The Stories That Defined OC’s Music Scene in 2017

With the end of 2017 nearly upon us, it’s hard to understand how the Weekly or the community we serve made it all the way through. But looking back on the last 12 months and the stories of successful movements, local heroes and hot messes, one thing we always strived to do as a core of music reporters was to make as much noise as possible. Once again, OC’s local scene made that an easy task as we forged through an endless festival season, investigative stories and colorful profiles of the people who make OC the underrated bastion of culture that it is. In honor of our tireless team of music journalists and the stories they wrote about our community, here’s a taste of the best music coverage we put together with excerpts from the stories accompanied with links for you to click on and dig further. Before we give 2017 a swift kick out the door, it’s important to look back at the stories that rang out the loudest.


Dr. Freecloud’s Record Shoppe, A Victim of Fountain Valley Gentrification, Won’t Go Quietly
Although he’s being forced to move his record store, the music isn’t being silenced for Ron Dedmon.
Dr. Freecloud’s Record Shoppe, in Fountain Valley and owned by Dedmon, will have to find new digs following the recently announced rehabilitation of the Fountain Valley Square Shopping Center, which was built in the 1970s. The renovation has forced several shop owners, who have been under month-to-month leases, to either move or close down for good, says Dedmon, whose shop has been at that location, at 18960 Brookhurst Street, for 13 years. Dedmon says they got the notice to vacate in October. (Brittany Woolsey)

Camaraderie and Recognition Inspire the First California Country Awards
It’s a common theory that most award ceremonies are no longer a relevant way to measure the greatness of an artist. It’s definitely been the case for the the Grammys which only recently decided to acknowledge the power of genres like hip-hop and dance music that have been going strong for decades. But when it comes to showcasing a local scene like SoCal country, it’s about more than just album sales, star power or major label promotion. It’s about the work that goes on in the trenches every single day of the year by unsigned local artists who often never get recognized for contributing to a scene that’s become more diverse and formidable than most people realize. (Nate Jackson)


Why the VIP Records Sign Deserves Historic Hip-Hop Status
As the longtime owner of VIP, Anderson saw his store’s rise to fame in the early ‘90s thanks to its integral role in the history of West Coast hip-hop and its cameo in a host of music videos including Snoop Dogg’s video for “Who Am I (What’s My Name?).” That alone was probably enough for the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission to vote as they did last week to approve the sign to become a historical landmark. The final unanimous vote by the Long Beach City Council on Dec. 19 gave the sign the long awaited landmark status. (Nate Jackson)

Transgress Fest Returns to Celebrate Togetherness in Music
Transgress Fest came into this world as a statement of purpose. For festival creator Drew Arriola-Sands and many of the queer and trans artists who helped organize the event, it was about creating a space for OC’s vibrant LGBTQ performers who were tired of having their bands sidelined or exoticized in mainstream festival culture. The second annual event returns this year to celebrate community, raise hell and hopefully some awareness of a scene, culture and a lifestyle that is never short on talent. We spoke to festival founder Arriola-Sands (aka the lead singer of hardcore punk band Trap Girl) about the importance of the fest and the plans to make it even more inclusive this year. (Nate Jackson)

After Her Mother’s Death, Turntables Brought DJ Lala Out of Depression and Into the Spotlight
Just a decade ago, Fhanet Rubio hid from the world in her Costa Mesa bedroom, mired in depression amid her mother’s losing battle with breast cancer. “All I wanted to do was sleep,” Rubio recalls. “It didn’t feel good to be alive. I just wanted to go back to sleep because when I was sleeping, I didn’t feel anything.”
She knows all too well that music is medicine, even for bummed-out Dodgers fans. Hours, days and months of practice on the turntables gave her the bravery to return to the outside world in the form of DJ Lala. Rubio began with humble residencies before life-changing opportunities quickly teamed her with legendary West Coast rapper Suga Free, then transformed her into an internationally touring DJ. (Gabriel San Roman)

