10 Signs You Grew up as a Musician in Orange County
Let's be real: growing up as a musician in Orange County can be a tough gig. Even though Orange County is home to some amazing bands, musicians, and artists from multiple genres and styles, in some scenes repping the ol’ 714,949 (and let's not forget 562 or 657) can discredit your music due to the ridiculous assumptions some have about our experiences. But despite out of town ignorance, noise-hating neighbors, city rules that are inhospitable to the arts, pay-to-play shows, and some of the gnarliest traffic this side of the world has to offer, OC musicians power through. In my experience, being from OC is a beautiful and misunderstood thing, and if you grew up in Orange County playing music, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Here are 10 signs you probably grew up a musician in Orange County.
1. You have sold 50 or more tickets to play a show to 15 people.
Ah, the memories of adolescence. Not a care in the world, except how the hell am I supposed sell 50-100 tickets for a mixed bill on a Tuesday at 6 p.m.?! Perilous Orange County pay-to-play shows aren’t solely reserved for high school metal bands, it’s a full fledged business and reality for working bands across ages, genres, and locations. From rock and country shows at South County’s Coach House to the emo and pop-punk at the Alley in Fullerton (RIP), if your band has wedged a foot on a bill with a headliner anywhere in the county in the last 15 years, you had to pay to get there. Hell, someone once roped a former band of mine into selling tickets to play a seafood restaurant that went under before the show even happened. Extra brownie points to bands who hustled hard to sell tickets for the very coveted 2nd spot, only to be oversold by rich kids from South County who clearly just bought them or sold them to their mom, subsequently bumping you right back to opener. Extra EXTRA realness points if you sold the tickets at the wrong price and ended up having to shell out even more money on each of the 200 tickets you sold for that opening slot on a punk show at the Galaxy Concert Theater (now the Observatory).
“Hey! I’m almost there… Yeah the Fast-track ticket is probably cheaper than the price I’ll pay for missing the set.”
2. You know Southern California back streets and freeways like the back of your hand.
Waze doesn’t have shit on you. Chances are you impress (and scare) nearly anyone brave enough to fare the highways and byways of SoCal with you as captain. From hauling ass up the 5 to LA on a Friday night, to navigating the treacherous 91 freeway to Mission Tobacco Lounge, to getting from your grandma’s house to the Continental Room in less than 30 minutes, the OC Musician has known every secret route in town long before Google Maps thrust a bunch of rush hour drivers into our way. Passersby envy your ability to confidently double-park in Downtown Santa Ana, unload gear, and still manage to find a free parking spot that hasn’t been commandeered by Downtown Inc. Just don’t try and put us on the 73 freeway, ok?
“Yeah we’ve got a gig in Long Beach, so things are getting pretty serious you know.”
3. You get excited to play anywhere outside of Orange County.
Being a band from behind the Orange Curtain means your chances of being taken seriously are pretty slim the minute you cross county lines. Often, bands and artists treat being from Orange County as a dirty little secret, opting to rep ‘So Cal,’ or facetiously rep LA or (gasp!) Long Beach online to gain validation from out of towners. So when a band or promoter from out of town actually invites you to play anywhere outside of Orange County, it’s a moment to relish in for those of us who embrace our Orange County roots. Nevermind the times LA, So Cal, or even San Diego have misrepresented your hometown on a flyer for an out of town show, you are just stoked to be on the bill.
The look you get when you tell your #1 fan that your band doesn't go on until midnight.
4. You cut your teeth on shitty weekday bar shows with a mixed bill featuring 6 or more bands.
When I say shitty I’m not talking about the bars, because they are backbone and the lifeblood of any new or working band trying to get better and build a following. By shitty I mean your prog rock band is wedged between two crust bands, a singer songwriter, a dude with a 7-string guitar and a loop pedal, and a goddamn cover band that somehow managed to think Shinedown, Bob Marley, and Sheryl Crow would all work in the same set. Alone or in similar company these forms of musical expression are great, but together they are a recipe for disaster. Chances are you have played your share of midnight sets on this line up to the tired bartender who ran out of fucks to give, hardly letting a “cool set bro” pass through their lips. Now that you’ve grown and your band has a following, you shudder at the prospect of having to return to this reality, but will happily support the local scene for one or two bands when you’re lucky enough to score a late shift at work the following day.
5. The police have shut down a practice or a show, even at a legit venue.
There is only one thing police in Orange County hate more than criticism, and that’s live music. Don’t underestimate their ability to sniff it out, and if they don’t find you making a ruckus on their own, one of your neighbors will gladly lend a helping hand by turning you in for practicing that last "Smells Like Teen Spirit" riff five minutes too long. Kids and adults from Lake Forest to Buena Park shiver at the thought of turning that Fender Rumble 15 up past 3, if not from past PD experience then from Orange County mythology of receiving tickets or even worse: eviction. House parties are basically a race against the clock, with the most coveted time slot being the earliest possible. Its not just private residences who fall victim to this Orange County curse, the police have been known to show up to actual bars and venues and shut down entire shows, invoking noise complaints or permit restrictions. When you have cool neighbors (like me...thank you, neighbors!) who don’t call the police on you (anymore), your faith in humanity is restored, you want to dance in the streets, thank them all, and send each of their beautiful faces an edible arrangement: but then you remember you’re broke because you are a musician living in Orange County and go back to awkwardly waving hello while moving your car for street sweeper.
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