Hey! I'm OC Weekly's new clubs editor! You may remember me as the guy who hung out with that one birther lady, but forget about that. I'm here for the drinks now.
Thus far, this job has pretty much consisted of me revisiting the places I went during childhood, but getting drunk at them. Yeah, I grew up in south OC. I didn't imbibe until I was 18, and that was at far-away college land. I didn't "club" in OC till... a week ago? Something like that.
So I'll occasionally be blogging about my post-graduate education in OC nightlife. Here we go. First middle-school hang-out boozed-up redux? The Kaleidoscope Center in Mission Viejo.
Last Tuesday, a friend who actually is cool and knows what people in Orange County do for fun (besides staying at home at watching Top Chef) took me out to The Derby Deli and Dueling Piano Bar in Mission Viejo. You are, as I once was, thinking the following things about why that sounds like a terrible idea:
1. "Deli." No one drinks at a deli, and even if they did, the only good OC delis are the Korean ones.
2. "Piano bar." Really? Billy Joel all night?
3. "Mission Viejo." Last time I wrote about Mission Viejo, it was to detail all the ways that middle-aged republicans were getting mad at one another for maybe sorta thinking about putting an old-folks home on a golf course.
4. "The Kaleidoscope." This is a big one. The Kaleidoscope is that awful, huge, turquoise-colored outdoor mall off the 5 Freeway. The one with the flower-shaped roof that lights up. The one that seems to have a near 50% vacancy rate. The one that's been overrun by rowdy preteens there to take advantage of the frozen yogurt, movie theater, laser tag, skate shop, and the rows and rows of Xbox 360s at Howie's Game Shack. A digression about Howie's: A few of my good friends in high school scored their first jobs working at Howie's. This was, at the time, pretty awesome-seeming. We all loved vidja-games, so what could be better than getting paid to hang out at the joint where hundreds of kids could get together for shoot-em-ups till 2 a.m.? Turns out, Howie's wasn't awesome. Howie's became a vision of hell: tweens and teens dropped off in the dozens by their parents for a night of sitting in huge, cushy black chairs, drinking Monster and shouting profanities at one another while staring straight at the screen in front of them. Quickly, this destroyed our love for Xbox, Nintendo, energy drinks, television, interactivity, technology, anyone under the age of 15 and the basic concept of fun.
So it was a pretty exciting that the Derby ended up being a party.
By the time we showed up at 11 p.m., a line stretched a few-dozen people into the Kaleidoscope courtyard. Surprising, right? The nice thing is that the Derby's main room spills out onto the sidewalk, with only a low fence -- and fat bouncers nearby -- separating those outside from those in. So while we waited, we saw what we were in for: a packed room with two pianos making like a rock band, complete with drum kit. We even got to see a Michael Jackson impersonator leap on top of the pianos for a pretty sweet dance-along to a muscular rendition of "Smooth Criminal."
Cover ended up being $5, though the girl who took our money apologized that they had just started charging. It wasn't clear whether she meant "as a policy, we decided to start charging and will from now on," or "we decided to take advantage of our crowd on this one night." Once inside, you've got two options: head to the chill lounge in the pack, or truck on to the main room. You know, the one with the pianos.
Like I said, the place was crowded. Took a while to thread through the people, the tables, the pianos and up to the bar. Tuesday is $2 Corona night, so that was the drink of choice for most Derby-goers. But they've also got these humongous mugs -- I dunno, 30 ounces or something -- which they'll happily fill up with draft beer. Prices seemed on par with south-county bars; once I tired of Coronas, a Jack and Coke cost me $7.
Alright, so: dueling pianos. Like mentioned before, with a drummer they sound a lot like a rock band. The two guys who play are pros -- both at playing and making money. You fill out a request sheet and you write down how much of a tip you're leaving. The greater the tip, the more likely they are to play it. At least, that's what they said. You kind of got the feeling that they'd play whatever you wanted, as long as it was well-liked bar-band song. You know... "Footloose." "Don't Stop Believing." "Closer." (So provocative!). It's cheesy stuff, but it's almost like the inherent cheesiness of dueling pianos creates a vortex of cheesiness that spits out legit coolness. It's physics; don't ask me how it works, just believe me when I say people were dancing and karaoke-ing and getting up on the pianos and generally having a good time.
In conclusion, Tuesday nights at the Derby in Mission Viejo, what with he cheap Mexican beer and the good-natured piano jamming and the surprisingly non-cougar south county bros and bros-ette crowd, ends up being fun. Perhaps even more fun than Xbox!
The Derby Deli & Dueling Piano Bar
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Happy hour Mon thru Fri, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.: $2 domestic drafts, $3 import drafts, 1/2 off appetizers, $5 well and house wines.
Monday: All-night happy hour
Tuesday: $2 Coronas
Sunday: Service Industry Night