The story of what Marty’s on Newport in Tustin will become starts with what it isn’t anymore. As we’re walking into the 150-capacity, newly-renovated dive bar-turned-concert hall there’s an argument happening at the front door.
“What do you mean it’s $20 to get in? This is our local bar,” says a man in his late 50s, fervently, to the bouncer. His wife walks in anyway, indignant, as security tries to explain the venue is under new ownership. She quickly emerges.
“Let’s go. They’re sold out anyway.”
The price of admission is certainly a value on this night, considering the last time most of us OC music gormandizers have been in a place this tiny locally was our last time at Chain Reaction, maybe Doll Hut if you still go hard.
It’s been about four years since my last Chain show; maybe a lot longer for you. But, swap out the t-shirts on the walls for eye-level mirrors, throw in a rad horseshoe bar with solid food and plenty of drinks, and you’ve got Marty’s on Newport.
Too small, too hot up front, too divey … and too wonderful.
The bookings are a mix of legacy acts and newer bands alike.
and the calendar is stacked right now through the early fall. WAR played the grand opening; Pinback recently had two rare nights; and Berlin, Adolescents, GZA, KRS One and DJ Quik are all yet to come.
The door to the stage looks like it’s in a bedroom, and the size of the stage isn’t much bigger than one. But the sound and the sight lines are great from anywhere, which tends to make a performance like The Buttertones’ Thursday night set go from intimate to incendiary.
The L.A. band—consisting of singer-guitarist Richard Araiza, saxophonist London Guzman, bassist Sean Redman, drummer Modeste Cobain and guitarist Dakota Lee—are surf-rock revivalists in their mid-20s who capture the vibe and urgency of a long-gone era.
Opening with “At the Dojo” off their recently released fourth album Midnight in a Moonless Dream, the band started with a slow burn, like Elmer Fudd’s cartoon bomb with that really long fuse inching closer and closer to exploding. And then it did.
People pushed and shoved to the smooth saxophone blasts, jagged riffs and breakneck fills for just over an hour, with highlights like “Sadie’s a Sadist” and “Matador” working the crowd into a frenzy. All the intensity of their performance in Coachella’s Sonora tent in April was concentrated here, more potent and frantic than it was in the desert due to the bottled-up closeness of the crowd.
The wonder of Marty’s was equally captured by opening act Healing Gems, also from L.A., whose brand of surreal tunes filled the venue with what sounds like the soundtrack to an unreleased Wes Anderson movie. In an interview the band described itself as grandma music like you’d find in the bargain record bin at the thrift store, and that’s about right.
They’re cute, quirky, addicting and would pair well on tour with a funky band like Chicano Batman. Here’s to hoping things will come full circle and we’ll see them at Coachella’s Sonora Tent next year, with The Buttertones on a much larger stage.
As for Marty’s? Give it a year of solid bookings and a few secret shows and it will easily become as much a staple in the community as Chain Reaction or The Observatory.