Nine years ago, I was in this wannabe new-wave band based in Santa Ana. Back then, our big goal in life was to get featured in OC Weekly. The band imploded, as bands are wont to do, way before we even got a concert listing in the Calendar section (not even a Locals Only, sob!). The funny thing was, when the music editor job came up two years ago, the fact that I played at places such as the Gypsy Den and DiPiazza's and rehearsed in a warehouse in Santa Ana (we even played the first OC Music Awards showcase ever!) gave the hiring powers-that-be the impression that I knew enough about Orange County music to give me the job.
I took it gleefully, of course, knowing my life would be a whirlwind of awesome: free shows and new music, VIP passes to festivals and secret shows. I never anticipated how much work it would be: the sleepless nights writing Top 10 lists, editing concert reviews at 2 a.m., chasing down Bradley Nowell's friends and family two days before we went to press. Still, it was all worth it.
Along the way, I got married and started a family, giving birth to the cutest baby boy IN THE WORLD. My priorities changed, and I realized I needed a grown-up job. So now I leave the Weekly for a job at a university, taking with me only boxes full of concert stubs and shelves overflowing with promo CDs. That, and enough awesome music memories to last a lifetime.
I've covered music and entertainment for almost half my life; I started in the Philippines at Seventeen Magazine, moved over to the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, and then had a short fling with the Midwest at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (I moved back because I couldn't stand the winters). And I don't know if it's because my musical aspirations were always tied to the Weekly or because Orange County has always been my American home, but I feel as if as OC Weekly's music editor, I found a particular voice as a writer–because it was the place where I was surrounded by the best talent. As I say goodbye to the Weekly, I reflect on the top 10 reasons why covering OC music will always be a cherished part of my life.
10. I got to work with amazing music photographers and writers. You know who you are.
9. OC venues are super-easy to get to, and there's (almost) always free parking.
8. Local bands don't feel entitled to coverage. It's weird–in a city in a smaller market, it seems local bands feel as though local media should cover them, no matter how shitty they are, just because they live in the area. And bigger bands, obviously, would rather give music outlets such as Rolling Stone the time of day. But here, OC bands are always so grateful for the press they get it's fulfilling to take note of really good bands.
7. OC legends are super accessible. I grew up listening to Sublime, Reel Big Fish, the Aquabats and No Doubt, and interviewing members of these bands was definitely a personal highlight. Not in the least because they've all gone out of their way to accommodate me as a reporter, but also because they were just so forthcoming and un-celebrity-like. But I've also spoken with Mike Atta (of Middle Class, one of the first–and probably THE first–hardcore bands in the U.S.), Greg Kuehn of TSOL and Stan Freese (Disney caster and father of Josh and Jason), and they're all amazing, down-to-earth people.
6. There's always the thrill of discovery in the weirdest places. You never really know if something cool is happening at the Tiki Bar (Green Day secret show, what?) or the Juke Joint, and if you seek out the fun, it can definitely be had.
5. Watching local bands blow up is hella fun–and makes us proud. It was great to see the Jakes evolve into MTV darlings Young the Giant, as championed by Morrissey and such. They even have a headlining show at OC Fair this summer!
4. OC Weekly gets to cover Long Beach, too. Okay, we get a lot of flak for this because it's technically in Los Angeles County. But because the OC and LB music scenes have more of an affinity than LA/LB or LA/OC, it's just historically been the natural state of the Weekly's music coverage. Honestly, covering LB made the job twice as fun.
3. Outdoor concerts are always pleasant affairs. Did I mention I survived two Wisconsin winters? It's hard to drag your ass out to watch shows when it's -17 degrees outside. And summers, when they held Summerfest, were sticky and humid. That will never be a problem in OC. The U.S. Open of Surfing, Doheny Days, Buskerfest, Punk Rock Picnic–all of it is held in perfect 75-degree weather.
2. Really huge acts perform at local venues (and sometimes don't). Weezer performed at Huntington Beach, U2 had a Honda Center stop, and Kings of Leon are at the Verizon Wireless every year. And when they do cancel an OC gig, it's a huge deal. Remember Monster Massive? And Playground Festival? Those events didn't pan out too well, but covering the news was really exciting for us.
1. No matter what level of fame up-and-coming local musicians have, their quality is always world-class. Jeramiah Red, Nicole Vaughn and Her Lovely Band, and Railroad to Alaska may not be household-name famous yet, but they could very well be–and soon.