Arts & Entertainment

  • Best Book About to Be an Oliver Stone Movie

    Savages by Don Winslow

    A former private eye, Winslow is a prolific writer, and with Savages, his fast-moving screenplay posing as a novel, it's easy to see why. You can whip through this Laguna Beach tale of love, pot and murder in just a few hours, and it's not hard to imagine Winslow wrote the thing in a day or so—with maybe a couple… More >>
  • Best Local Anthology

    Orange County Noir

    The latest in Akashic Book's geographically specific crime noir series, Orange County Noir contains some of the most sublimely paced, suspenseful, often-hilarious crime writing to come out of this county. The book starts strong with "Bee Canyon," Susan Straight's mythical tale of a rock-throwing vagrant who haunts motorists in the foothills near Santa Ana. There's an amusing story of a… More >>
  • Best Indie Film Theater

    UltraStar's Ultraluxe

    Surely you've encountered a film that, within the first 10 minutes, has made you think, "Jeepers, this would be so much better if I were drunk." (You haven't experienced the full potential of Twilight until you've watched it while double-fisting.) At UltraStar's 14-screen theater tucked in the back of the GardenWalk retail-and-entertainment complex near the Disneyland Resort, you can turn… More >>
  • Best Freeway Banner

    The Evangelical Cargo Container on the 55 Freeway

    While a previous generation of Orange Countians had Rock 'n' Rollen Stewart (a.k.a. the guy in the rainbow wig holding a sign reading, "John 3:16"), our most prominent folk-evangelical statement is that one cargo container in a group parked in a lot on the side of the 55 freeway south, between the Edinger and Warner avenues, exits. You've seen it… More >>
  • The Producers, Maverick Theater

    Best Play

    The Producers, Maverick Theater

    Okay, so, no, this mounting of the ridiculously popular musical based on Mel Brooks' 1968 film that wowed them on Broadway and all over the country in a nationally touring production wasn't profound, meaningful, important or relevant. But while snooty theatrical purists—and even people who just really like really good musicals (which this one really isn't)—can roll their eyes all… More >>
  • Best New Play

    The Language Archive, Julia Cho, South Coast Repertory

    Though she has been on the radar of the kind of people who keep track of these things for several years—she's had productions at major theaters such as NYC's Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons, as well as South Coast Repertory in 2007 with The Piano Teacher—it was this world premiere at SCR that established Cho's credentials as one of the… More >>
  • Best Actor

    Mark Harelik, In the Garden, South Coast Repertory

    Primarily a film and TV actor—he is the teacher in Election who delivers the unforgettable line about a high-school beauty queen, "Her pussy gets so wet"—and quite a busy one at that, Harelik only appears in about one play per year. But he has graced South Coast Repertory's boards five times in the past 20 years, from Howard Korder's riveting… More >>
  • Best Actress

    Melanie Gable, The Fever, Monkey Wrench Collective

    It's not just that Gable, one of the most-versatile performers in the Orange County storefront-theater scene, effectively pulled off her role in Wallace Shawn's frighteningly intense one-person show. It's that she was onstage in the first place. There aren't many actors who would even consider tackling the role of a person grappling with issues both horrifyingly public and intimately private… More >>
  • The Festival Amphitheatre

    Best Place to See a Play at Night

    The Festival Amphitheatre

    This is home to Orange County's lone classically based theater troupe, Shakespeare Orange County, which, as the name implies, is all about the Bard. So it's fitting that artistic director Thomas F. Bradac and his dedicated troupe of longtime company members and constant influx of talent from Chapman University (where Bradac is an associate professor of theater) possess the most… More >>
  • Best Visual Artist

    Russ Pope

    Russ Pope's paintings scare us. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Amid squares and streaks of odd, generic color—the bio on his website says it's rejected Home Depot paint—Pope's oblong figures, often just heads or torsos, their faces wrenched in some personal anxiousness, sorrow or rage, speak to the kind of dread that many of us feel but leave… More >>
  • Best Art Museum

    Orange County Museum of Art

    What? OCMA is featured as Best Art Museum two out of the past three years? Now three out of the past four years? Well, guess what, haters? They freakin' deserve it. Every time we stepped foot in there over the past year, they surprised, enthralled and thrilled us. From Karen Moss' (deputy director for exhibitions and programs) "15 Minutes of… More >>
  • Best Art Show

    'Changing the Focus: Latin American Photography 1990-2005'