How Rwandan Refugee Kiro Cheated Death With a Smile That Made Him an OC Icon
It’s hard to not look at the smiling face of Bigira Mustapha Prince David Willy Kirokiro without feeling a little bit better about life. It’s rare to meet a human so magnanimous, especially one so iconic to a locale that his face is printed on vinyl slaps, inspiring onlookers to consider celebration, simplicity and life itself while also promoting Orange County’s only African arts and accessories store….But his warm demeanor and constant cheerfulness belie the fact he has narrowly defied death on multiple occasions. He has survived three wars, including the genocide that forced him to flee to America more than two decades ago. He has stayed sharp, kind and lucky, keeping the appearance of being carefree while always being hyperaware of his surroundings. Despite efforts by many to end his life or shut him down, the 69-year-old’s light burns brighter than his trademark yellow-rimmed sunglasses. (Candace Hansen)


The Tragedy in Vegas Will (and Should) Change Festival Culture Forever
After this week, there’s no question that the innocence of our festival culture is gone, if it was ever truly there in the first place. And in the coming years the ways in which we’re forced to adapt to terror through the safety precautions of the companies who put on live music events will create an environment where true escapism will be hard or impossible to achieve. But one thing I’m certain of is that a horrific event like this should never kill is a sense of responsibility for one another and helping the person standing next to us in the crowd walk out alive whether we walked in together or not. If anything, it should strengthen that responsibility exponentially. (Nate Jackson)

The Growlers Found the Redemption They Were Looking For With Growlers Six
Any fan of The Growlers knows that when parsing the words of philosophical jester Brooks Nielsen, even the smallest, throwaway jokes sometimes bear the biggest meaning. After taking a swig of the crowd’s intoxicating energy following their opening song “Drinkin’ the Juice Blues,” the frontman donning a galactic onesie and a face covered in skeletal makeup surveyed the hazy, Halloween crowd of thousands at Growlers Six who came out to rage just as they had years prior when this little party used to be called Beach Goth. Much like the band’s music, the scene felt like an homage to something from the past, before simpler times regretfully turned into much more complicated ones. (Nate Jackson)

Legendary Alt-Latin Show Illegal Interns Returns to Its Radio Roots at KUCI
The variety show featured up-and-coming East LA bands like Quetzal, live jam sessions, and interviews with established rock en español Latin American acts on tour—something that never dawned on local media outlets in Latino LA. But newspapers eventually caught on to act with profiles on the show in the Los Angeles Times which deemed it a Chicano “Wayne’s World.” Illegal Interns had its best stretch, though, when moving over to KJLA in 1995. The public access station later turned into LATV with a lineup of shows that attracted upstart Latino hosting talent like current Today in LA traffic reporter Alysha del Valle and actor Anthony “Citric” Campos who stars on TV Land’s Lopez sitcom. (Gabriel San Roman)


FivePoint Amphitheatre Keeps Irvine’s Live Music Legacy Alive
When Irvine Meadows Amphitheater closed last October, the future of live, large-scale music in Orange County was thrown into question. Despite the ample advanced notice of the local staple’s closing, many were skeptical about the county’s and Irvine’s commitment to continue book bands on as large of a level.
If you attended any of the final shows at Irvine Meadows, by the venue’s entrance was a makeshift sign where fans could jot down their memories, which was posted by FivePoint. The developer launched Save Live Music Irvine movement last year, and their efforts were rewarded with a dramatic 5-0 vote to build an interim amphitheater on approximately 45 acres on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro base on a site adjacent to the Orange County Great Park. (Daniel Kohn)

Day N Night Is a Hit With Hip-Hop Heads at Angel’s Stadium
I’m late to the party today, but everyone seems a lot happier to be at a music festival in the parking lot of Angel Stadium than they usually are for the Observatory’s signature parking lot festivals. I briefly thought maybe it wouldn’t be in the parking lot, but then I remembered who was putting it on. (Josh Chesler, Nick Nuk’em)

Queer As Punk: Remembering Robert Omlit, OC’s Original, Forgotten Music Madman
My Name Is Harold is the crowning achievement of Robert Omlit, a scrawny, 5-foot-9-inch, queer, white boy with huge granny glasses, professor-like attire, and a receding hairline and big head (think Timmy from South Park). His band, the Omlits, emerged alongside fellow Fullertonians the Adolescents, Middle Class and Social Distortion to help birth OC punk. Tony Reflex of the Adolescents named Omlit as a heavy influence on him as a vocalist, alongside Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters. “He would crumple on the floor and literally scream until the veins in his head bulged and [he] passed out,” Reflex wrote in a 2014 blog post. “A truly amazing vocalist.” (Frank John Tristan)

