Best Entertainment, Nightlife and Music
His name is Dick Loderhose, so maybe it figures he's the guy with the biggest organ in Orange County. That doesn't make its 50,000 pounds of perfectly formed pipe any less incredible. "I've had this organ for almost 50 years," Loderhose says, "and it continues to amaze me." And it's not like the immense apparatus just fell into his lap, although you could say it just fell into OC's. Loderhose was living in Long Island in 1955, when he purchased the classic Wurlitzer Opus 1960, which was built in 1928 for the grand Paramount Theater in New York City. But it wasn't until 1976 that he bought the little Bay Theatre in Seal Beach so he'd have a place to put his gigantic instrument. "I needed six trucks to transport it to California," Loderhose recalls. And when it arrived, Loderhose had to remove almost half of the Bay's 800 seats so the organ would fit. Most of the time, Loderhose's pride and joy sits silently behind the curtains. But during the Bay's silent-movie series, it is the star—providing a mind-blowing assortment of sounds, from melodies to special effects. "It's the largest pipe organ in the world in a theater that is still showing movies full-time," says Loderhose. "I'm kind of proud of it." 340 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-9988
BEST BAR TO MEET A MILLIONAIRE
If you think women's lib is kind of funny, or if you're not even sure what it is, then the Quiet Woman is the perfect bar for you. First, it has a great logo—a woman's body sans her head—that is a purposeful nod to Renaissance philosophy on dealing with wily females. Second, it is a great place for non-career-minded women to "accidentally" bump into the type of guy that at a young age has more money than he knows what to do with. Score! Add some beautiful people, well-made drinks and some tasty bar snacks to the mix, and you've come a long way, baby! 3224 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 640-7440.
After the first sip of a cocktail at La Cave, you swear your grandfather is standing behind you, uttering the same phrase he used to say when you were a kid and didn't want to eat or drink something: "Ah, go on. It'll put some hair on your chest!" By the time the drink is finished, you're pulling your shirt away from your chest, peeking down to see if you really have grown some extra fuzz. And if you are truly an exhibitionist—or if you just have a low tolerance for alcohol—it's only a matter of time before you start lifting up your shirt and asking passers-by if they see any hair. Ah, La Cave: the only bar in OC where the bartenders cheerfully pour each drink as if it were a double—without being asked. Best of all, it all goes on under the warm glow of dim orange lighting, which flatters your face even while you stretch your collar out and yell, "Dude! Look! I don't think that hair was there before! That one, right there next to that mole! I swear! Dude!" 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944.
LIVIN' IN THE '80s
The '80s are many things to many people—the era of Reagan, the last time the Dodgers fielded a decent team, the age at which they will die—but to the employees of Wells Fargo Bank in Huntington Beach's Newland Center, it means processing loans and cashing checks to the dulcet tones of Billy Idol, the Go-Go's, Duran Duran and countless acts whose band name included the word "Seagull" emanating from the speakers. It's no wonder Newland Center has such a happy, easy-going atmosphere. Why, with "Karma Chameleon" playing, who could be upset about having a lien put on their children? So, the next time you're in Huntington Beach, stop by the Wells Fargo Newland Center branch, and allow yourself to be serenaded while you make a deposit or open a checking account. You might never get rich, but you'll be happier knowing that neither will Kajagoogoo. 19840 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 962-9327.
Hate the fact that watching a movie nowadays at fancy multiplexes is almost as expensive as buying a negative of the film? Head over to Santa Ana's Fiesta Theater, one of the few remaining duplexes in the county that boasts $5 tickets all the time for any movie. Only catch? All the films have Spanish subtitles, serving the filmic needs of the nation's most-Spanish-speaking city. Don't be afraid—Latinos laugh at the same idiot Jim Carrey films you do. 305 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-4351.
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING IF HE WEREN'T ALREADY: GREG TOPPER
The lounge kings sing that they each are the true and only king,
But in the days of yore,
It was Topper, who received such ballyhoo,
As he through the kingly lounges tore.
He was king, Greg Topper was,
When dinosaurs stomped the keys,
He was king, and still he is,
Until hell doth over freeze,
Topper, Topper, Topper, we say,
His name, it doth resound,
He will still be the kingly King of Lounge,
When you're in the fucking ground.