    It's the rare exhibition that's perfect, but we think this offering, which ran Feb. 14-May 2, 2010 at Museum of Latin American Art, pretty much hit that target. Thoroughly curated by Idurre Alonso, with a deft eye for embracing beauty among often very ugly subject matter (domestic abuse, drug-cartel assassinations, poverty and failed revolutions), there wasn't a bad piece in… More >>
  • Best Art Gallery

    Irvine Fine Arts Center

    Nestled unobtrusively in Irvine Heritage Park, just a parking lot away from the beige blandness of the city, is a hidden treasure that has been there for 30 years: a nondescript building, hugged by trees, that consistently features excellent work by local artists, as well as the occasional celebrity (such as Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh), with nearly every artistic medium you… More >>
  • Best Public Art

    Up Up Up to Where Even George W. Bush Has Got Soul (After Neil Young)

    Jason Butler's 2008 fabricated and forged steel sculpture at Irvine Valley College is a triumph of the living, the breathing and the thinking as curled tendrils spring from concrete and extend toward the sky, attaching and wrapping themselves around a rigid iron beam, a fencepost, changing their color from industrial gray and iodized red to a bright-yellow enamel. The name… More >>
  • Best Chicano Mural

    Parque de los Niños

    In a county where historic Chicano murals are more common than outsiders may expect—and more endangered than a snow cone in hell—the largest and most brittle is also the most mysterious: a 300-foot panorama featuring Mayan gods, Aztec eagles and orange groves that's half-painted and next to a drainage ditch. Originally created during the 1970s as part of a community… More >>
  • Disneyland-Area Hotel Workers Dressed Up as Disney Characters

    Best Guerrilla Art Co-Opting of Cartoon Icons

    Disneyland-Area Hotel Workers Dressed Up as Disney Characters

    For the past two years, workers represented by Unite Here Local 11, the union for Disneyland hotel workers, have battled the Happiest Place on Earth in a labor dispute involving health benefits. These employees have staged hunger strikes, sit-ins and press conferences to draw attention to their cause, but no effort has been more of a chinga tu madre to… More >>
  • Best Affordable Art Classes

    Sugar Skull Workshop at Calacas

    Calacas is known for its Chicano-themed T-shirts and rare Mexican artesanias, as well as for co-hosting Santa Ana's massive Dia de los Muertos event. What gets it less attention, however, is the store's workshops leading up to the Mexican holiday—lectures, print screenings, even how-tos on making altars, the massive tributes to the faithful departed. But the best class husband-and-wife owners… More >>
  • Best Virgin of Guadalupe

    Shrine on 17th and Buena streets, Santa Ana

    Amid the buzzing traffic on 17th Street in Santa Ana is a moment of serenity: a shrine dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe outside an apartment complex. A statue of la morenita stands in a humble wooden structure, surrounded by fresh flowers, devotional cards, prayers and other offerings from her followers. It's not extravagant, not sponsored by the Diocese of… More >>
  • Best Museum (Non-Art)

    Heritage Museum of Orange County

    Walking through the grounds of this 1-acre historical plaza is like taking a trip back to the late 19th Century, when Orange County was basically just Santa Ana and a lot of orange groves. The centerpiece of the museum's well-preserved grounds is the Kellogg House, named after Hiram Clay Kellogg, a civil engineer who helped to create the footprint of… More >>
  • Best Album of the Past 12 Months

    Avi Buffalo by Avi Buffalo (Sub Pop)

    Every hipster who wants to be 19 again fell in love with Avi Buffalo's self-titled debut in 2010. Melancholy pop refrains; fragmented lyrics about love, loss and sex; and a gosh-darned-cute teenage cast turned Long Beach singer/songwriter Avigdor "Avi" Zahner-Isenberg's album into the year's best. Naysayers will draw comparisons to the Shins' self-deprecating vocabulary, but falsetto aside, something about Zahner-Isenberg's… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Act


    Long Beach rapper LMNO, which stands for "Leave My Name Out" (incidentally, his real name is James Kelly), is a member of hip-hop group the Visionaries, but his list of collaborators is longer than the list of women who claim to have had affairs with Tiger Woods. After all, this is the year LMNO promised to drop the 10-album boom… More >>
  • Best Indie Band