Music Tastes Good Lives on in Memory of Its Late Founder
The death of Music Tastes Good founder Josh Fischel compelled his brother Zach to make sure Josh’s legacy lived on by joining the production team, which includes creative directors Chris Watson, Meagan Blome, Jon Halperin, production coordinator Vince Gutierrez and the executive producer John Molina. “Josh and I shared a passion for amazing music, terrific food and a sense of community,” Molina says. “Music Tastes Good is Josh’s vision to bring these together. The MTG team is honoring his spirit by continuing to move forward.” (Nate Jackson)


Ska Label Steady Beat Revived Itself By Opening Up to Eclectic Tastes
The expansion of the label’s repertoire over the years encapsulates a broader cross-section of Latin-infused music from traditional ska acts such as the Steady 45s to soul-inspired bands including Chicano Batman and psychedelic Cumbia punks Thee Commons, all of whom have recorded or done live shows with label owner Luis Correa in recent years. (Nate Jackson)

Summertime in the LBC Successfully Funked Up the Queen Mary
Lil Rob just rapped the “I’m right next to the Pacific to be specific” line from his 2005 hit “Summer Nights”. There may not be truer words spoken for the rest of the day. (Nick Nuk’em, Angel Grady, Frank John Tristan, Nate Jackson)

Jose Mangin Squeezes His Love for Metal Into Orange County
After eight years as brand ambassador, Mangin was promoted two years ago to his current role by OC-based apparel company Affliction to move his New York-based SiriusXM show to Seal Beach and broadcast from the company’s OC headquarters.”It was natural for me to want Jose to work with us because of his passion for the brand,” says Eric Foss, owner/design director for Affliction Clothing. “By having him in the OC, he has been able to integrate more into our social media and be a louder voice for our company. The rock and metal music fans have embraced our brand since the beginning, so outfitting bands is a top priority.” (Rachael Mattice)

Metal Blade Celebrates 35 Years of Making Music That Refuses to Rust
If you’ve bought a metal album any time in the past three-plus decades, there’s a good chance you’ve had your eardrums shredded by Metal Blade Records. The global music outlet for all things heavy started in 1982 as a tiny passion project by founder Brian Slagel in Agoura Hills. The young Southern Californian developed that project into one of the biggest metal labels in the world, and to celebrate that, Slagel is releasing a book that chronicles Metal Blade’s musical genealogy and family of artists—a roster that includes everyone from Cannibal Corpse and Cattle Decapitation to King’s X and Whitechapel. (Alex Distefano)


Agenda Festival’s Founder Explains the Evolution of Hip-Hop’s Favorite Fashion Trade Show
Last Sat. July 15, the streets of Long Beach surrounding the convention center were saturated with people and skateboards rushing to get their spot in line for the much anticipated Agenda Festival. Agenda’s creator Aaron Levant got in the industry as a graphic designer at various clothing companies in the ’90s, but when he started his street wear clothing line, he and his partner decided to stop attending trade shows and create their own and now he’s been hosting the Agenda Trade Show for over 14 years with the thought of turning it into a festival for what seemed like forever. We caught up with Levant at Agenda Fest to ask him about the making of this inaugural fest and plans for the next one. (Angel Grady)

How Orange County is Making Ska Great Again
Even with our extensive alt and punk rock roots, OC will always be recognized as the birthplace of 3rd wave ska. It’s been part of the fabric of the OC music scene for decades. The locals have embraced their place in ska lore, and over the years, they continue support the bands that make the scene what it is. They police themselves, and call out any band or person that isn’t true to the music, or bring drama to the scene. As a result, they’ve become a powerful and vocal community. (Jimmy Alvarez)

