Hey guys, our Best of OC 2014 Issue is out today! The moment you've all been waiting for. In the spirit of cheerleading for our weird little corner of the world, we've broken down a list of the best rockers, rappers, DJs and singers, etc. that we have to offer. The following winners are broken up by genre:
Best New Band Tapioca and the Flea To appreciate the recent rise of Tapioca and the Flea is to recognize the power of persistence and dedication to the idea that a bedroom project is always just a song or two away from blowing up. For Samuel Jacob-Lopez Jr., the lead vocalist and brainchild of the OC-bred outfit, tinkering with electronic music in between gigs as a hired gun for gritty garage bands was something he'd seen as a spare-time outlet with no intention of gaining an audience. Fast forward a few years, and songs such as "Mellotron" and "Home" are being blasted over the airwaves and getting clicked on like crazy. As they continue to do big things with their electro-rock hybrid, best believe we'll be watching.
Best Club DJ Bb Guns Inciting a club crowd seems doable for any DJ with marginal chops. But Brandon Rillera (a.k.a. Bb Guns) insists that drawing people onto the dance floor requires a diverse style and skill set that many "microwave DJs," heavily dependent on the glow of their Serato software, don't practice. Rillera continues to be one of the busiest DJs in OC and always a familiar face at Sutra's Social Sundays dance night. His knowledge of hip-hop, EDM and underground music makes this man a must-see at any point on your weekend voyage into clubland. Readers' Choice: Dangerhouse
Best DJ Slander It still seems odd that some of the grittiest trapstyle beats could come from good ol' Newport Beach. But DJ duo Slander have spent the past year making club rats fiend for their hip-hop, 808 cranking EDM like fiends on the dance floor. Derek Andersen and Scott Land might've gotten their start playing house music, but it was trapstyle that launched the pair into a new stratosphere. They started by turning heads as opening acts for such renowned DJs as Dillon Francis and Madeon. Now they're a full-fledged festival act, garnering slots on big stages at events such as Nocturnal Wonderland. At this point, anyone who says this pair of beat jockeys isn't legit is just being, well, slanderous.
Best YouTube Stars Well Hung Heart (Made In 48) Summoning creativity at the drop of a hat can be the bane of every artist's existence. But imagine giving yourself 48 hours to write and record a song, then produce an awesome music video for it. It's the sort of rush that drives Robin Davey and Greta Valenti of pile-driving riff rock band Well Hung Heart. In their YouTube series Made In 48, each episode focuses on the husband-and-wife team taking another band's song and turning it into a fully polished product from scratch. Well Hung Heart may have earned their stripes by winning Best Live Band at this year's OC Music Awards, but they also deserve a spotlight for their chops as producers; all the webisodes are released via their grassroots company GROWvision. Best of all, the web series offers a raw, entertaining look at the caffeine-fueled insanity that inspires this duo. Way to make the rest of us look lazy, guys.
Best Rock Band The Offspring Prodigal sons the Offspring visited the Pacific Amphitheater during their latest tour in July, reminding everyone they're OC's eternal Merry Pranksters. It has been 20 years since Smash came out, and they're still on the road, spreading their odes to suburbia to new generations of fans. Their pop-punk pioneerdom status isn't in question; rather, they're established as virtuosos of their craft. They've got some new stuff in the works, too, so keep an eye out--and buy some of front man Dexter Holland's Gringo Bandito! Readers' Choice: Flashback Heart Attack
Best House Show Pedestrian Pedestrian write music for the two-car garage, the $2 entrance fee, the "my parents are out of town for the weekend." It's counterintuitive. You go to a house show for the sloppy thrash, the loose slam pit--not Pedestrian's brooding brand of emo revivalism. Wrong. In fact, nothing soundtracks a tight space like the peaks and lulls, the steady progression and triumphant climax of a song such as "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." You still have all the fixin's of a DIY show--the sweat, the slam, the crowdsurfing that functions akin to a piggy-back ride. And you have more: layers of reverb, life-affirming climaxes, sing-along choruses (the slow build of "Coach Paul" winds down into a massive group chant). These guys have begun self-booking tours up and down California, back and forth along the Southwest. Catch them in your buddy's garage while you still can.
