Zany, wacky, ska-rooted (though they rock harder now) Reel Big Fish
elevate self-deprecation to an art form, thanks to a malcontent lead singer in Aaron Barrett,
who beats you to the punch with peppy lyrics like "I'll never be anything, anything at all." He lays down these anti-What Color is Your Parachute?
salvos over bright horns and zippy uptempo rhythms, which just add to the dark humor of it all. But if Barrett's insecurities are a grease fire, then fame--or the prospect of--is the water that spreads that shit around. More than two decades into their career, the band is regarded are more than just a popular band with horns, they're a touchstone of the hodgepodge of alt-rock culture specific to OC-- loud, sunny, sarcastic and ever-changing.
13. RX Bandits
By the time they took an official hiatus in 2011, the RX Bandits
were almost unrecognizable to the average fan who lapped up their quirky, horn-happy ska-punk in the mid '90s. Tracing a stylistic evolution that dates back to their 2001 effort Progress,
you can hear a more sophisticated ployrhythmic version of the band (formerly the Pharmaceutical Bandits
) taking shape with several line-up changes and a decade of experience behind them. Over several more albums, the sun-baked soul of vocalist/guitarist Matt Embree
aligned more with Sam Cooke
and Nina Simone
than it did with No Doubt
or Reel Big Fish
. Though the eventual departure of sax player Steve Borth
and trombonist Chris Sheets
was a major hit to the band, it also pushed them to finally, once and for all drive a nail into the coffin of their ska band label. Musically, guitarist Steve Choi
, bassist Joe Troy
and drummer Chris Tsagakis
rocketed off to an entirely different proggy planet, where reggae, salsa and cerebral punk riffs intertwined to create an identity that was as effectively reinvented and re-invigorating as any band could hope for. Reemerging this year with a handful of shows in Brazil
, were hopeful that one day the bandits will ride again on a full-time basis.
12. Cold War Kids
A lot of the praise (and blame) for the current state of indie rock can be traced back to bands like the Cold War Kids
. In effect, the explosion of the Fullerton
-bred quartet (who wound up leaving us for Long Beach
) was a bi-product of what we'll call the Garden State era
of indie rock--bands ushered in by a Zack Braff
film that, for one reason or another, basically helped kickstart our modern love affair with all things folky, depressing and old-sounding (face it folks, without bands like these, Instagram
wouldn't exist). Watching them develop in tiny concert dens like Plush Cafe
(R.I.P.), even we couldn't have predicted how big they'd get on the heels of their 2006 debut Robbers and Cowards
. We guarantee you that even half a decade and two albums later, there is a generation of hipster bands who still hold that songs like "Hospital Beds" and "We Used to Vacation" close to their flannel-covered hearts.
11. Righteous Brothers
Anaheim High School
has quite a few luminaries on its Alumni list: Tony Kanal
, Reuben Droughns
, and some editor of an infernal weekly. Oh, yeah, and Bobby Hatfield
-- one half of The Righteous Brothers
. The duo that epitomized blue-eyed soul have rightfully earned their spot on this list with classics that could easily be the sound track to that transitional and transforming decade that was the '60s. After meeting at Cal State Long Beach
, Hatfield and Bill Medley
went on to become a musical power duo with hits such as "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," now a staple of every karaoke bar in America (thanks,Top Gun
!). And of course, lest we forget, "Unchained Melody"-- whose appearance on the 1990 movie Ghost
catapulted it to the Top 40 charts some 25 years later. They parted ways after three years of recording together, but Medley later went on to collaborate with Jennifer Warnes
for the (I've Had) The Time of My Life duet for the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing
, making The Righteous Brothers the OC group with the most hit songs on movie soundtracks.
10. Avenged Sevenfold
This Huntington Beach
four-piece occupy a weird space in the annals of OC metal, or metalcore, whatever you want to call it. Despite being rejected by the majority of old-school metal fans (i.e. anyone with a sleeveless denim jacket, a Napalm Death
concert stub and tattoos older than you), Avenged Sevenfold
have one of the most rabid young fan bases in the game. Coming up alongside the brutal shredding of colleagues like Eighteen Visions
, the band dubbed A7X
were one of the first bands to really embrace a more glammed-out '80s resurgence of noodling guitar riffs, guy-liner, and a ghoulish identity that had a touch more humor than the blood-splattering, gut ripping aesthetic perfected by metal bands of old. You could say they've become the official bro band of their home city, but then again a lot of those lifted truck jockeys don't appreciate just how musically proficient these guys are. Despite the untimely death of drummer James "The Rev" Sullivan
, vocalist Matthew "M.Shadows" Sanders
and company have persevered. To date, they've sold more than 4 million albums worldwide. What can we say, obviously someone's diggin' it.
