Best Musicians in OC By Genre 2015

Hey guys, our Best of OC 2015 Issue is out this week! The moment you've all been waiting for. In the spirit of cheerleading for our weird little corner of the world, we've broken down a list of the best rockers, rappers, DJs and singers, etc. that we have to offer. The following winners are broken up by genre:


Best Punk Band: Social Distortion
We really wanted to do a new up-and-coming punk band for this one, but we just couldn't find one that tops the masters. Until that happens (or until the older bands stop touring), OC punk remains Social Distortion and its contemporaries. And given this year is the 25th anniversary of Social D's self-titled album, Mike Ness and his endless growl get the nod over all the veterans. Now, any of you have tickets for their December residency at the House of Blues?

Best Rock Band: Hiatus
You might not have heard of Hiatus, and that's probably because they only play a few times per month–whenever the dozen or so members can find free time between other gigs. Their show schedule might seem a little spare, but you won't think so when you actually check out one of their shows packed with adoring fans from . . . somewhere. Their act is crazy; expect plenty of heavy-energy covers, cheering crowds and the unexpected. And a good time because if there's anything that'll make a rock band the best, it's their ability to make their fans happy.

Best YouTube Star: Kina Grannis
In 2007, Kina Grannis uploaded her first YouTube video from her Mission Viejo bedroom. It was as simple–and, at that time, standard–as YouTube videos could get: Grannis sang and played her original song “Message From Your Heart” on guitar. Unlike today's self-produced YouTube videos, there were no multiple cameras and effects. In fact, Grannis looks blurry onscreen. The sepiatone is heavy. But fans still fell for her–especially when she won the Doritos Crash Super Bowl Contest with this video. After getting airplay during the Super Bowl XLII commercials and receiving a deal with Interscope Records, it was clear Grannis was joining the ranks of Michelle Phan and Wong Fu Productions–YouTube's first class of highly successful, far-from-starving artists. Today, each of these YouTubers has more than 1 million subscribers, and even then, each is working at his or her digital careers. Just look at Grannis. Go to her channel, and you'll see regularly uploaded covers and originals, new album releases, and–if you look at related videos–screenshots of Grannis acting alongside Glee's Harry Shum Jr. in Wong Fu's “The Last.” She has grown from writing acoustic folk music to creating indie soundscapes that dominate her 2014 record, Elements. Though she travels for performances, Grannis always stops by her hometown and stays at meet-and-greets until the last person leaves.

Best Folk: Yellow Red Sparks
Today's folk music–the mainstream kind, anyway–tends to be overdecorated with the genre's tropes: excessive clapping, some variation of “hey ho” chanting (I'm talking 'bout ya, Lumineers), and a general cacophony of overdone banjo and harmonica riffs. Juxtapose that with Irvine-based Yellow Red Sparks–whose music has no trace of the Lumineers, Mumford N Sons, or even greats such as Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens–and you can feel the difference in rawness. The band interpret folk music in their own way, which is the folk version of the Taylor Swift genre: a 40/60 blend of folk and pop. Songs such as “Buy Me Honey” embody the movement of waltzes along with the ballad-like quality of a sung Joshua Radin love letter. Others, such as “Four Steps in Corsets,” feel like lullabies, gliding through three minutes with quiet guitar picking and monologue-esque singing. Together, the songs accompany moments in life that feel cinematic–silent moments at home, catching the sunset and times when we become conscious of our own personal growth.

Best Street Musician: Peter “Fitzinwell”
People walk down the street of downtown Fullerton half-naked on Friday nights all the time, but it takes a huge set of cojones to set up on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Amerige Street in your tightie whities with a guitar. Meet Peter “Fitzinwell,” the musical wonder who camps out on weekend nights armed with nothing more than his undies, his axe and a “Need Child Support” sign. He's the Naked Cowboy of Times Square that DTF so needs and deserves.

Best Club DJ: Johnny Basil
From spinning at the Ace Hotel to doing gigs with the Growlers and sharing a name with a character in the criminally (no pun intended) unappreciated HBO series Oz, DJ Johnny Basil represents the perfect bridge between the Costa Mesa 500 who used to frequent Memphis Café in the 1990s and the kids tripping at the Wayfarer nowadays. By the way, anyone ever seen him wearing a shirt of any kind for more than three hours?

Best Live Band: Fallen Stars
Listen to the Fallen Stars' Americana, and you hear a great, rollicking band. But see them live, and it's the difference between Elvis in the studio and early 1970s Elvis, when he was starting shows with “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” then owning crowds with just a sneer of the lip. Don't believe us? Catch them live and find out for yourself.

Best Indie Act: Rudy De Anda
Boy wonder Rudy De Anda has caught our eye since his turn as front man for the now-defunct psychedelic/progressive rock entity Wild Pack of Canaries. But while that group is on “definite hiatus,” De Anda has quietly patched together solo material with fellow Porch Party Records friends, recording his first EP, Ostranenie, with guidance from the late, great Ikey Owens. The resulting record is an experiment in delightful beach pop, with homages to '60s Argentine crooner Leo Dan and touches of electronic drum beats. De Anda needs to be on your musical radar, if he's not already.

Best Hip-Hop: C4Mula
Putting in work at a time when OC's hip-hop scene is becoming a harder grind is the exact moment when skillful emcees shine instead of getting left behind. (Didn't mean to rhyme all that, really!) Orange-based veteran rapper C4mula is busy making moves in 2015 with twin releases off United Family Music (UFM), headed by Kottonmouth Kings. C4mula definitely elevated his game on Animal Cracker, a six-song EP that showcases his understated but commanding mic presence. Being on UFM affords the opportunity of cross-genre collaborations with local soul-rock heroes Allensworth. The self-described “Beach Boys meets Beastie Boys” approach is further spelled out on Seriously Kidding, a dual effort with Orange-based guitarist and fellow label mate Nicky Gritts.

Best New Band: Hawai
If you're looking for an OC band to take up the mantle of Local Natives and Young the Giant, you'll have to go to Hawai. Nope, it's not a misspelling because it's not the state (yeah, a triple-negative). They're a group of guys you may remember as J.Thoven, which dropped one semi-confusing band name for another and found a way to burn a little brighter with all the melodic pop textures of their former selves. We can already hear their single “Fault” being played on the KROQs of the country, which is in no way a put-down–they earned it! They built their following from the ground up, and now that their vessel for success is built, it's time to sail that motherfucker from OC to stardom–hopefully with a few more interesting pit stops along the way.

Best OC-Reppin' Song: '714' By Endz
In a genre in which authenticity matters, city pride doesn't equal career suicide. Endz proved that to be true when he dropped “7 1 4,” his ode to Orange, earlier this year. Backed by the deft scratches of InDJnous, the rapper rides the heavy boom-bap beat to chart a lyrical cartography with place-setting rhymes such as “Eating at Omega's/So hood is my banquet!” The LeftRight Creations-produced video for the track puts the Orange Circle in the spotlight as Endz roams around town. The single climbed all the way to the top on the YouTube show Snoop Dogg Presents: UNDERGROUND HEAT, with the Doggfather himself introducing it as número uno!

See also:
The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene
The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene
The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List

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