collection to date. All received full-fledged productions, including four one-acts and two full-length productions. The one-acts included Leonard Joseph Dunham's deceptively deep comedy...
Best Musical Production
Marshall Pailet's world-premiere musical at the Chance Theater is still early in its development, and a few wrinkles need to be ironed-out, but this smart, funny musical contained genuine heart and just enough goofy humor to offset the sincere examination of a teenage daughter dealing with the loss of her...
Best Local Celebrity
Yeah, Kobe Bryant's going out like Michael Jordan with the Wizards instead of Jordan with the Bulls. But that just means we'll get more Kobe sightings at El Camino Real in Fullerton, at the private runways at John Wayne Airport, and at Crystal Cove Promenade. Lucky us!...
This probably isn't fair, as the character Jaimi Paige portrayed in Venus In Furs at South Coast Repertory is equal parts sexy dominatrix and ancient Greek goddess summoned to Earth to exact vengeance on those small-dicked men who think a hot woman is pretty fucking hot. But Paige's performance kept...
Roger Guenveur Smith
This one also probably isn't fair, as Roger Guenveur Smith is one of the most singular talents in American arts. OC was lucky enough to get him for a handful of nights in January's Off-Center Festival at the Segerstrom Center, and if you were one of the relatively few people...
Best Theater We Don't Review on General Principal
Some bigshot Los Angeles PR flack who represents this Orange County-based producing entity (which does mount impressive musicals) last year recommended to his clients they no longer invite (i.e., give free tickets to) reviewers from Stage and Cinema, one of the most widely read theater-related websites in Southern California. The...
Best Musical-Instrument Reseller
Jim's Music Center
Nearly all music shops seem the same: acoustic guitars hung in straight rows across the walls, music sheets organized in a maze of shelves, someone rocking out on a Gibson as if they're stepping in for Jimmy Page at Madison Square Garden. But walk a little deeper into Jim's Music...
Real Housewives of Orange County After Show
Too ashamed to have the boozy, Botox'd, bleach-blond antics of Tamra, Vicki and the other Real Housewives of Orange County on your flat-screen or in your DVR lineup? Simply check out a roundup of each week's episode via AfterBuzz TV, the podcast/webcast network founded by Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro,...
We've always hailed the Orange County Register's sports section as one of the best in the country and about the only good thing left in the paper that's not business columnists Jeff Collins and Jonathan Lansner. And the depth of that section is such that their most impressive reporter this...
Best Filthy-Rich Person
John M. Shanahan
Orange County has more than its fair share of boring wealthy snobs, but we're also home to the funniest dude sitting on a pile of money: John M. Shanahan of Newport Beach. Born long, long ago in Boston, Shanahan's life is a testament to the fact that some folks have...
Best Quote, Part 1
"Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo!" [As recited in May—just two days into her campaign for U.S. Senate—as the congresswoman (D-Anaheim) distinguished Native Americans from people born in the nation of India.]...
Televised police car chases have become popcorn-and-beverage moments paralyzing Southern Californians with the thought "How badly is this going to end?" These shows, of course, need a narrator, and the maestro of such aerial news broadcasting is Stu Mundel for KCBS and KCAL. Besides supplying all the necessary details for...
Because even after all these years, KNBC-TV Channel 4's Fritz Coleman remains Southern California's most lovable nerd after earthquake goddess Lucy Jones...
The United States has 5 percent of the world's population, but each year, we account for 50 percent of military spending on the planet. Nevertheless, it's a presidential-election season, and, as usual, Republican hopefuls claim the Pentagon's budget is too small and must be boosted. In the world of Washington,...
Best Quote, Part 2
"Around this time, like, 10 to 11 in the morning, it begins to smell like sulfur. Earlier, it smells like rotten vegetables. At random times, it smells like a combination of Pine Sol and vinegar. And at 2 in the morning, it's just like a dead body." [Regarding the joys...
Best YouTube Star
In 2007, Kina Grannis uploaded her first YouTube video from her Mission Viejo bedroom. It was as simple—and, at that time, standard—as YouTube videos could get: Grannis sang and played her original song "Message From Your Heart" on guitar. Unlike today's self-produced YouTube videos, there were no multiple cameras and...
Best Live Weekly Reggae
Thursdays at the Sandpiper Lounge
The Dirty Bird has its roots deep in OC's reggae history. Decades of Jamaican grooves run deep on the world-renowned dive bar's dance floor, embedded by all sorts of feet moving to the riddims of the World Anthem Band. Ron I says of his weekly gig there, "I live nearby,...
Best Political Protest
Anti-Ann Coulter Protest
When right-wing shit-stirrer Ann Coulter came to Barnes & Noble in Costa Mesa this July to promote her latest polemic, ¡Adios, America!, pro-immigrant activists didn't exactly roll out the red carpet. As the "Coultergeist" awaited her fans, protesters plotted to shout down the book signing. Without warning, they emerged from...
Best Protest Group
CopWatch Santa Ana
It's getting harder to find Orange County activists whose work isn't funded by grant money or run by self-appointed Great Brown Hopes. CopWatch Santa Ana, on the other hand, keeps it grassroots and gritty. The group believes in filming the police, but its protest against SanTana's finest doesn't stop there...