For all of us who came of age in the '90s, Sublime
offered us that rare musical common ground with our peers -- there was something for the stoners, the hip-hop kids, the punks, the preps, and the kids who didn't identify with any of it. Sublime brought people together, so in turn they became the soundtrack to the keg parties, smoke sessions, road trips, and workouts of our youth. It was extraordinarily important music for us back then, and still is today for generations reaching party age.The band captures the tough-guy whimsy of the place --punk-rock aggression and a crass sense of humor, juxtaposed against the sun-and-surf reggae vibe, embodied in a hard-living DIY aesthetic that's just as much LA rap as it is OC punk. And it didn't matter that they were technically from Long Beach, they were always down here anyway engaging in their friendly rivalry with No Doubt
.To this day, Brad Nowell's voice sells you on whatever he's singing: His mom hit the bottle and smoked rock? He gets handjobs in Spanish? He loots stores during the LA riots? Whoa, right on. The formidable Eric Wilson-Bud Gaugh
backline along with Mike Happoldt'
s production made the we're-going-to-do-whatever-the-fuck-we-want attitude sound great. And at the end of the day, Sublime did whatever the fuck they wanted. That's the essence of rock 'n' roll, isn't it? That's why we love it.
After watching a Social Distortion
concert in Irvine
, Dexter Holland
and Greg Kriesel
decided to start a band -- originally called Manic Subsidal
-- out of Garden Grove
. Later, they would change their name to The Offspring
and become a band whose palm-muting brand of alt-rock has become indelible to Orange County music. Their most famous albums, Smash
, have sold over 20-million copies combined, including ear-worm hits like "Why Don't You Get a Job" and "Self Esteem." And despite the gimmickry of "Pretty Fly For a White Guy and their latest single "Cruising California (Bumpin' in My Trunk)", we could never bring ourselves to disown these guys...ever. Because besides their breakneck speed and strangely catchy melodies that are executed with a perfect OC blasé, songs like "The Kids Aren't All Right" captured a true OC sound and feeling. Their lyrics depict a suburban angst, a privileged frustration -- the ugly truth of growing older and the fallout of an American Dream. Their songs remind us that below the sunshine, below the California dream are "fragile lives, shattered dreams."
7. The Middle Class
They're best known for kicking off West Coast hardcore in 1978 with the still-bracing "Out Of Vogue" single, but Fullerton's
The Middle Class have yet to get the slash marks in the history books they deserve. Out of step when Minor Threat
were just idle teens--and with a 15-year-old drummer hopped up on Dr. Pepper, too!--the Middle Class
were blazing past contemporaries like the Weirdos
, the Bags
and even the Germs
(with whom they shared the 1979 Tooth And Nail
compilation; a great LP if you can get it), with Gatling-gun tempos and prototypically sociopolitical lyrics. And when hardcore finally caught up with them (and related demo-level-only band Der Stab--find that tape, sucker!), the Middle Class rose to another level entirely, transplanting the urban gloom of British bands like Joy Division
and Gang of Four
to OC as part of an even more historically neglected suburban post-punk scene. To this day, they're widely considered to be one of the first bands to play hardcore punk (did we mention they were on the very first Vans Warped Tour
lineup?). Guitarist Mike Atta
used to sell semi-discography CDs out of his vintage store Out Of Vogue
in Fullerton; almost three decades years later, they're still as DIY as the first time around.
6. The Aquabats
If there's a band that can get away with wearing bright blue neon costumes and singing about two headed cats without feeling silly, it's The Aquabats
. Originally an eight-piece ska band in 1995, the band evolved into a theatrical superhero rock band with an eclectic mix of sounds throughout their 17 years together. As a ska band, they performed alongside acts like No Doubt
and Reel Big Fish
. When the third wave ska era began to die down, the Aquabats reinvented their sound by incorporating synthesizers, surf and punk rock elements, allowing them to adapt to a new phase of sound in their career. The latest shifting phase of their existence has them breaking barriers on their very own T.V. (a major trump card no matter how you slice it). The Aquabats! Supershow!
--created by mustachioed frontman MC Bat Commander (a.k.a Christian Jacobs
)--somehow managed to squeeze the band's cartoonish personalities into one of the greatest kid shows since Yo Gabba Gabba!
(also co-created by Jacobs). For most aging ska fans, this band has given them the ability to sit down with their younglings to watch show rated TV-G that doesn't suck--what a gift!