13 Detroit Bar Shows Worth Remembering

When Detroit Bar closes its doors at the end of the week, OC music lovers will definitely witness the end of an era. Since 2001, Detroit's reputation was forged on being the causal, average venue with the ability to surprise us with greatness. Regulars remember it as a place to see a packed local residency night, the anticipated local gig of the season, or the random landing pad for some star musician that could've easily filled any prestigious venue in L.A.–but somehow wound up jamming at a beloved little club inside a Costa Mesa strip mall. We saw a countless number of shows there–we have the bar tab and the memories to prove it.

As we look back at the job that owners Dan Bradley, Diego Velasco,Scott Hamilton, Jason Husted, and former talent buyers Chris Fahey and Jon Reiser did to make this place special over the years, we also have to give ourselves a little credit (of course) for catching some of the highlights and relaying them to you fine folks on Heard Mentality. In honor of the 13-year legacy of our favorite Costa Mesa haunt, we dug into our live review vaults (as far back as search engines would allow) to bring you reviews of 13 (out of many) Detroit Bar shows worth remembering. Click artist/band name to see the full review.

See also: The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene


Delta Spirit (April 20, 2008)
The Alex Benefit was put together to help support Alex, a boy suffering from a hole in his heart, and his family from Uganda. Alex needs open heart surgery to save his live and surmounting medical bills have placed a financial burden on his family. So local bands Delta Spirit, Cold War Kids and We Barbarians came to the rescue….The Alex Benefit was put together to help support Alex, a boy suffering from a hole in his heart, and his family from Uganda. Alex needs open heart surgery to save his live and surmounting medical bills have placed a financial burden on his family. So local bands Delta Spirit, Cold War Kids and We Barbarians came to the rescue…

Having recently wrapped up a tour with Huntington Beach's Matt Costa, Delta Spirit were road tested and ready when they hit stage. “Bleeding Bells” warmed the crowd up with its steady back beat and a raucous pit broke out with “Tom Gerald” as the whiskey-drenched tunes of Delta Spirit started to intoxicate the crowd. I was amazed when I turned around to see the audience singing and swaying and back and forth to “People, Turn Around” near the end of the set. And the momentum of the show did not fall as Brandon Young (Drums) served as a human engine propelling the throttling “Trashcan” to new heights with his piston like drumming. (Andrew Youssef)

Sleepy Sun (May 17, 2011)
Everyone showed up promptly for this Tuesday night show so as not to miss Sleepy Sun and The Black Angels. Last fall, Sleepy Sun was hypnotizing a packed crowd at Spaceland (now called The Satellite) in Los Angeles. Back then, a petite female vocalist, named Rachel Fannan, crooned enchanting harmonies alongside the male lead vocalist, Bret Constantino. Tonight, the psychedelic rock band from Santa Cruz is now a solid setup of straight testosterone. As before, the groove of Sleepy Sun's music was mesmerizing, their passion just as strong. But without Fannan's angelic melodies, Sleepy Sun lost the true awe factor that tied the members together so perfectly, and kept the crowd's attention. (Kim Conlan)

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BLOK (May 9, 2010)
Although they had clearly run out of energy by the end of their set, the rabid BLOK fans at Detroit Bar weren't going to let the the sibling trio of spastic rappers leave until they got an encore last night. After a solid 45 minutes of primal boom bappery and ferocious rhymes, the Irvine-based hip-hop hype artists still had enough gusto to charge through a couple more songs. If this group has an “OFF” button, they sure as hell didn't show it…Anyone in close proximity of the stage was liable to get sucked into BLOK's magnetic whirlwind of flailing arms, elbows and ass cheeks. As they closed out their set, the crowd chanted “BLOK, BLOK, BLOK” in arena-rock fashion. It was easy to forget that this was only the second week of their residency. We're anticipating a full-on mob scene by the end of the month. (Nate Jackson)

Black Lips (February 11, 2008)
You know a show is awesome when you leave drenched in sweat and covered in silly string. Also, I think I'm now slightly deaf. That, my friends, is how the Black Lips do it!

Last night's mosh pit was everything a cozy-sized venue pit should be! Or, well, shouldn't be – did anyone actually read the warnings taped to every corner of the wall at Detroit Bar? You wanna mosh? You wanna brave the mere thought of moshing? Unless, you wanna find your bitch ass in deep shit. . .and man, I wouldn't fuck with Detroit's co-owner, Chris! Although that one security guard tried to keep things calm, within the first couple of songs I watched as he was swallowed and dragged under the frenzied wave of pushing/shoving drunks. (Leslie Agan)

See also: The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List

KRS-ONE (March 18, 2011)
It seems fitting that KRS-One decided to perform on St. Patrick's Day. As one of hip-hop's true-to-life founding fathers, deviating from the cookie cutter and weeding out the OGs from the bustas is just his forte, so it makes sense KRS picked this particular night to rope a crowd that he knew was going to be strictly hip-hop over shamrock…The boss MC hit the stage a little after midnight (and about half a dozen opening acts that left little to no impression), and as to be expected, all the classics were in tow. Teacha came to correct with hits such as “My Philosophy,” “Sound of the Police” and “Listen to My 9mm.” All of which he spit between gritty interludes about the state of the world today, which included but was not limited to several shout-outs to Nate Dogg, reminders to question all that you hear on TV, and a whole lot of prophetic 2012, beware-of-the-quake/tsunami-combo-likely-to-hit-California-type banter. Teacha spent a lot of time on that last one and made sure we got the message by demanding, “Turn my mic up; they need to hear it!” (Tina Dhamija)

Abstract Workshop 10 Year Anniversary (June 1, 2008)
Just about everybody brought his A game to Abstract Workshop's 10-year anniversary shindig (for some reason, I brought my B+ game; sorry). People were in a festive mood and the strong lineup really kicked the crowd members' emotions into a higher gear.