Best Hip-Hop Act Sage One Costa Mesa-based rapper Sage One is a wise guy on the mic. Armed with clever wordplay, depth and a dynamic flow, the 21-year-old Sage One, whose government name is Ethen Jimenez, exudes enthusiasm and aspires to be the voice of a new generation. His lyrical prowess is evident on The Summertime EP and his follow-up full-length debut, Similar Soulz. Sage One teamed up with fellow rappers Hands, Gremlin and Rock-Oh to form the Wise Owls, but the MC is gearing up for more solo hustle in support of his latest, Oldies But Goodies Collection, a mix of doo-wop and boom bap! And backed by Deejay Lala, his live shows are spirited. Though his new music dabbles in the past, it's easy to see that hip-hop is the future of Juice County, with Sage One its youthful guide. Readers' Choice: c4mula
Best Latin Alternative Band Signa Who says rock en español is dead? Signa, a Costa Mesa foursome, resurrect the genre with every riff-rocking song. Lead singer Beto Gudiño's soaring vocals are among the best in the county in any language. The group took a giant step forward by releasing Temporales and scored a coup by landing the production assistance of César "Vampiro" López. All rockeros know Vampiro, guitar god for Maná and Jaguares. As a producer, he honed in on Signa's strengths. The finished product is a polished mix of clean tone melodies and crunching choruses. Signa's sound isn't a reproduction of Vampiro's old bands, but rather a progression into a new era of rocanrol. We only wish the old JC Fandango Anaheim nightclub never left so that Signa could rightfully grace its stage as did a great many other bands before them!
See also: The Top 15 Orange County Dive Bars
Best Indie Band Palm Reader This post-punk band from Anaheim can't read what the head or heart line on the palm of your hand says, but they can make songs that are pleasurable for both your head and your heart to listen to. Palm Reader have only released one album, a cassette titled Unlucky on LA-based Big Joy records, but the trio's name is already being uttered by people who flock to see them play, both in Orange County and Los Angeles. Their lo-fi garage rock is energetic and easy to dance to, as are their harder, louder punk jams, which they play with a crazed frenzy. You don't have to be a fortune teller to know they're on their way to bigger and better things. Readers' Choice: Hank and Her Ponies
Best Early-2000s Adult Alternative Cover Band Thrashcan Remember Chumbawumba and how they got down, and then got back up again, and how you're never going to keep them down? Thrashcan remembers, and they're doing their best to make sure you never forget. They cover the best of the worst from the best-worst era: late '90s/early 2000s. They closed out a set at Archie's Ice Cream with a cover of "Livin la Vida Loca"--making it almost kind of good. Front man Char Smith owns the stage as though Spicoli at prom, donning the Thrashcan uniform--oversize jerseys and booty shorts. It's comedy you can fist pump to, one of those rare events at which you can laugh and dance.
Best Punk Band Social Distortion For the past half a dozen years, it seems as though every time we have a readers' poll that asks for your fave punk band, you guys (and we assume a few girls) say Social D. So we're beating you to the punch.
Readers' Choice: Bristol to Memory
Best Folk Act Bearcoon Solange Igoa and Andrea Walker first performed together one fateful open mic in Long Beach in 2012, with Walker on guitar and Igoa on vocals. The minimalist approach to their musical collaboration obviously resonated with audiences, and the two would go on to perform as Bearcoon. Walker's skillful guitar (and, at times, banjo) playing complements Igoa's soft vocals, but the rich tapestry of their music carries within layers of sadness. Some of Bearcoon's lyrics evoke feelings of loss, in part inspired by Walker's mother passing away, conveying a sound that dives deep into the human condition. The aural landscape of their folk, hillbilly and blues music hints at a world of beauty.
Best Live Band The Garden Twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears (bass and drums, respectively) have four instruments onstage. That is, if you count their bodies, which they often use as instruments of destruction, whether they're diving into crowds, fistfighting each other, or growling and convulsing like a band possessed. And as the Garden's haunting, garage-punk playing improves, the fun-spirited fury they conjure up with songs such as "Energy Yelp," "Grass" and "Vada Vada" will only intensify. When they're onstage, there's no time to bask in the glow of being the next big act out of OC. Even the fact the beanpole twosome are both part-time models contracted for campaigns with fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent (seriously!) doesn't seem to go to their heads. None of the outside attention from the world stage matters as much as the one they're on at the moment--the one they're intent on destroying. At a Garden show, you never know what's going to happen. All we know is they want to grab you by the collar and drag you into the moment (and the mosh pit) right along with them.
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Readers' Choice: Flashback Heart Attack
Best Street Musician The Canyon Drummer Once your car sweeps across the hot pavement on Santiago Canyon Road, past the 241, there's not much to see except oak trees and hills that look devastatingly parched. It goes on that way for miles. The one thing you don't expect, and it happens so fast, is to whiz past a young man playing drums along the street. On a fairly consistent basis, the dude sets up his entire kit roadside in the dust, and he doesn't just play--he jams the fuck out. He has headphones on, and it looks as if he's just chosen a dirt-cheap rehearsal spot. Whatever you're doing out there, Canyon Drummer, it's working because your chops sound great.