Greg Topper performs and smokes cigarettes at the Village Inn, 127 Marine Ave., Balboa, (949) 675-8300. Every Sat., 9 p.m. BARTENDER LEAST LIKELY TO FORGET A FACE—OR A DRINK
Whether you've been hitting up Detroit since its former days as Club Mesa or you just stumbled in off the street, Steve greets you with an empty glass and an inviting smile—if you didn't know better, you'd think he has been waiting his whole night just to make your drink. So you down your first whiskey and Coke and then head back for round two. He sees you out of the corner of his eye and mouths, "Another?" You nod, and just as you open your mouth to refresh his memory, he's got a bottle of Jim Beam in his hand and a sly flare in his eyes. You think it's a fluke—a bartender remembering your drink of choice—but then return the following week, and he beats you to your order. He has your number, and he won't soon forget it. 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (714)432-7685.
THE PATCHOULI LINGERS
Hippies may seem quaint now, but there was a time when they were Public Enemy N. 1 in OC. One of the few places hippies could walk in relative safety was Laguna Beach, and as often as not, they'd be walking to the Sound Spectrum, then and now the main record store in town. In the '60s it was about the only place in the county where you could find rare Hendrix imports, underground records and the like. Owned and run by its founder, Jim Otto, the store still has a strong alternative vibe, where hippie-era music mixes with reggae, jam bands and world music. And you can just bet they've got incense there. The Sound Spectrum, 1264 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-5959.
BEST PLACES FOR AN OUT-OF-TOWN TOURIST TO SPOT DENNIS RODMAN
You can't make your way through Newport Coast's guarded gates to catch a glimpse of Kobe Bryant, there would be no deciphering the directions to get to Mark McGwire's Irvine Coast manse, and Bette Midler apparently sold her Laguna Canyon pad. But thanks to his all-love philosophy toward us little people, there's no problem encountering NBA bad boy-turned-uh, whatever-the-hell-he-is-now Dennis Rodman. First, there's the usual places: his beachfront home on the Balboa Peninsula (just walk the strand until you come upon the pink pad at 48th and Seashore hosting a huge commotion involving strippers, helicopters and/or police dogs); Josh Slocum's, the restaurant/nightspot he co-owns on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach; and Newport Harbor, through which Sir Worm often plies his boat, Sexual Chocolate. He often docks the boat up at such harbor-front watering holes as Hooters, the Cannery and Woody's Wharf. If you check all those places and still don't find him, simply follow any Newport Beach police cruiser with its lights on. Chances are you'll find Denny on the other end of that call.
NOISE NOISE NOISE RECORDS
Here you'll find every classic record your collection needs—Kinks, T. Rex, Who, Velvet Underground and more that don't even involve guitars—for pennies on the dollar, and if that doesn't swing you, they're actually selling whole crates of vinyl for literal pennies on the dollar. Like 9 cents for an EP. There's your wallpaper, kid. Now never go to Urban Outfitters again. 1505 Mesa Verde Dr. E., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-6473.
Screw the WWE. The true ring battles can be found every Sunday at the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace, where the men, boys and dwarves of World Power Wrestling put on the best lucha libre shows in the Southland. Los luchadores don't mince actions or words despite the three-generation families in attendance: little kids throw sodas into the ring, white fighters call the overwhelmingly Latino audience beaners, and wrestlers get on all fours with offers of gay sex to scare away other wrestlers with grandmas looking on in approval. The $15 you pay to get in will be a sociopolitical lesson, a circus, and an opportunity to yell at Mexicans or whites and get away with it. 1440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 999-0888.
SALTY DOG BARS
For those unfamiliar with the term "salty dog," Balboa Peninsula resident John W. Miller puts it best: "A salty dog is an older gentleman who represents the advent of the surfing age. He can easily be spotted looking very mellow, taking in the scenery, and not doing much of anything." Anything other than, say, reeking of MGD. For the choicest litter of salty dogs—parrots optional—head over to these fine Balboa kennels:
Class of '47. Need we say more? 209 Palm St., Newport Beach, (949) 675-5774.The Stag Bar.The only bar in Newport notto have a line on the Fourth of July. 121 McFadden Pl., Newport Beach, (949) 673-4470.Blackie's. Where women have the best chance of walking by and hearing sexual obscenities. 2118 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, (949) 675-1074.The Beach Ball. On any given Tuesday at 10 a.m., you can find Newport's old salty dogs reminiscing of better days. While it's true the bar only closes between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. and that you can order a Cape Cod and barely see a pink hue—not to mention that your fun can stop because an old woman licks your stomach—the Beach Ball still attracts the saltiest of all salty dogs. 2116 W. Ocean Front, Newport Beach, (949) 675-8041. SALON OF THE THEATRES
Please don't get all weird on Joseph J. Musil, who has a rather short fuse for people who've just gotta ask why he transformed a top-floor suite of the old Santora Arts Building into a small but fully functional vaudeville theater—and decorated it with dozens of glowing miniature models of old movie palaces and grand playhouses. Musil would prefer that you just experience the Salon of the Theatres. Just pay your three bucks for the self-guided tour of one of OC's quirkiest hidden treasures—and maybe catch the occasional variety act onstage on weekend nights. "And enjoy it," says Musil, an architectural designer who has restored many California theater landmarks. "That's what most people do." But not everybody. Some of them have questions. "All they can ask me is: 'What is this for? What do you do here? Why are you doing this?'" Musil says, smiling a little too much like Vincent Price. "I look at those people and say, 'To please me—that's why! Now get in your Mercedes, drive down to your boat in Newport, and sail over to Catalina—and have a martini and a Quaalude, dear!'" 207 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (949) 457-9571.
"HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN THE STAGE IS LEVEL?" "THE DRUMMER DROOLS OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF HIS MOUTH"
The West Coast Drum Center features a wall of sticks, a nice selection of rotating vintage gear, a staff who know what they're talking about, and a mercifully low incidence of smarmy music-store guys, likely already occupied pooting around on the synth-drum rigs at Guitar Center. 3686 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 545-2345.
Local Latino bigwigs envisioned free Anaheim Angels tickets, hats and parking to anyone with brown skin earlier in the summer when Phoenix businessman Arturo Moreno became the first Latino to own a major sports franchise. So it came as a disappointing surprise to these self-proclaimed poobahs when the first thing new owner Moreno did was lower the price of beer. The grousing soon started—Moreno doesn't support local Latinos enough. Two problems with that train of thought—the fourth-generation Mexican-American Moreno has about as much in common with Latino-immigrant Orange County as does Pete Wilson. More important, however, Moreno bought a fucking baseball squad, not a nonprofit. Attack the man for failing to sign a quality free agent, not because he forgets to give freebies to the Santa Ana Unified School District student body.
Costa Mesa's the Distillery is already blessed—or saddled—with a reputation for recording perfectly dirty garage and punk bands such as the Hunches and Lightning Bolt (who roll into the Distillery from Portland or Providence and roll out to considerable critical acclaim). Distillery audio-recording auteur Mike McHugh actually has a much defter, more sophisticated touch then he might get credit for. Simply put, he'll make anything—from punk to prog. to folk to funk—sound probably greater than it has a right to, sifting out the genius from even the greenest bunch of kids. Maybe it's the all-vintage-analog system, but we think it's Mike, and thanks to him, the next Detroit rock explosion might happen in Costa Mesa.
THE BEST BATHROOM
Public bathrooms simply don't get much better than the one at Ristorante Genovese in Orange. If it had a few Playboys under the sink, you'd think you were at home. And being that the restaurant actually used to be a house, there's a reason why you feel so at home on this throne. After you take the Browns to the Super Bowl, you will find everything from mints and sticks of gum to shaving razors and hair gel. This bathroom even provides deodorant for a quick Italian shower, or if you're really in a pinch, cologne for a Puerto Rican shower. I'm telling you, this bathroom has everything. The only thing you won't find is one of those Ask Jeeves bathroom attendants standing there, asking for a tip after he hands you a paper towel and a stick of Juicy Fruit. 214 N. Tustin, Orange, (714) 633-5654.
The former site of Googie spectacular Kona Lanes, demolished for no particular reason this summer. Coming soon: weeds!
HOME TO THE KARAOKE NAZI
A Willy Wonka adventureland for karaoke enthusiasts, Quan's Restaurant resides in all of its candy cane-striped glory smack in the middle of Orange. Chinese restaurant by day, karaoke hot spot by night, it offers a variety of entertainment to choose from. In between karaoke sets, the dance floor opens up, and the disco ball spins wildly overhead while you bump and grind one minute and line dance the next. Outside, there's a patio with a fire pit, the perfect setting for intellectual conversations about who's hotter—Uma Thurman or Cameron Diaz (Uma's got it in the bag). Best of all, the mic-phobic need not worry: after a few of Quan's killer mai tai bowls, you'll undoubtedly feel like belting out the best hits from Whitesnake, Lita Ford, Tom Petty and more. A word to the wise, however: the karaoke matron in charge of the show will only play your song if you grease her palm with a fiver or if she deems your song worthy. 117 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 532-6311.
Affable, alcohol-friendly owner Javier Castellanos has transformed the dingy strip mall existence of JC Fandango over the past 17 years into the finest Latin nightclub in the United States by constantly bringing in bands both big-name (the late Celia Cruz) and not-but-awesome (El Otro Yo) of any musical genre sung en español. Fear was that the nightclub's reputation would suffer after Anaheim fire officials shut it down after a too-packed spring concert. But Castellanos dutifully followed the city's requested regulations and reopened to full capacity in late summer. Loss of reputation? Tell that to vallenato-rap wunderkinds El Gran Silencio and Argentine demagogue Gustavo Cerati, who each played the year's best concerts at JC Fandango during August and left vowing to return soon. 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 758-1057.