Beat Swap Meet Celebrates Nine Years of Unity Through Crate Digging
What started as an excuse to host a gathering for record collectors and hip-hop heads turned into one of the most respected crate digging events in all of Southern California. The art of searching for rare vinyl of genres ranging from funk, punk, reggae, soul, jazz and hip-hop underneath easy-ups in the blazing sun expanded in include b-boy competitions, car shows, DJ battles, and live shows in both Santa Ana and LA on a quarterly basis. This weekend, Beat Swap Meet celebrates its ninth anniversary at Diego’s Rock-n-Roll Bar, proof that rock and rap are always intrinsically linked—no matter what Gene Simmons says. (Nate Jackson)


Left of the Dial Lives! The Owner of the Beloved SanTana Record Store Sells to a New Dreamer
Over the past several years, Left of the Dial record store owner Geoff Leamon faced a stream of gut-punching misfortunes: various medical issues including Crohn’s disease, piling-up medical bills and two car accidents (one in which he was hit by a drunk, another by a distracted texter). He felt as if he were trapped in a downward spiral that made it almost impossible to keep a fledgeling record store afloat, and after eight years, he decided to call it quits. “I got to the point where closing is my only option,” he says. “I was struggling with rent and personal debt; it just became too much of a juggling act. It seemed like it was the only thing I could do, even though I didn’t want to.”
But just as he was about to throw up his hands and his closing-sale signs, he was contacted by a guy from Mission Viejo with a similar dream to Leamon’s. (Nate Jackson)

How the Producers of Team Supreme Broke Out of OC To Take On The World
Over the past five years, the members of the Chapman-bred producers of Team Supreme have experienced plenty of individual successes, such as signing to big labels such as Fool’s Gold and touring the world with different festivals. Recently, Henry Allen, a.k.a. King Henry, another co-founding member, produced tracks for stars including Justin Bieber, Major Lazer and Beyoncé. But despite being on top of the world, they never forget to stay humble about their situation. “Nobody’s selfish,” Morris says of the collective’s tight-knit crew. “Everyone’s trying to feed Team Supreme. . . . We’ve all wanted to keep it growing.” (Nate Jackson)

The Story Behind Lightning In a Bottle’s Co-Founder Fall Out
Something seemed off when the Do Lab replaced LIB’s Temple of Consciousness and the Village with an area called the Compass. Things seemed even weirder when the exotic dance collective was nowhere to be found on either Lightning In a Bottle or the Do Lab stage’s lineups. On Thursday, May 25—the first official day of LIB— Dream Rockwell, a co-founder and co-creator of the Do Lab and LIB, the lead curator of the Temple of Consciousness and the founder of the Lucent Dossier Experience, released a statement addressing why Lucent wasn’t on the bill this year. (Mary Carreon)


Defendant Who Fatally Stabbed Nathan Alfaro Convicted of Manslaughter, Not Murder
The Santa Ana man who stabbed fellow concertgoer Nathan Alfaro to death during a March 2016 punk show at the club formerly known as Underground DTSA in Downtown Santa Ana was convicted of manslaughter on Monday, not murder. Jurors found that the defendant acted out of anger in the heat of the moment after a second fight broke out between the two men. (Nate Jackson)

Las Cafeteras Returns to OC With New Album, Same Ol’ Drama
Las Cafeteras transcend any musical shortcomings with the sheer force of their charismatic determination, a shtick that can only last for as long as the band’s rebellious luster holds. Luckily for Las Cafeteras, left-friendly media outlets leave them largely unchallenged. It pained Torres to see easygoing interviews and supportive spots for the band on Rising Up with Sonali, Colorlines and Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!, a show that premiered the music video starring santanera actress Diana Romo for “If I Was President,” the lead single off Tastes Like L.A.
It wouldn’t surprise Torres to see swarms of activists flock to their summer shows, either. “What I’ve learned is that people will only pick and choose who they want to hold accountable,” she says, calling foul. “These ‘conscious’ people have a lot to learn.” (Gabriel San Roman)

Blackest of the Black Fest is Danzig’s Misfit Baby
It’s been almost exactly a year since we found out that the classic lineup of the Misfits, featuring Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, would be reuniting to perform at the Riot Fests in Denver and Chicago. Here in Southern California, those festivals seemed a long way away, and 12 months later, it feels like the chances of further classic Misfits shows are slim. But, we have the next best thing.
The Danzig-organized Blackest of the Black Festival takes place at Oak Canyon Park in Silverado on May 26 and 27. Hardcore veterans Suicidal Tendencies headline the Friday, with Danzig (the band) naturally closing out the festival on Saturday. Across the weekend, bands as prestigious as Corrosion of Conformity, Discharge, Ministry, Devildriver, and Venom Inc. will perform, highlighting a lineup that covers the darker side of metal and punk. (Brett Callwood)