Best Visual Artist
G. Ray Kerciu
One test of good work is whether it's relevant at the time of its creation. Double that when art feels fresh several decades later. Laguna Beach artist G. Ray Kerciu's Confederate-flag paintings were a strike against bigotry in the 1960s, painted while he was living in Mississippi, the bastion of...
Best Public Art
Newport Beach Civic Center and Park
We're not being lazy by voting for them two years running because Newport Beach's Arts Commission has been busy installing another 10 sculptures since we shared the love last year. It includes something that resembles a beautiful melding of a water fountain and a jellyfish, which may or may not...
Best Folk Act
Yellow Red Sparks
Today's folk music—the mainstream kind, anyway—tends to be overdecorated with the genre's tropes: excessive clapping, some variation of "hey ho" chanting (I'm talking 'bout ya, Lumineers), and a general cacophony of overdone banjo and harmonica riffs. Juxtapose that with Irvine-based Yellow Red Sparks—whose music has no trace of the Lumineers,...
Best Street Musician
People walk down the street of downtown Fullerton half-naked on Friday nights all the time, but it takes a huge set of cojones to set up on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Amerige Street in your tightie whities with a guitar. Meet Peter "Fitzinwell," the musical wonder who camps...
Best Venue for Live Comedy
Surf City Comedy Club
Many things in Orange County are unintentionally funny (as documented by us), but there is intentional humor, too. For hilariously self-deprecating monologues and one-liners, take a seat at Surf City Comedy Club. Here, the setting is intimate and the beer aplenty—prerequisites for watching comedians such as Allan Havey and Eric...
Best Author Who Doesn't Deserve the Side-Eye
The 70-year-old Newport Coast writer is the perfect example of the kind of popular author who sells a few books (a measly 450 million copies), is adored by fans, critically acclaimed, and still gets a glance askance because of the genre he writes in: horror fiction. We say, fuck the...
Best Art Walk
Santa Ana Artists Village
Santa Ana did it first. Be on the Second Street Promenade between Broadway and Spurgeon on the first Saturday of every month...
Best Art Museum
Fullerton Museum Center
Surprisingly not as risk-averse or conservative as the city it resides in, the Little Museum That Could defies expectations, each year delivering an eclectic exhibition or two or three. The Fullerton Museum Center scored a coup earlier this year with a capture of comic-book artist Alex Ross' "Heroes and Villains"...
Best Art Gallery
The Nicholas and Lee Begovich Gallery
No one comes as close to affectionately capturing the weirdness of Orange County artists as Cal State Fullerton professor Mike McGee does with the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Gallery. Director of this gem of a space, McGee's catholic tastes in programming—with its blending of the colorful, eccentric, academic and socially...
Grand Central Art Center's John Spiak has the Best Taste In the County and that's a big deal because there are many curators with insight, knowledge and adventurous ideas residing here. Spiak's programming works on a more intellectual level, utterly unafraid to put up a show that may seem vague...
Best Indie Film Theater
The Frida Cinema
These guys really get it. Where else in OC can you see carefully curated programming such as Québécois enfant terrible director Xavier Dolan's latest, a revival of Cabaret or Jesus Christ Superstar, then get a Ted Neeley autograph? Revival house, art theater, nonprofit and volunteer-driven, the Frida Cinema is the...
Best Museum (Non-Art)
We don't talk much these days about Richard Henry Dana Jr. or his memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, but its sympathetic account of a Boston trading ship doing business along the coast of California provides us with an early historical perspective of what the landscape, economy and people were...
Best Club DJ
DJ Johnny Basil
From spinning at the Ace Hotel to doing gigs with the Growlers and sharing a name with a character in the criminally (no pun intended) unappreciated HBO series Oz, DJ Johnny Basil represents the perfect bridge between the Costa Mesa 500 who used to frequent Memphis Café in the 1990s...
Best Radio Station
Radio Santa Ana
It seemed like a dream come true when the Federal Communications Commission unleashed a slew of new low-power FM frequencies for nonprofits and churches to vie for. El Centro Cultural de México launched Radio Santa Ana online, not knowing if they'd be one of the lucky bidders. The bilingual station...
Best Television Station
KTLA-TV Channel 5
Sam Rubin treated our Gustavo Arellano nice years ago and has mentioned us by name more than once—ta-da! KTLA, you're our favorite station!...
Best Drag Show
In the middle of a lip-sync performance, RuPaul's Drag Race alum and drag diva extraordinaire Shannel pointedly stopped to stare at a woman sitting in the front row of the VLVT Lounge who was focused on her phone; the queen gracefully—and sternly—lifted the phone from its owner with her long,...
Best Place to Take an Art Class
Open House Creative
We're not talking finger-painting classes taught by New Age-y hippies here; Open House Creative brings in talented professionals to share their skills. Enroll your kids in six-week art camps or individual sessions to learn how to paint, screen print, make letterpress art, or even become mini-curators of art shows (seriously)...