BEST BAR AND LAUNDROMAT COMBO
Doing laundry used to be one of the most tiresome, frustrating chores in existence—especially if you had to go to a laundromat. Apart from jammed coin machines and uncomfortable, suspiciously sticky chairs, the seasoned fluff-and-folder also contended with disturbingly overpowering soap fumes and the occasional sociopathic patron. Until now: for those fortunate to live anywhere near Tustin, the Econ O-Wash on Irvine Boulevard, with its clean floors and new machines, is a laundry-doer's dream. And it's right next to a bar. Godfather's, the loveable dive bar next door, features free popcorn, fair prices, eight TVs and plenty of video-game trivia. Meet some friends for drinks and darts while your clothes magically become clean—could there be a better way to pass the time?! With a few beers under your belt, everything—even folding your T-shirts—is more fun. Doing laundry was never so cool. Godfather's, 416 Irvine Blvd., Tustin, (714) 544-4410; Econ O-Wash, 412 Irvine Blvd., Tustin.
MOST COST-EFFICIENT EMPLOYEE UNIFORMS
The waitresses at the Liquid Lounge are visions in white: five-inch go-go boots, fishnet tights, bare midriffs and hot pants. These women work hard for their money. So you'd better treat them right. 7887 Center Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 892-2227.
GREAT BEER SELECTION
You may remember the Abbey from Mark McGwire reppin' the place on his drive to 70 homeruns back in '98. But if you enjoy the Abbey for its rotating selection of some of the best beer on the planet, you may not remember it quite as well—it's always amusing to be filled in on all the stupid things I said the last time I was there. And not every aspect of the yuppiefication of Western civilization is inherently bad: if it wasn't for their boutiquing of beer, you might not be able to enjoy such regularly rotated nectars as Wittekerke, Chimay and Franziskaner (the old drunk monk's even on the sign out front). The staff is friendly, helpful and forgiving, and now that a national spotlight isn't on the (relatively small) place, you can saddle up to the bar with relative ease even on a weekend night. If you're lucky, you may even get a bartender from Australia—the favorite nation-of-origin of drunks with truly discriminating taste. 306 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 799-4246.
COME FOR THE STEAK, STAY FOR THE ROCK
Forget the desperate novelty nights and flaming-dice décor in LA: the best rock & roll bar in Southern California serves seafood and steak till 10, and the waitresses all look like your dear old grandma. Long Beach's Prospector—a restaurant by day, rock & roll petting zoo by night—offers giant, stick-to-your-ribs portions of truck-stop meat-and-potatoes fare that's worth a visit by itself, but you're there for the after-dinner action: Josh from Street Trash toppling table to table, Paloma from the Sharp Ease getting too hot for TV, Chris from the Distraction flinging ice at a giant cardboard cutout of himself, Wade from the Orphans breaking bottles over his head in time with the music. If greater hipsterlandia had a clue, there'd be stickered Volvos up and down Junipero, and Spaceland would be as dead and boring as . . . well, Spaceland is generally pretty dead and boring. But who cares? You're on your fourth $3 whisky-and-Coke, and Jenny Quitter is about to take a picture of you sliding your tongue down some stranger's throat. The Prospector rules—tell no one. 2400 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 438-3839.
Tropical music is experiencing a renaissance in the Spanish-language radio airwaves, with formed-last-year stations KZBA-FM 93.5 "La Sabrosa" and KLLY-FM 97.5 "Oye" dominating the Arbitron ratings. Lost among the attention given to these Los Angeles-based FM-ers is the young granddaddy of them all: Santa Ana-centered KWIZ-FM 96.7 "Sonido." The five-year-old radio riot maintains a loyal following by playing a hip-shaking mix of salsa, sonidero, cumbia, and even the stray merengue or two. And, unlike La Sabrosa and Oye, Sonido makes constant shout-outs to its Orange County audience, who respond in kind with fervor. Remember the near-riot earlier this year at JC Fandango after Anaheim code enforcers found the club over capacity during a concert? It happened because Sonido promoted the fuck out of that night's headliners, Monterrey ska morons Inspector. Any station who can pull people in to see them is amazing. 3101 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 554-9670; www.sonido967.com.
Record store specializing in all things Beatle. Ringo bobblehead dolls! Yesterday & Today butcher-block covers! Vinyl albums, whatever those are! So overwhelming is their Beatle swag you'd swear they're keeping George Harrison's cryogenically preserved head behind the counter and renting it out for parties. 850 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 639-0909.
