Just how "anti" is Costa Mesa's "anti-mall" The Lab? Well, get this: Instead of celebrating Black Friday, the stores all have big sales the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And those sales are at night! Which is totally alternative to what the mainstream does, shopping in the morning and all.
And the sale, called Midnight Madness, comes with music. That's actually what brought me to the place Saturday night; only upon arrival did I learn the place had transformed into a strange shopping carnival.
KUCI 88.9 FM brought Locals-Only inductees Moostache and Rye Douglas Band to entertain a small crowd in the courtyard, composed partly of shoppers taking a break so that they didn't shop until they, well, dropped. I unfortunately only arrived in time to catch the last four songs of Rye Douglas Band's set. I'd use the excuse that I thought they'd play closer to midnight cuz of Midnight Madness and all, but I've already admitted that I had no idea any madness was taking place when I showed up a little before 10 p.m....
But the four songs I heard were pretty impressive, each one dynamic, hook-laden and a little dreamy. Where have we heard that combo of traits before? The quartet's sound suddenly made a lot of sense when the the band pulled out a sorta-muscled-up cover of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android." Rye Douglas Band is tapping into 90's era Yorke and co., which certainly isn't a bad thing for any band--as long as they're writing real songs. Luckily, they are; check "The Waiting" from the group's MySpace for proof.
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Also lucky: I (and you!) don't have to settle for just catching the tail end of their set. Rye Douglas Band is playing tonight and tomorrow night at Detroit Bar, and there's no cover charge either night. Tomorrow, they're opening for local dance-rockers Pop Noir in the last night of that group's residency (fun fact: the twin dudes from Pop Noir showed up at The Lab too... perhaps to pick out complementary vintage scarves from Buffalo Exchange??). Tuesday is a KUCI show. The setting for both, though, won't be as strange as the one Saturday night.
What do I mean? After Rye Douglas finished, curiosity--and, alright, a belief that I might be able to get a pair of jeans or something on the cheap--brought me to Urban Outfitters. Christ, the place was a war zone. The checkout line snaked through the store, seemingly hitting every corner. The shoe section was as barren as the Target costume aisle the night before Halloween (which I experienced this year; proof here). Pants were strewn upon pants were strewn upon pants. You could sense blood in the air as dudes in identically thick plastic glasses pawed through the marked-down jackets.
And so I left. And when I did, I saw some joy in the courtyard. The Rye Oak spectators had become dancers, pogo-ing and swinging to the sound of "Shout!" as spun by the tireless DJ Old Boy, who had also been booked by KUCI.
So while I'll continue to make fun of the idea that an anti-mall can label itself as such and still be an anti-mall, I've got to hand it to The Lab. The place has hit on a good formula for alt-Black Friday: retail finally meets revelry.