At pretty much any local show he goes to, Bill Bennett is the tallest, quietest guy in the room. And while he rarely has a problem finding a good view during small shows, he also has a pretty good vantage point from which to observe the big picture of the local scene. As a longtime band-manager-turned-nonprofit-charity-leader, he has helped break more ground for OC bands than most people had CDs. Managing a cross section of bands aligning with folk, psych experimentation and ballsy rock riffs, Bennett began to stick out among the music community—and not just for his height. His early success within the music scene transitioned into a tailor-made (though very unexpected) new position as president of the national Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a charity dedicated to aiding musicians across the country who are either seriously ill or unable to work.
He was handpicked by his longtime friend and Sweet Relief founder Victoria Williams in 2008. Since then, Bennett has moved the hub of the charity to Orange County and puts on regular benefit shows at places such as the Lab in Costa Mesa that inspire new bands to get involved with local charities as part of their natural routine, encouraging musicians worthy of praise and support to give a little back to the people and making the word "humility" part of their lexicons.
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• "The House of Blues has been such an important part of the local scene, especially over the past three years. After we started having success with local shows there, a lot more started happening there—not just with me, but with it using other local promoters to put stuff in there. So now on any given month, you have four or five local shows there, sometimes even more. That's a great opportunity for any of these bands to get to play on a big stage, specifically one that's nationally known." 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583; www.houseofblues.com.
• "I think what's been done to the skeleton of the Galaxy Concert Theater is incredible—the sound is amazing, and [the new owners of The Observatory and the Constellation Room] are providing an experience level that's great for the bands and the people coming. Nothing's perfect, but I love the direction they're going in. They're making everyone else step up their game and take a look at their own businesses." 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com.
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• "I like the room at La Cave for the vibes it creates. You're not gonna get the best quality from a sound or experience perspective, but it feels good. It's a tight room in which it gets sweaty and hot, and you're there to have a good time—it's a good place to do that." 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944; www.lacaverestaurant.com.
• "The Crosby has a great vibe, and its very eclectic with its tastes, and most of what you're gonna see there, you're not going to see at a lot of other places." 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 543-3543; www.thisisthecrosby.com.
• Bennett's a big fan of the Orange County group The Devious Means. "Their energy is very positive, and they're all about community, and that's a huge thing for me." www.thedeviousmeans.com.
• "Railroad to Alaska sound different from pretty much everyone else in Orange County. They're metal, but they're not. You can't quite pigeonhole them, which makes it tough for them as to who to play with. They do shows with metal bands, and they've also done shows with Robert John and the Wreck and Jeramiah Red, and they both work—but it's not a perfect fit in either case, so it's the biggest plus and the biggest minus for them." railroadtoalaska.com.