BREAKING THE LAW WITH OFF-DUTY COPS
True story: on a stormy night not too long ago, a man—we'll call him Jake—met up with friends for a few rounds at 2 J's Cocktail Lounge. Upon arriving, he learned he had just missed an incredible bar fight between the bar staff and a well-sauced jerk. The bouncers had thrown the drunk out in the rain. Ten minutes into Jake's first beer, a rain-soaked patron ran inside the bar, shouting for everyone to go outside. The tires on every car in the parking lot were slashed, not to mention a few smashed windows. Every car had been vandalized except Jake's—he had parked across the street. Next thing he knew, he was behind the wheel of his car, with an enormous—and wasted—man by his side, who demanded they hunt down the culprit. As they ran through red lights and ignored stop signs—the passenger's orders—Jake grew worried. But then the man pulled out a gun and said, "If shots are fired, just take off, man." There was now an enormous, pissed-off drunk man next to him, and he had a gun. As they headed south on Harbor, just past Orangethorpe, they spotted the tire-slasher ordering a cheeseburger at an In-N-Out. They illegally zoomed across an empty intersection, and the man rushed in, gun in the air, and forced the burger bandit to the ground. Soon after, the cops arrived, and Jake learned that the drunk goon who forced him to break about a dozen moving violations at gunpoint in the pouring rain was an off-duty cop. 120 W. Houston Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-9665.
THE HUB CAFE
If you can snag a seat on their outdoor patio where the bands play, then this is perhaps the sweetest OC spot to just kick back and savor live music. The outdoor thing is a big lure, but the Hub is also eclectic enough to book everything from punk rock to coffeehouse folkies to bands who do that "emo" stuff. A major player in downtown Fullerton's recent club explosion and conveniently located behind the Reagan Years, OC's coolest video arcade, which is also the perfect way to wait out band set changes. 124 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-2233.
One of the best Latino bookstores en los Estados Unidos is now going national. Librería Martínez, the downtown Santa Ana intellectual inn run by the gregarious-to-a-fault bookkeeper/barber/cultural ambassador Rueben Martínez, is expanding to Latino suburbs across the nation. The first branch opened in Lynwood this month; the two-story building is the country's largest Spanish-language bookstore. The original Santa Ana location will remain open, but Sr. Martínez (please, call him Rueben) probably won't be in every day now that he's running his mini-empire—plans are to expand to at least 10 locations. While happy that Martínez will finally find the financial success he deserves, we cannot also help but feel a little bit blue: Orange County will no longer be privy to Martínez engaging in conversation like a long-lost uncle with customers, partly trying to make a sale but mostly intent on instilling in them and everyone within a one-mile radius a passion for knowledge. Buena suerte, Sr. Martínez, and here's hoping that other cities will appreciate you with the same love we always will. 1110 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 973-7900.
Downtown Huntington is a teeming petri dish of idiocy and boardshorts, but buried in the middle is the Electric Chair, seemingly a teenage wasteland designed to equip chests with studded bras and butt pomaded heads with Hot Topic. Still, whoever buys the records there has some finely tuned taste: enough to know what's good, but not quite enough to catch every bargain that leaks through. Pick up something lacey and something spiky on the way out. 410 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-0784.
The Little Knight, a.k.a. "The Little Fight," in Costa Mesa features a possessive clientele—"This is my bar, buddy! Go on back to the 909!" is always a crowd-pleaser. The Little Knight is home to OC's toughest testosterone mofos. Still, that shouldn't prevent you from pulling up a chair and letting Tony—one of OC's most prominent bartenders gone wild, known for jumping on the bar and screaming indecipherable proclamations—serve you Jack and Cokes that put other bars' Cokes with a drip of Jack to shame. And if you still haven't seen enough of the macho, ex-jock, dude-my-car-is-bigger-than-yours brotherhood, then head over to Cassidy's in Newport, better known as "Smashiddy's" or "Catch a Disease" and glimpse tattoos of the finest flames, sparrows, spider webs and Gothic lettering in the county. 436 E. 17th, Costa Mesa, (949) 646-6650.
WHAT GOES AROUND BASICALLY JUST GOES AROUND
Isn't vinyl just the best petrochemical? Take vinyl records, for instance: not only do they often sound better and warmer than their CD counterparts and come in large colorful jackets, the artwork of which is actually large enough to appreciate, but vinyl is also an insulator against atomic radiation, which could be good news in the event of nuclear attack for Tom Harris, the owner of Goat Hill Records. He's surrounded by so much vinyl in his packed shop that you can barely find him most days. And we're not talking thrift-shop vinyl here, but prime stuff—cool jazz, obscure rock, gritty country, sultry soundtracks and so much more—in eat-off-it clean shape and for remarkably fair prices. For those who aren't turntable-enabled, Tom also stocks stacks of quality used CDs. Goat Hill Records, 1920 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-8551.
