There's a plenty of reasons we need to look back at the stories that helped define OC music in 2016. For one, it helps to remind ourselves that even in a year of indescribable loss, we actually managed to survive it. But through all the craziness, the closures, the anniversaries, the deaths, rebirths and the odd ball stories that will definitely become the stuff of legend, the Weekly was there to record it in ways no one else could. Here are 20 stories that impacted OC music over the last 12 months.
The Observatory Sues the Growlers over the name “Beach Goth”
Sorry to burst your bubble kids, but the primary motive for 99.9% music festivals has nothing to do with your personal enjoyment. Behind the amazing lineups, the true headliner has always been the almighty dollar. OC hipsters had to face this harsh reality in November when the Observatory's parent company, Noise Group, sued the Growlers over using the name Beach Goth to sell their merchandise and promote their band. It's worth noting that the name was first popularized by the Growlers as early as 2006 but the venue acquired the copyright for it in 2012. The rocky relationship between the two entities following the backlash over the festival's logistical shit show makes a suit like this seem inevitable. But that's really only one piece of the puzzle.
New House of Blues Anaheim Starts Strong
Has the demise of the Mouse House given birth to a new power house? In November, the new House of Blues Anaheim at The GardenWalk dropped a surprisingly strong lineup of shows for the new year, starting with back to back dates from their old homies Social Distortion. Not only is it more than double the size of it's old location (approximately 2,200 capacity), it will also host multiple stages throughout the venue. We haven't always had the best relationship with HOB security, but at least for now we're willing to let bygones be bygones. Considering the domination of the Observatory on the local venue scene over the last few years, it's time to get some worthy competition up in this bitch!
OC's First Queer Punk Fest
A fest highlighting the many talented LBGTQ musicians in OC was long overdue. And thankfully it landed in the right hands, thanks to the efforts of Trap Girl's lead singer/bassist Drew Arriola-Sands, creator of Transgress Fest in Santa Ana.
R.I.P. Irvine Meadows
By far the most read story in our archives in 2016 came courtesy of a travesty we've been reporting for years now—the closing of Irvine Meadows. Gwen Stefani and Young the Giant closed out the final shows of OC's biggest amphitheater in October, bringing about that end of an era for those who either loved or loathed it. This in-depth cover story tells the tale of it's 35 year history.
Gabby Gaborno Laughs in the Face of Death
This punk rock legend has fought more than a few battles in his life —including drug addiction, organ failure and a brutal bout of liver cancer. But rather than give up on life, Mike “Gabby” Gaborno fought hard to keep going and celebrated his 51st birthday with a Cadillac Tramps show at Alex's Bar in front a packed crowd of supporters. Though it took every ounce of strength he had, it was a huge win for the OC and Long Beach punk scene to watch him on stage as energized, hopeful and crass as ever.
Chain Reaction 20th Anniversary
Anyone who's been to an OC show in the last two decades has a story about Chain Reaction, the famous all ages club that helped put our local scene on the map in all live music genres. Regardless of genres or trends, Chain's ability to hit this major milestone is proof that restless young's looking for an outlet for their art still have a place to go.
Sutra Closes/Time Opens
Costa Mesa's most popular bastion of big beats and bottle service closed its doors for good in September. Sutra, a place thousands of OC's poshest (and drunkest) club rats have called home for the last 13 years, ended its run at Triangle Square. But fear not! The club didn't really die, it just moved downstairs into the old Niketown building. That's good news for all those beautiful people spilling out onto Harbor Blvd after bar close like a hoard of inebriated party zombies. Reincarnated as a club called Time, the beginning of a new era in local night life started within about a month of the Sutra shutting it's doors.
Day N Night Debacle
We're pretty sure a piece of our soul is still somewhere in the parking lot of Oak Canyon Ranch after the epic traffic jam following Observatory's first hip-hop festival aimed at millennials.
The Death of Nathan Alfaro
The stabbing death of local music fan Nathan Alfaro during a local show inside the Underground DTSA hit a lot of people close to home. Not just because Alfaro was an affable, well-liked guy taken by another a senseless act of violence. Not just because it happened in the kind of setting so many of us in the local scene take for granted every night of the week. But for those who knew him, Alfaro also embodied the spirit of local music. He was a fixture in the pit of OC’s top venues and a music junkie whose tireless love of his favorite artists infected everyone around him. This story gives us more information on the story behind another life senselessly lost.
Eric Blair 20th Anniversary of the Blairing Out Show
Last June marked the 20th anniversary of The Blairing Out Show With Eric Blair, the longest running o air music smorgasbord of metal and mayhem in OC history. What started as just another cable access show in 1996 blossomed into a local staple, mostly for music buffs who were looking for the deepest info they could find on their favorite artists. As the host, Blair always prided himself on asking his guests offbeat, personal questions while extracting the kind of stories and info you won't find on Wikipedia.
Of all the crazy shit we've written about in the metal scene over the last year, this demented recording technique designed by producer Mick Kenny—an OC transplant from the UK—definitely takes the cake…and the sprinkles. The producer's seemingly bizarre and disturbing vocal-recording technique known as Necrosprinkles made its debut in OC with the black metal band Empyrean Throne. It uses self imposed madness and torture is an organic approach to evoking raw feeling, intensity and passion from any artist who dares to give it a try.