    60 Watt Kid

    Kevin Litrow's 60 Watt Kid are one of the best bands from the OC/LB area who never reached household-name status. About six years ago, Litrow formed 60 Watt Kid as a side project to his main squeeze, the sometime-Santa Ana-based punk/dance/epileptic sound frenzy Dance Disaster Movement. Since then, 60 Watt Kid have evolved into Litrow's main project, and it's still… More >>
  • Best DJ

    Kedd Cook

    Few DJs have the beach-city party scene locked up like Kedd Cook. Entrenched in the Day-Glo tenets of '80s electro and a myriad of influences from Diplo to Designer Drugs, Cook (born Ian Alexander) turns empty dance floors and classy steakhouses into raging sweat-lodge parties. Just ask the honchos at La Cave in Costa Mesa. After they gave Cook and… More >>
  • Best New Band

    Dahga Bloom

    It's not exactly cheating if we name Dahga Bloom the winner here, even though the Fullerton-based sextet—vocalist/guitarist Bryan King, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Lucas Drake, guitarist/vocalist Matt Mason, bassist/vocalist Manny Lopez, violinist/mandolinist/vocalist Zach Nelson and drummer Sean Yakubovsky—were known as the Living Suns until five months ago. That was when, they say, a few members shared a dream in which African god Dahga… More >>
  • Best OG Punk-Rock Band

    The Vandals

    When the Vandals formed in Huntington Beach in 1980, they didn't know they'd be looking at 30 years of rude noises, ridiculous lyrics and loud sing-alongs. Founding members Steven Ronald Jensen, Jan Nils Ackermann and Joe Escalante were consistently around from the beginning, although since 1990, Dave Quackenbush, Warren Fitzgerald and Josh Freese have been permanent add-ons. Regardless of the… More >>
  • The Sugar Daddys

    Best Rockabilly Band

    The Sugar Daddys

    Neo-rockabilly trio the Sugar Daddys have been called the "rockabilly Blink-182," which probably has more to do with the playfulness and swagger within the standup-bass-guitar-drums template that lead singer Chuck Daniels brings onstage than with the goofy stage shows. Not that the Sugar Daddys aren't funny; their sense of humor transcends the 1-4-5-in-G exercises that people have come to expect… More >>
  • Best Bro-Rock Band


    Pistolero's particular brand of sticky, testosterone rock has been called metal, and while that's true in a way, there are more heavy-metal fonts in their show posters than there are extended guitar solos and amp-ripping distortion in their music. Not to say their music isn't any good—it is, in fact, awesome and crunchy and laden with sex the same way… More >>
  • Best Neo-Ska Band

    Chase Long Beach

    In the early-to-mid-'90s, ska was cool—record labels were signing ska bands, everyone knew the difference between two-tone and neo-ska, and Orange County was the place to be. Fast forward to 2010: While ska isn't as hip as chill wave, and the genre's fans aren't as rabidly hardcore as rockabilly fans, Chase Long Beach are still making ska music as if… More >>
  • Best Reason to Keep Coming Back to Downtown Fullerton

    Roman Alexander and the Robbery

    The past five years have seen a detonation of liquor licenses in downtown Fullerton, and with the urination, vomiting, fights and other alcohol-related niceties has come a similar proliferation of venues offering live music. On just about every night of the week, you can hear live, local bands at 10 venues downtown or on the periphery. And while there are… More >>
  • Brett Cain

    Best Really Tall Singer/Songwriter

    Brett Cain

    To say the 33-year-old Cain makes a strong first impression is like saying fire burns: He's 6 feet, 8 inches of solid mass that tips the scale near the 350-pound mark. So it's little wonder that when Cain enters a bar for the first time, people assume he's the bouncer, not the talent. But the instant he straps on his… More >>
  • Best Live Band

    The Colourist

    My, how time flies. Last year, we named the Colourist best new band. This year? Well, as we've seen them more times than we can count on our fingers, we'd say they're the stealthy crowd-drawing band of the year. No, there are no flashy pyrotechnics, incredible stage contortions or crazy Lady Gaga costumes when they go onstage. All guitarist Adam… More >>
  • Best Soon-to-be-Defunct Live Band

    Dusty Rhodes and the River Band

    Now that the accordion thrash/Meatloaf/Journey-esque stylings of Dusty Rhodes and the River Band are about to go bye-bye, thanks to front man Dustin Apodaca's bid for Anaheim City Council and guitarist Kyle Divine's growing family, it's best to celebrate what we'll miss about them. First, we'll miss watching their shows and feeling that we're part of a Sunday-morning evangelical cult.… More >>
  • Best Music Festival    