When Tim Hill took over the remnants of a shuttered Mexican restaurant in a dingy little Anaheim strip mall in 1997 and turned the room into a rock club, most thought his place would quickly go the way of many other all-ages OC rooms: here today, gone today. Six years on, Chain Reaction is not only still here, but it's also thriving. They've hosted bands as large as the Get Up Kids, Save Ferris and Papa Roach (who reportedly owe their careers to two shows they played at the club in 2000). And don't forget the slew of punk bands so underground they have to look up to see Hell. 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067.
VIVA LA REVOLUCION
Every month at Santa Ana's Green Parrot Cafe, a local musical society called El Sapo Cancionero (the Singing Frog) hosts a peña (concert), at which musicians perform canto nuevo (new song), which is a combination of guitar-driven jazz, folk, classical and rock music. Canto nuevo began in Cuba in the late '60s with artists such as Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanes and quickly spread throughout Latin America. El Sapo Cancionero was formed in Orange County several years ago by Joel Aceves and Enrique Gaspar, two Mexico City natives and canto nuevo aficionados who wanted to bring the art form north of the border. The first major group to accept their invitation was Mexicanto, one of the premier Mexican canto nuevo groups. That show led to others by big-name Mexican troubadours Gabino Palomares, Alfonso Maya, Ismael García and Fernando Delgadillo. El Sapo Cancionero wants to expose both Latinos and Anglos to the music, especially youths in Santa Ana who lack understanding of the rich culture behind canto nuevo. "There are a lot of Latinos here who don't know this music—or that there's an alternative to the commercial music they hear," Gaspar says. "If there's a kid in the barrio listening to music with a message about dealing drugs and being violent—like in the narcocorridos and other popular music—they'll grow up to do that. This music shows there's another way." 2035 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 550-6040.
KUCI general manager Mike Boyle—a dead ringer for Max in Rushmore, though he probably hates people like us saying that—has always been an unsung genius, tirelessly working to drag KUCI into the late 20th century, but now he's more unsung and more genius than ever. His home-built Dryertron 2000 is a DJ turntable set-up installed into an old dryer (as in, "Mom, can you throw my wet swimsuit in the . . .") housing—the perfect mix of form and function. Quips about hot mixes aside, the Dryertron—which has seen action at various KUCI functions—is seriously, intensely cool. Get a PA rig in one of those monster $2-a-pop family-size washers, and you've got the perfect equipment for one of those suds-and-hallucinogen raver parties. Our only question: Is Dryertron available for weddings and bar mitzvahs?
During the '90s, the LA-based Fatburger chain opened a slew of restaurants in OC, and we should all be very, very grateful. Not just because Fatburger, unlike In-N-Out, doesn't quote Bible scripture on the bottoms of their drink cups, but also because Fatburger have the greatest jukeboxes in all the county, stacked full of only the finest soul and R&B oldies, thanks to a deal they have with the Rhino Records folks. All the essentials are inside these gorgeous machines—Otis, Marvin, James, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Lavern Baker, jazz from Miles and Coltrane, and blues from Elmore James and Kings B.B. and Albert. Who could resist the not-so-subtle sexual connotations of listening to Dinah Washington's "Big Long Slidin' Thing" while stuffing a chili dog down your throat? Locations in Aliso Viejo, Buena Park, Irvine and Orange.
UNDOUBTEDLY OC'S BIGGEST, BEST RECORD STORE
Too bad it's only open one day a month. Every fourth Sunday or so, this mammoth record swap takes over a huge conference room at the Sequoia Athletic Club in Buena Park, attracting dealers and reps from record stores all over SoCal—and sometimes from as far away as Europe and Japan. This is where to find cheap CDs; really cheap box sets; posters; collectors' items; old back issues of Rolling Stone; an autographed copy of Madonna's Playboy cover; Wall of Voodoo promotional matchbooks; reel-to-reel tapes of old KMET shows; crusty, cracked eight-tracks; Vince Neil's aged, faded driver's license; imports; bootl- . . . um, "collectables"; and assorted other pieces of strangeness—we once saw a ticket stub from a Tiffany concert going for a buck at this show. What's scarier is that somebody actually bought it. 7530 Orangethorpe Ave., Buena Park, (714) 963-9717. Shows are usually the fourth Sunday of every month, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
OC's homegrown three-store mini-chain, made semifamous the world over when Dexter Holland wore Bionic T-shirts in mid-'90s Offspring videos. This is an aspiring young punk's paradise, the place to pick up that crusty band's arm patch or that sticker or T-shirt from a band that broke up before you were even born. Yeah, you could get the same swag at Hot Topic, but that wouldn't be as cool—and you wanna be cool, don't you? 16101 Bolsa Chica, Huntington Beach, (714) 846-2585; 9549 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 828-4225; 2466 Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-1912.
