[Sound Guy] Digging Who's Onstage at OC Music Award Showcases—and Wondering Who Isn't

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Digging whoNs onstage at OC Music Award Showcases—and wondering who isnNt

ItNs pretty cool that Orange County has its own music awards. We donNt have anything like that where INm from. The closest we had in the Phoenix area were the AIM (Arizona Infusion of Music, I . . . think?) Awards, and those were for the whole state—and havenNt taken place since 2005, and yes, plenty of award-worthy music has come from there since then. (“WeNre more than just the Gin Blossoms!” should have been the tagline.)

The OC Music Awards showcase on Jan. 13 at Detroit Bar with Stereofix, Venus Infers, Aushua and the Sweet Sweet Things provided compelling evidence that thereNs indeed enough talent Nround these parts to merit its own ceremony. I had admired several of those bands from afar for a while (sounds kind of creepy, but it isnNt—honest!), but it was my first time seeing any of them live.

Stereofix (from Orange County, but their MySpace claims, “Los Angeles, California”) are extremely polished, down to their natty attire and carefully sculpted coifs. On record, their Killers-esque nouveau new wave can seem almost calculated, but it has a bit more of an edge when performed live. It doesnNt really help that, as far as names go, “Stereofix” is pretty generic.

Huntington BeachNs Venus Infers have had a lot of praise thrown their way (their MySpace is full of assorted fawning from critics), and here comes some more: Their latest, NovemberNs The Truth About Venus Infers, is one of the best local releases INve heard in my short time here. They were able to match my expectations live, infusing a vitality into such Britpop songs (donNt worry, no affected English accents!) as “YouNre MakinN Me Nervous.” TheyNre playing the Gypsy Lounge on Friday, and going to that would probably not be the worst thing ever.

Aushua, from Orange, also impressed, in a much mellower way, with pretty, peaceful vocals evoking the Snow Patrols or Travises of the world. And in the interest of full disclosure, I missed the Sweet Sweet Things (since when do shows start on time?), which was a bummer.

But in talking to a buddy outside the venue between sets, one thing did seem kind of odd, and it wasnNt the ponderous amount of “Yelpstick” being given away (user-review website Yelp was one of the nightNs sponsors; free is always good, but INll probably be sticking with BurtNs Bees): It was how similar all the acts were. Not just that night—because that was intentional, INm sure—but from the week before at the same venue. It was all melodic indie pop strongly reminiscent of many acts who have populated FM rock stations the past five years. INd be hypocritical to complain too much, since I enjoyed these bands and am a fan of a lot of that music (INm not ashamed to admit rocking out to Coldplay on some lonely, lonely nights). The week before that was all folksy singer/songwriter types—certainly in the same genus, if not species.

Looking into the future—including this TuesdayNs lineup with the Living Suns, Sederra, Starving for Gravity and Champagne Blvd.—things arenNt much different, despite the Living Suns being a little harder than any of the bands we were talking about previously. Nothing against any of these guys, but itNs still ultimately rock N roll. After this past week at Detroit, the concerts move to Chain Reaction, and the pattern seems to hold. So, where are the electro artists? Metal? DJs? Hip-hop? Latin?

That night, I caught up with Luke Allen, the guy now in charge of the OC Music Awards. I asked him if there was a chance of seeing the genres getting a little more mixed-up in future concerts, and he said that though there would be representation from other genres at the awards—there is, indeed, a Best Hip-Hop category—for the most part, the showcases are looking like mostly rock bands because, well, thatNs the kind of music that people in Orange County play.

INm not trying to criticize Allen for this. HeNs one of the nicest guys in the music “scene” here INve met thus far and has been doing well with the showcases (the one I attended was packed—on a Tuesday). I wonder, though, if the OC music scene is quite as homogeneous as these lineups tend to suggest. I canNt really offer up enough evidence at this point to argue either way; most of the bands INve written about since getting here fall into the “poppy rock” category, as do many of the bands from here who have broken nationally recently, like Japanese Motors.

Check with me again when the 2010 OC Music Awards roll around.

ac****@oc******.com

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