    Summer and Music

    The brainchild of Fingerprints record store owner Rand Foster and Justin Hectus, co-founder of Schooled in Song, Summer and Music is a series of 13 events. The shows are free and all-ages and promote local talent by literally taking them to the streets. Not only were the shows eclectic, genre-wise—spanning folk, jazz, pop, rockabilly and funk—but they also included such… More >>
  • Best Rock & Roll Reunion

    Something Corporate

    When alt-pop darlings Something Corporate broke up in 2004, no one believed it would last. There was, after all, major-label success, a whirlwind tour schedule and legions of teenage fans. Six years after parting ways, front man Andrew McMahon, guitarist Josh Partington, bassist Kevin Page and drummer Brian Ireland are older and wiser. McMahon and Page have married, and Partington… More >>
  • Best Rock & Roll Almost-Reunion

    Sublime With Rome

    In the 14 years since Sublime's lead singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose, this iconic ska/punk band from Long Beach released one platinum-selling album, a disc of remixes and rarities, a box set and various greatest-hits compilations, plus spawned more tribute bands than the Doors. Despite what you might think, Sublime With Rome is no Wrong Way, 40… More >>
  • Best Local Success Story Being Told in LA

    Local Natives

    Sure, Local Natives now live in Silver Lake and have press pundits claiming their Afro-folk-pop-guitar sound and three-part harmonies as the "new LA sound," but before SXSW and Coachella came calling, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Taylor Rice, Andy Hamm and Matt Frazier all lived in a communal house in Orange dubbed Gorilla Manor (which is also what they called their… More >>
  • Best Local Success Story Still Being Told in OC

    The Offspring

    Can you believe the Offspring still live in Orange County 25 years after they first formed, 16 years since the band were a household name with hits such as "Come Out and Play" and "Self Esteem"? Which illustrates two things: some places just breed punk misfits, and some of those places have really good school districts. In a July OC… More >>
  • Best Air Drummer

    That Thirtysomething Guy at the Rush Concert

    For whatever reason, that guy at the Rush Concert, along with 98 percent of the rest of the almost-exclusively-white-male audience at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, couldn't keep himself from channeling Neil Pert for three fucking hours, only stopping pretending to work his way around the skins during the most mind-blowing part of the Act 2 drum solo, when even he… More >>
  • Best Showstopper

    Honeypie's cover of "What Am I Living For?"

    It's probably the fault of the band name, but nearly every write-up of these Huntington Beach folk-poppers refers to singer Trisha Smith as "sweet." That's not wrong, and the band's songs certainly can be sugary, but when they pull out this cover of the 1950s Chuck Willis classic, the operative adjective becomes "powerful." Smith is little, but for a couple… More >>
  • Best Entertainment Empire

    Thuy Nga

    Sure, we've got Disney and Trinity Broadcasting Network. But no just-for-fun organization so thoroughly permeates the market it wants to permeate as the Little Saigon song-and-dance production studio Thuy Nga. Its Paris By Night variety-show DVDs are ubiquitous—ask your Vietnamese friends how many they were forced to sit through at family gatherings growing up—and its singers exalted. And you can… More >>
  • Best Record Label

    Fearless Records

    Fearless Records founder Bob Becker has been releasing punk/alt-rock out of the county since 1994 (the label has had offices in Westminster and Garden Grove and is now based in Huntington Harbour), but his reach goes well beyond the hem of the Orange Curtain. Despite the ailing music industry, Fearless keeps growing by focusing on teen-approved rock, enabling emo-starved high… More >>
  • Best Rock Radio Station


    KROQ's mainstream-tested testosterone rock cut with Pitchfork-approved indie, all arranged so as to keep the tempo swinging but not cloying: Why the hell isn't anyone else trying this formula? Sure, FM94/9 is based in San Diego, so it reaches only South County. And sure, it's commercially owned, so its promos are just as obnoxious and exTREEEEEME!-sounding as any other FM… More >>
  • Best Late-Night Radio Show

    A Midnight Anthem

    The world of midnight radio is full of autopilot DJs. Without the aid of an iPod, drivers run the risk of falling asleep to a prefabricated slosh of uninspired dance mixes and stale indie pop du jour on the FM dial. But if you'd rather stay awake at the wheel, we suggest listening to KUCI's A Midnight Anthem. Hosted by… More >>