The Yost Theater Shuts Its Doors, Will Reopen Under New Management
Recently, Dennis Lluy and Dave Leon, who’ve been running the place since 2011, decided to pass the Yost torch to local catering and event planning company 24 Carrots; they will now focus on Lockout Music Rehearsal Studios, which rents out private practice spaces to bands.
Since restoring the Santa Ana theater to a taste of its former glory, Lluy and Leon began managing several other properties as well, transforming the area around the Yost into a little pocket of culture on Third Street, with a small circuit of bars including Diego’s Rock-N-Roll Bar and the Underground DTSA (now Bar Ellipsis), as well as 1912, dubbed a classier extension of the Yost. But over time, it was clear that the level of resources and focus needed to make these places viable and well-maintained was more than either manager had anticipated. “It takes a lot of resources to run that place—that’s just the reality,” Lluy says. “[It needs] a bigger team than what we have right now to take it to the next level.” (Nate Jackson)

Meet Lorn Conner: The Happy Coachella Guy
Coachella’s longest running unofficial art piece sports a safari hat, sunglasses, green board shorts, and an orange Hawaiian T-shirt. Unlike the rest of the massive, eye-catching installations brought to the festival every year, Lorn Conner—aka the Happy Coachella guy—is a small, anonymous dot on the Empire Polo Field that prefers to be heard instead of seen. (Nate Jackson)

Latinx Bands and Fans Celebrate Coachella’s Largest Latin Music Lineup Ever
This year, Coachella represented La Raza like never before. Along with the debut of the Sonora stage, Coachella’s 2017 lineup included the most Latin music bands in the festival’s 18-year history.
Throughout the weekend, Coachella goers rejoiced in Latinx culture and sent a political statement by doing so during contentious times against communities of color in the United States. Considering that the actual city of Coachella has a 96 percent Latinx population rate and SoCal’s strong Latinx presence, some wondered why Coachella didn’t cater to its largest community sooner. (Denise De La Cruz)

“Angel Baby” Singer Rosie Hamlin of Rosie and The Originals Dead at 71
Rosie Hamlin, the teenager who crooned the eternal classic “Angel Baby,” passed away last week. The lead singer of Rosie and the Originals died on Thursday of undisclosed causes. A statement from the family on the band’s website noted Hamlin was 71 when she passed in her sleep and didn’t perform in her later years because of health concerns. “It’s been difficult for us these past few days and we are heartbroken from our loss,” Joey Tafolla, Rosie’s son and longtime Orange County resident, told the Weekly. “We are so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support by so many people who she has touched with her music. It’s truly amazing how the song ‘Angel Baby’ touched so many people’s lives in a positive way.” (Gabriel San Roman)


Monique Powell Has Revived Save Ferris—But Not Everyone is Happy
After more than two years of legal hell—which became fodder for gossip sites such as TMZ and Perez Hilton—Save Ferris lead singer Powell won the rights to the band’s name, brand and social-media pages, and she also saw her name credited on some of the older songs. But to this day, she remains loathed by many in the ska community, from former friends and fans to a new generation who wasn’t even born when Save Ferris was ripping through Side By Side in Huntington Beach, the Barn in Riverside, the Glass House in Pomona and anywhere where two-tones could hop. They’ve deemed her a Judas, a Jezebel—and worse. There were even Tumblr pages such as Fake Ferris created to troll as nastily as possible. (Daniel Kohn)

Polynesian Dance Troupe Went From a Buena Park Garage to the World Stage
Half a century ago, in a mostly white neighborhood in Buena Park, there lived a woman who had brown skin and didn’t speak any English. One day, her daughter’s high-school talent-show committee invited parents to participate, so she signed up. During a rehearsal, the principal saw her practicing her act and informed her that it was a bit too sensual and inappropriate for a high school. She wound up performing anyway. It was a hula dance.Shortly thereafter, all of the neighborhood moms started knocking on her door, begging for instruction. Estella “Nonosina” Reid gave these women, her first students, dance lessons in her garage in exchange for English tutoring. The women then asked if Reid would teach their children, and they paid for a tiny space in Buena Park. Thus was born the Nonosina Polynesia Dance studio. (Scott Feinblatt)