Elvis!? Karaoke Studios
Asian-style karaoke, in which everyone crowds into a private room and sings their hearts out sans waiting, is better than American bar caterwauling by far, so it's only right that our favorite spot does it the Asian way. There's a ton of places you can go to, from the fancy...
Best Street Art
The Blue Lot
When Dutch soccer player Arjen Robben was given a penalty shot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup game against Mexico, El Tri fans wailed the now-famous lament heard around the world: "¡No fue penal!" ("It wasn't a penalty!") Memes exploded over the Internet, and a short-lived mural commemorating the injustice...
Best Live Band
Listen to the Fallen Stars' Americana, and you hear a great, rollicking band. But see them live, and it's the difference between Elvis in the studio and early 1970s Elvis, when he was starting shows with "Also Sprach Zarathustra," then owning crowds with just a sneer of the lip. Don't...
Best Radio Personality
Old lovers of Americana music have nothing on DJ Wanda's deep knowledge of country and Western swing genres, which she delves into for her weekly KUCI radio program, Howdylicious! Wanda's sultry voice has seduced the airwaves for years, as she pronounces her show name with an extra bit of twang...
Best Indie Band
Rudy De Anda
Boy wonder Rudy De Anda has caught our eye since his turn as front man for the now-defunct psychedelic/progressive rock entity Wild Pack of Canaries. But while that group is on "definite hiatus," De Anda has quietly patched together solo material with fellow Porch Party Records friends, recording his first...
Maybe you only go to nightclubs to meet potential bedfellows, or to get wild, or the chance to hear some really, really good music. Focus OC is for the latter of y'all, enforcing its party atmosphere with world-famous house-music producers and DJs to expose you to mind- (and spleen-) bending...
Best Strip Joint
Fritz That's It
Last year, Fritz That's It (formerly Fritz That's Too—anyone figure out why the change?) celebrated its 20th anniversary, and it's as great as ever. While hipsters in rapidly gentrifying Anaheim think they're classy as shit for going to burlesque shows, real men come to Fritz for a night of good...
Best Hip-Hop Act
Putting in work at a time when OC's hip-hop scene is becoming a harder grind is the exact moment when skillful emcees shine instead of getting left behind. (Didn't mean to rhyme all that, really!) Orange-based veteran rapper C4mula is busy making moves in 2015 with twin releases off United...
Best Venue for Live Music
As an independent, all-ages venue, the Observatory (and its deep-pocketed owners and investors) created a phenomenon in OC, in which the ability to bid aggressively for the biggest acts in the world has made it (and talent buyer Jeff Shuman) a crushing force in Southern California entertainment. In January, a...
Best Alternative Venue for Live Shows
Programme Skate & Sound
This is the spot where most of OC's young musical whippersnappers play for small audiences in an intimate DIY setting. Fullerton's Programme Skate & Sound has hosted underground hardcore and punk shows for some time, and the scene is kept alive by the momentum of a community willing to pay...
Best Record Label
Wiener Records lives by a simple code: Anyone can be a Wiener. The business model for this Burger Records offshoot is pretty easy to understand. Bands pay anywhere from $250 to $650 for the manufacturing of 100 tapes, social-media shoutouts and the ability to sell their music on Wiener's website...
Best New Band
If you're looking for an OC band to take up the mantle of Local Natives and Young the Giant, you'll have to go to Hawai. Nope, it's not a misspelling because it's not the state (yeah, a triple-negative). They're a group of guys you may remember as J.Thoven, which dropped...
This year saw the partial return of Lightning In a Bottle to Oak Canyon Ranch in the form of Woogie Weekend. The three-day festival had us sloshing in the rain among the trees and neon, psychedelic backdrop. Thriving on simplicity in the face of the race to double and triple...
Best OC-Reppin' Song
'7 1 4' by Endz
In a genre in which authenticity matters, city pride doesn't equal career suicide. Endz proved that to be true when he dropped "7 1 4," his ode to Orange, earlier this year. Backed by the deft scratches of InDJnous, the rapper rides the heavy boom-bap beat to chart a lyrical...
Best Person to Have Fled OC
He may be the least well-known but famous Orange County native right now, but Sam Mikulak, who was born in Corona del Mar 22 years ago, is an undeniable superstar on the world stage after showcasing his athletic talents on the University of Michigan's gymnastics team and scoring NCAA victories...
The quixotic dream of bringing art to the people through public lectures still thrives in Gregorio Luke's imagination. The Long Beach-based expert on Latin American art and culture continues to redefine the lecture as an art form itself. Luke's riveting passion is undeniable, and his range of topics immense. He...
Best Book Fair
OC Anarchist Bookfair
The inaugural OC Anarchist Bookfair in May stayed true to the adage "Anarchy Is Order" (you never learned that in high-school civics? It was supposed to be on the $1 bill, you know) by offering a compact, daylong, tightly organized event. Hundreds of radicals poured through El Centro Cultural de...
Best Instagram Account
A good Instagram account has cohesive style, beautiful photos, personality AND ISN'T ANNOYING. There's nothing worse in the app than when someone with thousands of followers is trying to be what they're not. This is why we love @little_orange_kitchen, the foodie account that reminds us why we love to eat...