As I was hoping he would, Darondo climaxed his set with “Legs (Part 1).” It's one of the funkiest tracks in musical history and if the world ever needs help in boosting its population, the UN should blast it into bedrooms everywhere. During this classic, Darondo actually did the splits and bounced upright with alarming quickness. He'll probably need help getting out of bed for the next few days, but that's the sort of entertainer Darondo is. If there's a heaven, James Brown is likely smiling upon this wonderful freak of nature. (Dave Segal)

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Aloe Blacc and the Grand Scheme (Oct. 13, 2011)
If I were to tell you that the coolness of Aloe Blacc's delivery would've made Marvin Gaye do a double take you'd say I was delusional. Maybe so, but the sheer audacity of the previous statement is a testament to Blacc's skill set. His Bill Withers-like range, charismatic stage presence and a few dance moves that the Godfather of Soul would have been proud of pretty much sums up last night's performance…As the band played the opening notes of “You Make me Smile” Blacc implored the swaying audience, “If you're standing next to someone who makes you smile give them a hug.” Honest and heartfelt, Blacc charmed and had command of those in attendance. Shortly thereafter he brought his sister onto the stage and after a warm embrace the two harmonized on the remaining verses of the song. A cute moment and as the song wrapped up Blacc admits, “This is my favorite song.” (Ian Joulain)

The Melvins (October 25, 2007)
underground-metal masters Melvins came, saw and conked our noggins with their patented planet-shifting sound. No surprise there.

However, what was surprising was Melvins' cover of the Beatles' “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which they dispensed with poker faces and terseness early in their hour-plus set. Of the billions of songs in the universe, this 1963 smash hit is far down on the list I'd expect this LA quartet to tackle. But it worked through the sheer unexpected absurdity of it all. (Dave Segal)

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The New Limb (Aug.4, 2010)
Listening to The New Limb's brooding piano-infused pop rock, it's hard to shake the feeling I've heard these guys somewhere before. Then it dawns on me: Maritime, the Milwaukee-based group featuring former Promise Ring singer Davey von Bohlen bears some remarkable parallels to the Costa Mesa band which played Detroit Bar last night. I haven't seen the former, and I'm being paid to write about the latter, so here we go. Last night's show was a homecoming of sorts for The New Limb, who've been on the road since releasing their debut album, Sounds People Can Hear, last spring….Last night's show was a shot at redemption for these prodigal OC musicians. Despite the fact they kept the set short–around seven songs–the quartet managed to turn in a performance that was tight, impassioned and energetic. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something in the delivery of their jams exhibited a distinctive lack of pretension mixed with genuine hunger to produce something meaningful. (Brandon Ferguson)

GZA of the Wu Tang Clan (August 24, 2011)

Allaying my fears of another late show, the GZA promptly arrived on stage at a reasonable hour, slashing away into the opening songs of Liquid Swords. The Detroit Bar had sold out of tickets for the performance, and the crowd extended from the stage all the way to the venue's back lounge, where the show was only visible through grainy video footage being played across television monitors above the bar. So dedicated were the GZA fans in the audience that many seemed perfectly content with just standing in the same room as The Genius, let alone seeing him in person.

Overall, the Wu-Tang legend, helped along by his hype man, put on a satisfactory performance of his classic record. Yet while the GZA's rhymes have always been dextrous and scorching, his physical energy on stage didn't quite match up as a counterpart. At 45, GZA might be considered a senior citizen of rap. During certain songs, the rapper looked visibly worn out, and toward the end of the show, he stumbled off the stage before regaining his composure and finishing off the set. As this occurred, the audience seemed unperturbed as they chanted “Wu-Tang! Wu-Tang!” in unison. (Abe Ahn)

*A considerably less glowing review of GZA from our former music editor Lilledeshan Bose in 2010 here (just as entertaining)

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Matt Costa (Aug. 26, 2007)

And now for the something-like-43rd time Matt Costa's been mentioned in the Weekly: What's there left to say? The Huntington Beach resident with the curiously large following played a secret show partially in preparation for a few dates he'll be opening up for Modest Mouse in Portland and beyond. Costa and band (including new member Jacob Sahagen–of Madman Moon–on the keyboards) have been feverishly practicing a brand new set to showcase at these dates and beyond. The set list half consisted of re-worked and revamped (think the lap steel, mandolin and banjo) favorite tracks from his first full-length, Songs We Sing (2005), and half from the forthcoming Unfamiliar Faces.(Vickie Chang)

The Growlers (June 28, 2010)

The Growlers delivered a hell of a night, packing a small set with their unique brand of psychedelic/surf/garage slow jams. In less capable hands, this cocktail of '60s throwback could have been unpalatable. But their sound is refreshing instead of tired-they opt for crisp output over lo-fi; tight songwriting over layers of fuzz.

They started with the shuffling “Tijuana,” a bleak story told through Brooks' plaintive crooning about a “city of wasted dreams” and Matt's looping guitar lines. This set the pace for the rest of the show: yes, these guys play fugues for beach parties, but strangely, it makes for a really good time. (Rebecca Aranda)

Detroit Bar's 10 Year Anniversary (October 17, 2011)
Detroit Bar is officially 10 years old, and last Saturday, the venue celebrated a decade of taste-making by hosting a private party with Orange County's music community. (Read our story on Detroit Bar's evolution here.) Peanut Butter Wolf, Charles Feelgood, Scotty Coates, Danny Love, Cocoe, Lil' Brandon and Vex Ruffin performed, the Memphis Group catered, and good vibes were felt by all. (Lilledeshan Bose)

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