The Art Institute is seriously starting to become my favorite place to visit in Santa Ana – every time I'm there for some event or other I wonder why my USC education couldn't have had the kind of cool events these folks seem to put on on a regular basis. Rock the Runway, this past Saturday, was a fantastic fusion of almost everything cool: a hipster fashion show, gourmet catering for all, skateboarding demonstrations, live bands, live art demonstrations, and free Mountain Dew. Admission price? Zero dollars. A.I. hopes the event will pay for itself by encouraging some of the kids in attendance to sign up for their new fashion design programs.
On first arrival, there was a long line to get in, and none of the volunteers seemed to understand the concept of a press list. Until one finally registered the name of “OC Weekly,” but rather than taking me to sign in, led me to our promo booth, which was nice, but not what I was looking for. Turned out the entrance line was almost entirely unnecessary, even for non-press types, as all the good stuff was happening out in the parking lot anyway, accessible by all and from all angles.
But there was a VIP room, and I did get to have access to that. The perks of being a VIP were the open bar, which had a nice variety of options, and first shot at the free food courtesy of 2 Dudes Catering, which included gourmet cheeseburgers, clam fritters, fancy grilled cheese, mini baked potatoes, lamb tartare, and mini canollis.
The raw lamb was not just literally rare — 'twas scarce too. Only came around once that I could see. Food wasn't just for VIPs, though — if you sat just outside the VIP room in the reception area, the trays came out there too. And in the main room of the show, free-for-all, was a street taco station that made shredded beef and fried shrimp tacos that may have been better than any of the VIP stuff.
Live art included graffiti spray-painting, as well as one guy making 3-D sculptures with little wooden blocks and a nail gun. First band of the day was Dirty Heads, a rock-rap-reggae combo who could be compared to 311 if one wanted to insult them. Not so much my thing.
Sign of the hipster times, and proof that anything originally thought lame can one day be cooler than cool: Between bands, the DJ cranks out what sounds like the opening riff to “Ice Ice Baby.” The crowd cheers and starts rocking, but when it turns out to be Queen/Bowie's “Under Pressure,” they go silent.
Buckets of free soda included Mountain Dew and Diet Coke, but this being a college, everybody did the Dew. This makes Rock the Runway most likely the only fashion show where the Diet Coke went mostly untouched.
In preparation for the fashion show, a path to the runway had to be cleared, but the folks in charge of this were kind of annoying, extending the imaginary boundaries way back into the parking lot. In terms of finding a good position to take photos, it was just a needless hassle, so I took a walk and visited the “Family Christian Store” down on the corner, where I admired the Bible action figures, which include an elaborate playset of Jesus' tomb, complete with giant roll-away boulder (2 pack of witness figures and 2-pack of Roman Soldiers sold separately, natch).
Final band of the evening was Everybody Else, a pop-rock trio whose fan-base seemed to be entirely female (as a nod to this, they sold official Everybody Else female undies at their merchandise table). Midway through their set, they encouraged everyone to jump up on the runway and dance, which all the ladies did, including one adorable toddler with a Hello Kitty backpack.
I thought their music sounded pretty good too. Does that make me a girly man?