That's Sprawl, Folks
OC Weekly's music editor bids farewell, bittersweetly
This is the final Sprawl of Sound column. I am departing Orange County and moving back to Seattle, from whence I came 16 months ago. I figured I stayed around here just long enough to annoy the hell out of many of you. Always leave 'em wanting more . . . or less, as the case may be.
Some of you may lament my rather quick exit and brief tenure at the Weekly, while others may be rejoicing and bellowing, "Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya."
Well, I tried. I tried to get into the OC mindset and explore its music scene, but after a year and a third, I came to the conclusion that things here are just not weird and edgy enough for my warped sensibilities. Or, perhaps more accurately, I'm too weird for OC's conventional soundscape. However you view it, OC and I are a bad match. But, you know, I hope we can still be friends. I'll call you—no, really.
Don't get me wrong: OC (and Long Beach—without LBC's sonic contributions, I wouldn't have lasted a year here) possesses several talented musicians, DJs, rappers and producers. It's just that there don't seem to be enough fans of these truly creative artists to support them, so almost inevitably, many of these talented folks move to LA or some other region that will better appreciate them.
After living in Detroit, Cleveland and Seattle, I became accustomed to being among scenesters who have a zest for unconventional music, people who value aural iconoclasts, wanton mavericks. These types are scarce in La Naranja—not that they would have much to champion in that regard, which brings to mind the proverbial chicken/egg conundrum. Consequently, I felt a chronic dissatisfaction with the musical fare on offer—both homegrown and touring acts. (With LA and San Diego so nearby, it's hard to blame the more adventurous bands for gigging there instead of in a county where few would give a damn about them.)
OC's a great place to see shows—if you like straightforward rock that hews to accepted classic-rock/punk/accessible indie-rock canons. If I had to pinpoint my biggest gripe with the rock groups here, I'd say that most of 'em just aren't psychedelic and strange enough for this music editor (admittedly an eccentric breed, but the point still holds). A low-impact pleasantness abounds among bands here, an amiable mediocrity; the status quo remains distinctly unscathed. Rare are the volatile freaks who induce a sense of danger or who exude a compelling instability. Ho-humdrum . . .
But I should've known better than to expect more from a milieu in which Social Distortion, No Doubt, Sublime and Cold War Kids reign as standard-bearers. I'm not saying those artists are bad; I'm simply noting that (woe is me) OC isn't as fecund an incubator of fucked-up sounds as Detroit or Seattle—or San Francisco, or New York, or Portland, or Chicago, etc. I moved here in March 2007 thinking that there had to be some amazing underground activity happening in Orange County, that it simply had yet to reach my radar. Well, I took my radar out four or five times a week for 16 months, and that awesome hive of musical activity I imagined in my most optimistic moments never materialized, although I hasten to add that I truly appreciate the bold rogue souls here who did cut against the prevalent OC grain. I knew the politics here tilted toward conservative; I didn't realize the musical environment would also be similarly inclined.
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As for electronic music, techno might as well have never existed 'round these parts. Instead, OC serves up a fairly predictable menu of electro, house, disco and hip-hop. I like all of those genres, but to give no love to techno seems like a grave shortcoming. Maybe I became spoiled from living in Detroit and Seattle, but I think any county—let alone any city—without a single night devoted to techno is a county that's culturally flawed.
But let's not end on an overly negative tone. Plenty of people brightened my stint here, and I hope I did them justice with my words. In no particular order, I want to thank the following music-makers and DJs for being extraordinary: Free the Robots (Phil Niscoand Chris Alfaro), Magic Lantern, Scotty Coats, Andrew Meza, Matt Castille, John Basil, Frederick Phases, Billgazer, DJ Oldboy, DJ Short Shorts, io, Father Beard, Dennis Owens, Robert Acosta, Veer Right Young Pastor, Crystal Antlers, Free Moral Agents, Jeremy Hall, DJ Adjective, Cocoe, Steelman, Schmuck, Kai, J. Pulaski, Sun Araw, Sparrow Love Crew, Sol-T, Bizarre Love Triangle crew, DJ TSC-1, Nobody/Blank Blue, 41Dub and Dirty Money. I'd name more, but my space (and time) are running out.
Now that I really think about it, it's not you, OC—it's me. No hard feelings?