The Vandals Finally Play Coachella
It may not seem logical for old-school OC punks like The Vandals to play SoCal's poshest, three-day festival. But for a band that's been around since the birth of Goldenvoice in Huntington Beach and helped grow the local to what it is today, it's was a watershed moment for these merry pranksters. We used our annual Coachella issue to retrace the crazy past that lead them from the Cuckoo's Nest all the way to the Empire Polo Fields.
The Birth of Konsept Records
The continued growth of Konsept's namesake festival was only one reason to celebrate the success of Santa Ana's underground artist collective of DJs, emcees and organizers. This year, founder Tyson Pruong was able to remodel Konsept into a record label after acquiring a distribution deal from a major record company last June. This opens the door for creativity for scores of local hip-hop and beat makers and gives us one more reason to admire OC's ever-impressive hip-hop scene.
Programme Turns 5
Now in its 5th year of business, Programme has become a hotspot for North County skaters and music fans alike, cultivating and supporting the local scene, featuring touring acts like Bane and Real Friends, providing a unique blend of skate gear and lifestyle wear, and even sponsoring local skaters. While they have already accomplished a lot for a quaint store wedged in the corner of a suburban shopping center, owner Chris Gronowski and business partner Efrem Schulz of Death By Stereo are just getting started.
La Boguedita Gets Demolished
This revered Santa Ana venue isn’t much to look at from the outside with a rustic, industrial exterior framed by a big metallic warehouse door. But inside, for the past seven years, La Boguedita was home to a vibrant underground scene of Chicano activist culture in OC. A portrait of Emiliano Zapata, Chicano art paintings, and activist posters hung from its walls, serving as a backdrop for gatherings populated by radical youth sharing food, music, politics and drinks. However, the spot known as ‘Little Warehouse’ in Spanish was demolished in March to make way for an affordable housing project.
1st Annual OC Ska Awards
What started out as a pun between friends has materialized into a full fledged celebration of Orange County’s most cathartic obsession: 3rd wave ska. From recognizing the band with the “Most Upstrokes” to honoring OC’s “Best Skanker,” organizers of the first annual Orange County Skacademy Awards had fun while paying tribute to all things checkered and horn-driven hailing from Orange County past and present at Out of the Park Pizza in Anaheim.
Jon Bunch R.I.P.
In February, we reported the death of charismatic frontman Jon Bunch, who passed away tragically at age 45. More than just a singer for Sense Field and Further Seems Forever—which left a lasting mark on the emo and hardcore community—Bunch proved himself to be a loved and respected staple of our local music community in bands like War Generation and his latest project Lucky Scars. In talking with friends and former bandmates, it's clear that the tender and genuine soul that Bunch strained into his lyrics and his unmistakably melodic vocals was the same one he walked around with every day of his life.
OC Albums Turn 20
The '90s were obviously an important time for OC music. It's typically the period that most people think of when they slap a label on our native sound—the flourishing third wave ska movement, pop punk and FM alt rock. And while '96 in particular did furnish us with more than a few OC classics, the artists of the era are way more interesting and diverse than people give us credit for, even after looking back 20 years later. There's naturally going to be some gems in this list you haven't thought of since Baywatch was on TV and Bill Clinton was in the White House, and some you never even knew existed. Some of them have a fixed spot on your road trip playlist for all eternity. In the spirit of brushing up on some of our unique OC history at the beginning of a brand new year, we take a look at 20 albums celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2016.
Funk Freaks Bring the Boogie Back Santa Ana
Funk Freaks is more than a hipster attempt at nostalgia. For the DJs, it's a lifestyle built on endless crate digging, online scouring and dealing with record collectors around the world for the next song that's destined to slap you silly on the dance floor. In the past few years, their OC-based brand has gone international, with chapters sprouting up and pledging allegiance to the mothership by spinning and sharing shit that YouTube doesn't have, that Shazam can't identify, that Pandora will never stream. Traveling and connecting with like-minded DJs, the crew's name is showing up in the usual musical hotspots—San Francisco, LA, Austin, Chicago and New York City—but also cities in Russia, France, Amsterdam, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. It's these people who come to Original Mike's from abroad, drawn to the boogie and modern soul selections, as well as live performances from the old-school pioneers of the genre.
Lemmy is God
“We are Motorhead. And we play rock’n’roll!” In the last 40 years, I can’t think of any other phrase that says everything a band ever needed to say in so few words. It especially comes in handy now that there are really no other words to explain the loss of a true rock icon, Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister at the very end of 2015, setting off what would become the deadliest year in the history of modern music. Whether you are Dave Grohl or some 16 year-old stoner kid living at home (who grew up to become a music editor at OC Weekly), this news is gutting. And chances are, Grohl and the stoner kid handled it exactly the same way—by blasting Lemmy’s hellified distorted bass on “Ace of Spades” until it was literally everything louder than everything else.