DR. FREECLOUD'S MIXING LAB
Oldest electronic/techno specialty store in OC. This is the spot to pick up new mixes, test out new sampling techniques, gobble up piles of rave fliers—some you might actually want to go to—and chat up owner Ron D Core, an expert spinner in his own right. The Lab, 2930 Bristol St., Ste. A109, Costa Mesa, (949) 545-8811.
Cambodian hip-hopper from Long Beach who drops eloquent rhymes about the horrors of growing up during the time of the genocidal-bent Khmer Rouge. Sample lyrics:
"They laugh like jackal/These assholes dressed in black/Strip me butt naked/Then tie my hand behind my back/Told me to choose one, the gun or the axe/They say I was guilty of rebelling against the revolution/Told me I got three seconds, then they're gonna start shootin'/On the count of one, I pray for my soul/On the count of two, for my family and my people/On the count of three, I was dressed in red/I took two shots to the head and [was] left for dead."
A jazzer's dream room, Steamers has been largely responsible for putting the words "Fullerton" and "nightlife" together, something unfathomable just a decade ago. Steamers differs from most jazz clubs in that their main interest is in serving music, as opposed to other rooms that offer up music and dinner—places where the performers are relegated to mere background noise by the time the appetizers arrive. Steamers is cozy and intimate, so much so that when regulars such as Joey DeFrancesco, Ron Eschete or Ron Kobayashi are locked in their groove, you can almost envision what it must have been like in those smoky old New York jazz clubs of the 1940s and '50s. Don't get too caught up in the moment, though—like everywhere else, there's no smoking allowed. 138 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-8800.
When it's finally dark and cool outside, the hipsters wiggle in for a dry martini or two. But the Continental is dark and cool inside from the moment it opens, and if you slink in during the late afternoon, you'll find the perfect pre-sundown place to be alone—in decadently plush surroundings—with your problems, drinking or otherwise. The mixes come nice and strong; the prices are a privilege when there's no one around but you and the bartender; and the silent, soothing ambience in priceless. Next time you want to start a bender with a slow burn, you've gotta make sure to kick it off at the Continental. 115 W. Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-4529.
INDIE RECORD STORE
We remember Vinyl Solution from when it was Zed Records in Long Beach. Or Middle Earth Records in Downey. Or Aaron's, a long time ago in LA, before it got so hep. Point being Vinyl Solution is one of the few indie record stores left where the real punk is waiting, hibernating, hunkered-down, looking for a chance to take over your kids' minds. Or, more likely, hoping they'll discover it when they find out that Good Charlotte really, really, REALLY sucks. Their selection, of course, is broader; we'd hope to find anything from Echo & the Bunnymen to the Cramps to the Pixies, the Replacements on—platters that matter from, oh, 1976 or so on. Do yourself a favor and check 'em out. As our friend the record collector says, "It's not their fault that punk broke." 18822 Beach Blvd., Ste. 104, Huntington Beach, (714) 963-1819.
PORTAL STRAIGHT TO HELL
Don't let its unassuming exterior of Club Obsessions fool you: OC's most intriguing clientele are waiting for you inside the Frat House's velvet-curtained doorway. Whether you go to dance with the topless trannies—and we're not talking Tim Curry in Rocky Horror here; some of these women look amazing—or to shoot pool with your voyeur pals, the environment is welcoming, endlessly entertaining and the ultimate in sinful indulgence. Don't miss the backroom, where the bartenders are decked out as barmaids—literally. 8112 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 373-FRAT.
TIME WARP TO THE '70S
I drove by the Avalon Bar every Monday for an entire month and never knew it was there. And while that might have something to do with the fact that the bar is closed on Mondays, it doesn't change the fact that this unmarked bar directly across the street from Detroit is home to one of the best soul nights in OC, Avalon Soul. DJs Angelina—and let's face it: chicks who spin are just too hot!—Jason Valdez and Sean drop everything from Nina Simone to Parliament to Herbie Hancock, sustaining a mellow grove that perfectly compliments Avalon's absolutely decadent key-lime-pie martinis. There's not much space for dancing, but with a classic, inviting plaid couch and luscious black-leather seats, there is plenty of room for coy stares, sly smiles and smooth conversation. Aww, yeah. 820 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-4650.
