As we sit back in the waning days of December and sift through all our old ticket stubs, it's impossible not to get a little sentimental about 2013. OC concert goers definitely had their fill of great gigs, from the arena-fillers at the Honda Center to the barn burners at the Observatory. We've been spoiled, yet again, by the talent that breezes through here and even more so by some of our music scene's up-and-comers and amp shredding veterans. Pardon us if some of our memories are a little hazy from all the tailgating, but we did what we could to whittle down our year's worth of reviews to a select group of shows worthy to be called the 13 Best Concerts of 2013. Click the titles to read the full reviews.
See also: The Best OC Musicians, By Genre
13. Molotov - The Observatory - Aug. 11 When Molotov takes the stage, the excitement in the crowd is unlike anything I've ever experienced at a concert. My generation (Gen-X) and my demographic (hipster) tend to approach concerts, even amazing concerts, with a cavalier attitude like, "Yeah, this is good, but don't expect me to SHOW that I like it." The Molotov crowd have no such hang-ups. They express their utter elation about seeing and hearing this band loudly and passionately. I feel frustrated because I don't speak Spanish, but at some deep-down level, I get it. I know this is important, I feel it, and while I can't articulate exactly what the band is singing, I know it matters. It matters to these hundreds of people, and it somehow matters to me too. (Jesse La Tour)
As he stood underneath the glaring spotlight on the massive stage at the Segerstrom Hall for the Arts for the 2nd annual Off Center Festival, Reggie Watts was instantly struck by the size and grandeur of the nearly 2,000-seat capacity concert hall, one befitting of it's illustrious founder...Bob Seger. Well, that's how Watt's described it anyway after walking onstage to a fiery applause from a decent crowd of giggly twentysomethings. Many of them, like us, had been smiling as they walked up to one of OC's classiest venues to see a man who's coined such trademark songs as "Fuck Shit Stack" and "What About Blowjobs." (Nate Jackson) See also: The Best Places to See a Show in OC
The mostly-teenage flock accompanied by their rap-weary parent at the Observatory for the CHOC Cancer benefit headlined by Phora had the opportunity to do a few cool things this past Friday night. On top of donating money for the saintliest of causes, the crowd--predominated by young Latinas who drag the last syllable of their sentences on forever--watched Phora step another wrung up on the music industry ladder. Also, in lieu of the several house parties that left cops throughout OC with little to do on the Friday night, the approximately 2,000 heads in attendance came together in the name of local culture to support a burgeoning click of local artists. (Nick Nukem)
10. Gary Clark Jr. - House of Blues - Sep. 29 The 29-year-old guitar player has made a name for himself since the release of his self-titled 2010 debut, showcasing his talents alongside greats like B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones in the years that followed (not to mention numerous festival appearances, including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, and Coachella and even a special White House event, Red, White and Blues, in February of last year). The guy's got a gift, no doubt about it, and though his recordings sound quite reminiscent of another 21st Century blues troubadour (read: Dan Auerbach), Clark, Jr.'s no copycat. In fact he's been doing this since he was 12 years-old, and those 17 years of practice shined last night. (Katrina Nattress)
See also: The Top 15 OC Dive Bars
9. Burgerama - The Observatory - Mar. 22 Burgerama turned The Observatory turned into many things--a giant house party, a BBQ, perhaps even an old-fashioned kegger. For the sake of Burger Records, we'll just compare this to another independent event: Factory Records parties of the late '70s in Manchester. The crowd, with the average age being no older than 19, snowballed into a huge punk rock party, with Burger Records and their cavalcade of bands from OC and beyond. Think Dazed and Confused , but instead of the partying point being the water tower, it was a venue in a Santa Ana business park. (Daniel Kohn)
8. Quicksand - Glass House - Jan. 23 Quicksand got down to business from the start and never released their tight grip on the audience. Sergio Vega pounded his bass for the opening notes of "Omission" as Walter Schreifels and Tom Capone added their detuned crunchy guitars to the mix with members of the audience chanting out the lyrics. Head banging ensued with the screaming harmonics and thunderous rapture of "Unfulfilled" as Alan Cage pummeled his drum kit as if he hadn't aged a bit in the past fifteen years. (Andrew Youssef)
7. GWAR - The Observatory - Oct. 17 The Observatory had no shortage of young newbies last night, as a packed crowd showered rabid praise on Oderus Urungus and his band of demigod alien rockers from various planets. Of course, the band wasted little time returning fire with cock cannons, torn limbs and acid-tongued demon trolls filled with red and blue bodily fluids. Yeah, fuck your shirt...and your pants, bro. (Nate Jackson)