Inside the Magnetic Mind of DJ Johnny Basil
Johnny is a talented musician whose older recordings are layered, yet focused. In a previous profile on Basil for the Weekly, Dave Segal did a good job dissecting his earlier work and stints in bands like West Coast Harem. Now, ten years later, after a seven to eight year dry period, he’s working full stop paying more attention to the business side of things than he has before. (Christine Terrisse)

Pacific Symphony and Musicians’ Union Find Harmony in New Contract
The Pacific Symphony avoided a silent orchestra of striking musicians by reaching an agreement with the union representing them. Hyped as a “landmark contract” by the Symphony’s Board of Directors, the terms include a 10.4 percent wage increase over five years. Other key parts include new service guarantees for musicians, more performance opportunities and a more stable income. (Gabriel San Roman)


Skacademy Awards 2017: Making America Skank Again
Ska lovers rejoice… again! The Skacademy Awards are back for their second year of celebrating all things checkered, up-stroked, and horn themed behind the Orange Curtain – and now (one step) beyond!
Skacademy Awards cofounders Cameron Hallenbeck and Whitney Dunkle caused quite a stir in the ska world in 2016 when they turned a ska pun from inside joke to an actual event centered on celebrating the wild and weird Orange County ska scene. Pulled together in just under three weeks and complete with skalebrity guests like Tazy Phyllypz, awards ranging from ‘Most Upstrokes’ to ‘Best Skanker,’ and live performances, the ceremony took over Out of the Park Pizza in Anaheim, reinvigorating OC ska’s sense of community and inspiring the pizza place to continue hosting ska shows. (Candace Hansen)

The Magic and Hot Mess of Soulquarius, Reviewed By the Minute
Kelly is singing a chick in the pit instructions to wipe him down with a hand towel. She makes her way down to his dick and gets her Mr. Miyagi on for a bit. It’s unclear who’s enjoying it more, the chick, Kells, or the crowd. Perhaps it’s one of those situations where everyone wins. (Nick Nuk’em, Josh Chesler, Eran Ryan)

Morrissey to Headline the Observatory’s When We Were Young Fest
For millennials who discovered emo in the early 2000s, hearing the tortured, lovesick songs that became anthems during your awkward teenage years can bring back some hardcore feels. It’s also a bit strange to think it’s been about a decade since jet black hair dye, eyeliner and nail polish became a mainstream music phenomenon. Today, Observatory announced their latest nostalgia-focused festival When We Were Young April 8-9, headlined by Morrissey and featuring a number of turn-of-the-millennium bands no doubt influenced by him.


Here’s Why the New House of Blues Anaheim Will Be Better Than the Old One
House of Blues Anaheim might’ve only moved a few blocks away from its old Downtown Disney location, but it’s definitely hellbent on taking the venue to a whole new level. From the time the company showed us the first artist renderings of the new venue set to revitalize the ghost town Anaheim Garden Walk, we were told this was going to become the new premiere venue in OC, something it hadn’t been for the last several years at the old location. (Nate Jackson)

The She Rocks Awards at NAMM Honored Badass Women in Music
The message felt especially poignant at the She Rocks Awards which honors female role models in the music industry during the boy’s club that is the NAMM Show. And what better night to celebrate these musical chingonas than on the eve of the worldwide Women’s March? (Denise De La Cruz)

OC Punks Remember the Life of Gabby Gaborno
There’s no way to sum up Gaborno’s life without the legendary stories that made him a king and the lesser-known stories that made him one of the greatest people many of us in OC’s music scene have ever known. Since his passing, there’s no doubt that thousands of stories of Gabby’s ridiculous antics, kindness, compassion and crudeness have flooded our memories. Now that he’s gone, those he touched will never laugh as hard or have a life that feels as full as it did when he was around. In an effort to honor his memory and capture the true spirit of Gaborno’s extraordinary life, we’ve gathered scraps of stories from band mates and friends who knew him best. (Nate Jackson)

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