For those burnt out on beach-and-beer bars, a trip to the Bamboo Terrace—home to the rising club the Program—is a small vacation in hipster paradise. But don't worry if you're just an average Betty: with Chinese newsprint papering the walls, dim red lighting, and posters of Chinese pinup women, the bar effectively captures an opium den aura without the slightest hint of pretentiousness. If you have the chance, have the bartender Debbie's mother, Kathy, whip you up a mojito. One or two of these criminally addicting glasses of goodness and you'll be dancing with a cute thrift-store-threaded cutie in no time. 1773 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 645-5550.
THE 411 ON 411—NOT THAT WE SAY "THE 411" ANYMORE. THAT'S SO '01
The only thing that's kinda tired about 411 Productions is the company's name. Nobody asks anybody for the "411," anymore—do they? Apparently not unless they're in skate shops, where demand for the 411 brand illustrates just how long the company has been at the top of the line of action-sports video magazines. Like, since 1993, when the first issue of 411VM Skateboarding pioneered the concept of the skateboarding video magazine. Now the company also does video magazines for snow, surf and bicycle motocross, and over the years, it has sold more than 1 million copies of 411 titles. All the big chain stores carry them, but 411 maintains street cred by releasing its stuff to the neighborhood shops a couple of months in advance. Meanwhile, upstarts just keep getting their asses kicked, especially the extreme-sports TV shows that keep popping up. The cool furniture that 411 Productions bought for its new 10,000-square-foot office in Fountain Valley? It came from Bluetorch's bankruptcy auction. Better to be 411 than Chapter 11.
Lurking in the shadows of the Mesa Theater, the Stag Bar greeted traffic as the 55 freeway merged into Newport as if to say, "You've arrived." But alas, no more. A corporate book store—there's no need to name names—bulldozed this sweet heaven to dust. The sweet scent of old urine and Jack Daniels still haunts, as does the memory of Louie the organ player, who would play a tune to get the drunken crowd in a tizzy and usher in the punk rock madness. Bottles breaking, people laughing, a pile of puke at your feet—how we miss the best Orange County dive bar. We think we'll brown bag our Strawberry Hill tonight and sit in the parking lot, thinking of the old boys and Louie, sweet Louie.
CENTRO CULTURAL DE MÉXICO
Drive five miles per hour down Santa Ana's Main Street—watch out for the cops who'll ticket you for cruising—and you're still likely to skip over the Centro Cultural de México, the downtown Santa Ana space located between a carpet seller and an auto-paint shop on Main. Most people do, and so many of the events held at the Centro usually start half an hour late as benevolent organizers allow the tardy to trickle in. Once settled, however, the dingy building transforms into what Koo's Art Café always aspired to do but never quite pulled off: a community center that actually attracts the population living around it. Headed by the fabulously energetic Carolina Sarmiento, the Centro is the type of place that might hold a talk on the genocide of the Americas one afternoon; feature an all-Chicano punk, all-Santa Ana slate the following night; and teach English-literacy classes to adults each weekend. 1522 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 953-9305.
PROOF THAT GOD EXISTS AND DIGS IRONY
Remember the Shack, the dilapidated Anaheim nightclub known for hosting white-power shows between Van Halen tribute acts and hair-metal relics? Closed earlier this year, the building has been transformed into a Mexican nightclub. But it's not just any Mexican nightclub—it's now known as Xalos Bar, proudly named after Jalostitlán, Jalisco, a Mexican town that has sent hundreds of its residents to Anaheim over the past decades. Residents of the town pack the place every weekend, and so do other Mexicans—Jalostitlán women are renowned across Mexico for being the hottest things this side of Mount Etna. 1160 N. Kraemer, Anaheim, (714) 297-7707; www.xalosbar.com.
BEST PLACE TO RUN INTO YOUR BEST FRIEND'S MOM
A sign in the corner of the shopping center reads, "Fling Cocktail Lounge, Open Daily from 6 a.m.-2 a.m." Except you can't read the "cocktail" part because it is inevitably covered up by a haphazardly-tossed flannel jacket. Previously known for Phil Shane's weekly one-man Elvis routines, this Vegas-inspired hideaway—really, it can't be found without the trained eye of a dive-bar regular—offers more than just music for entertainment. With its red-velvet-papered walls lined by dusty-framed pinup-girl posters, the bar is so dark you can't see who you're about to take home, but still retains just enough class you'd feel quite at home relaxing with a cigar and a martini. It's also the kind of place where you are likely to see a 45-year-old MILF making out with an 80-year-old ballroom-dance champion in the corner, next to Dexter Holland from the Offspring. You might not be able to see what you're drinking, but it's at least worth a visit for the entertainment. 2370 N. Tustin, Santa Ana, (714) 547-8972.
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