6. Kanye West - Honda Center - Dec. 15 From the beginning, the religious overtones of Kanye West's new album Yeezus were amplified even more by the presence of a giant mountain at the center of the main stage and a couple cameos from a bearded, white Jesus. Ye's frustration on the album about the media's portrayal of him was read loud and clear by his decision to cover his face with one sparkly Luchador-looking mask after the other for almost the entire show. Well, that and his long-winded rant in the middle of the set that lasted well over 10 minutes, in which he compared himself to everyone from Walt Disney to Michelangelo. And whether you felt empowered or awkward listening to "New Slaves," going to see it performed live probably only solidified those feelings for you as Kanye balanced on the tip of a wobbly elevating stage hovering in the center of a standing crowd. Add in a group of 12 semi-nude back up performers, some fire balls, fake snow and a cadre of old hits that we know and love, and you end up with an amazingly head scratching show. (Nate Jackson)
5. Prince - City National Grove of Anaheim - May 7 Sporting a cropped afro, tight black and white turtleneck, black spandex and high heels, his slightly altered look this time around was indicative of the increased rock flavor added to his sound. Prince's current tour is a throwback to how things were done at the onset of live club shows. There was an early show at 8 p.m. and a late one at 11:30 p.m. Fans who ponied up the $200-plus for the show definitely didn't sound disappointed, especially with reworked versions of hits like set opener "Let's Go Crazy" and "Little Red Corvette." The set was full of newer, lesser-known tracks along with some hits from across hit catalog.
4. Ink N Iron Day 3 - Queen Mary - Jun. 9 From the onset, it was clear that the legendary skate punk band (comprised of vocalist/bass player Fat Mike, guitarists Eric Melvin and El Jefe, and drummer Eric Sandin) didn't give a fuck who was offended with their foul-mouthed diatribes or satirical songs. It was good old fashioned 90s punk set of fast, up beat, energetic and semi melodic songs. The band also mixed in a bit of old-school 80s hardcore punk, skate punk, and even hints of surf rock and ska that NOFX is known for. The band pulverized through a set of hits ranging from songs off albums like Punk in Drublic, White Trash Two Heebs and a Bean, Heavy Petting Zoo, to more recent offerings such as 2009's Coaster or last year's Self Entitled. (Alex Distefano)
3. Black Sabbath - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre - Aug. 28 Black Sabbath's monumental sound stretched all across the venue from the first row to the far corners of the lawn, all packed with fans squished together like sardines. From the onset of their two hour set, classic songs like 'War Pigs,' 'Behind the Wall of Sleep,' 'Snowblind,' 'N.I.B.' and many more hits both from older classic albums and more recent songs including the hit single, 'God is Dead,' from the new album, 13. Fan favorites included 'Under the Sun/Everyday Just Comes and Goes,' and a very haunting rendition of the classic song 'Black Sabbath,' from the 1970 debut self-titled album." This is one that goes back to the very beginning," Ozzy yelled to the crowd. Ozzy's vocals (for this song in particular) sounded amazing. (Alex Distefano)
2. Drake - Honda Center - Nov. 21 Whether she knew it or not, the blonde Newport Beach cougar that Drake brought onstage last night at the Honda Center had an important role to play in his quest to prove his status as the Millennial Elvis.Toward the middle of the Canadian rapper's set, she appeared onstage following his request to find a "mature woman" in the audience. We hesitate to take a stab at guessing her age, but if it helps you out, her name was Virginia.
The audience erupted in cheers as they took in the image of this quintessential OC soccer mom in a suede jacket, jeans and a turtle neck being turned into an elated teenage girl by Drizzy's soft coos on the outro of the inescapable summer jam "Hold On, We're Going Home." It was one of many conceits that describe just how ubiquitous his role in pop culture has become. After all, you're not really famous until you can turn the mothers of your core fans into groupies. (Nate Jackson)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. The Who- Honda Center - Jan. 28 The show served as the first night of the second leg of the Quadrophenia and More tour. If fans came in expecting to hear The Who of the Super Bowl, then there were in for a pleasant surprise. Backed by a large screen and three smaller ones raised above the stage, Daltrey, Townshend and their impressive backing musicians not only sounded crisp, but over two-and-a-half hours proved yet again why they're one of the most important bands in rock history. Townshend's guitar tone sounded as rich and impressive as his salad days, while Daltrey was able to hit 75 percent of the high notes. Considering where they were three years ago, and how difficult Quadrophenia is to play with all of it's complex parts, the band was on-point and played with the vigor and urgency of an outfit half their age. There were tributes to fallen bandmates John Entwistle (projected on screen playing a thunderous bass solo during "5:15") and Keith Moon (during "Bell Boy") but both didn't seem forced or hokey during the scope of the show. (Daniel Kohn)