Dr. Freecloud's Mixing Lab, one of Orange County's most beloved DJ culture record outlets, moved its turntables and its obscure house records from the hipster bliss of the Lab "anti-mall" in Costa Mesa to the determinedly unhip locale of Fountain Valley last month. The move means that, for the first time in its 11-year history, the Lab, which prided itself on a quixotic quest to make consumerism cool, does not count one record store among its slick tenants. In its place, clothing store Black & Blue parked its premium denims and its cutting-edge sportswear where Freecloud's house of wax used to be.
Lab owner Shaheen Sadeghi and Dr. Freecloud's owner Ron D Core mutually agreed to let the record store out of its lease, according to both parties. Sadeghi, once landlord to retailers Tower Records and Music X, says it's getting harder to keep music retailers in malls. Selling records just doesn't pay.
"The music industry went through hell in the last eight years," Sadeghi says. Fierce competition from gargantuan big box retailers such as Best Buy to alleged competition from the Internet turned the always-tough gig of selling music into something positively hair-raising.
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But tougher still is Sadeghi's commitment to getting music back into the Lab. It's got to be somebody whose musical tastes are offbeat and cutting edge, yet somebody who also can earn balance sheets that would please Wall Street. That disqualifies 99.9 percent of the music retailers out there, but Sadeghi says he's not running a nonprofit—he's competing with powerhouse malls like South Coast Plaza and the Irvine Spectrum for the hearts, minds and wallets of OC.
"Music boutiques are a changing category," Sadeghi said. "They're small and undercapitalized. If I can't do it correct, I'd rather not do it, because at our size, we have no room for mediocrity. Every inch of this place must count." The Lab's 14 retailers sit on a modest 3.5 acres.
Meanwhile, Core—whose moniker during the glory days of rave was "the West Coast hardcore pervert"—is getting used to his new, unhip hood. With the exception of an anime store that sells Japanese pop music, he has little competition, but he's facing a new nemesis—an adjacent dance studio filled with Britney Spears wannabes. "They're louder than we are," Core says. "It's the first time I've ever been upstaged with music."
Dr. Freecloud's Mixing Lab celebrates its grand opening with DJ sets from Ron D Core, Kookane and Dave Tech, 18960 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 962-9787. Sat., May 21, 6-10 P.M.; www.drfreeclouds.com. Free. All ages.