To the average civilian or aspiring college intern, writing about music in Orange County sounds like the a dream job. You get to go to free concerts, interview and become tight with the best local artists and scenesters hoping for any kind of publicity are always lining up to kiss your ass. Maybe not the last part—at least, not always. Still, from the outside, it’s a swell gig. But not everything is what it seems. One night out drinking and talking shop with a group of OC music writers could be enough to scare you away from this life of woe. We’re not just talking about the pressures of crazy deadlines and becoming a public target for trolls and bitter bands who’ve hated you since 2011 for that nasty live review you wrote about them. There’s plenty of commiserating to be done about the life of a music journalist in a suburban fishbowl like OC. Like we always say, you have to hate OC in order to truly love it the way we do. And since we have neither the time nor the money to get drunk with all of you and vent our frustrations, here’s a quick look at the worst parts of being an OC music journalist.
All the artists/bands you like wind up moving to L.A.
It’s a story heard time and time again. Band starts out, band gets big, band ditches hometown for the bright lights and allure of living in L.A. Orange County isn’t immune from this affliction either. Local standouts like Ty Segall, Local Natives, Cold War Kids and many, many more haven’t followed the likes of Social Distortion and continued to rep the place where they’re from. Regardless, there will always be a band who isn’t afraid to truly rep OC and actually realizing they can stay close and go far. (Daniel Kohn)
Fighting for my spot in our overcrowded venues so I can write my reviews
I’ve had my fare share of odd encounters at our local music venues. Frisky pat downs by security, nearly peeing my pants because two girls were having sex in the bathroom, getting hot-boxed to the point where your eyes were shacked, wearing tequila like it’s CHANEL No. 5., Occasionally I’m forced to throw bows at concerts while on assignment. Recently, I was reviewing The Game at the Observatory. The venue was congested but electric and I stood with my boyfriend laughing as The Game invited his one hit wonder friend, O.T. Genasis onstage to chug Cîroc. I stepped back to allow a 6’2ish guy to pass through the minuscule space before me and he took this as an invitation to take my spot. Not only was I boxed in, but my sole view was of his back. Don’t mind me, buddy— just trying to do my damn job here! I tapped him and asked that he move. He laughed and said no but when I raised my voice and said “get the fuck out of the way” he moved. My boyfriend shook his head reminding me not to pick fights with guys draped in red. (Taylor Morgan)
Living in Whittier
Living in a city between Los Angeles and Orange County leaves you without a nearby music venue to call your own— again the middle ground folks are forever left out! This means you’ll have to hop in your car and muscle through a dreadful commute to Los Angeles or a much more tolerable yet trying drive to OC. When your local bars and promoters do try bringing live music to your city, most acts don’t even consider stopping by because of your hometown’s obscurity, leaving us in-betweeners on a constant trek for our love of live music. (Denise De La Cruz)
Covering OC acts who stay local but act like they’re in LA
Look, I get it. The only way you think you’re gonna get plucked out of obscurity from this suburban prison by some random A&R person is by acting like you’ve already made it. Yes, having attitude is important when you’re an up and coming star. But there’s an anorexically-thin line between cocky swagger and full-bred douchebaggery. Usually the tipping point comes after one becomes gassed up on their own hype. Maybe we’ve written one too many blog posts about you or something. To be fair, this level of vanity is easy to achieve in OC. Even though it’s quite sprawling, it’s still got a small-pond feel to it. Popular artists of all stripes are able to stay relevant for a while without having to do much except play at a popular venue or two a few times a year and maybe take home an OC Music Award. And typically, ego-driven artist behavior like spitting at photographer’s cameras, being rude to reporters, crying via social media about not being higher on some list we published is a little too LA for this crew of journos. And to those who choose to wear shades during an interview…fuck you and your mediocre talent. Maybe in the big city they entertain these types of shenanigans. But here, none of us in this market get paid enough to interview you AND your ego. (Nate Jackson)
Covering a show in South County is like being a foreign correspondent
While some of the most well-known OC concert venues are located in the heart of the county — such as the Honda Center, The Observatory, and Segerstrom Center for the Arts — other notable venues, like the Pacific Amphitheater and Irvine Meadows are located a little further south. However, given the size of OC, sometimes one finds oneself driving 40-50 miles to get to the deep south, where the charming Coach House is located and where Doheny Beach hosts various festivals. By the time the events at these southern locations let out, there is usually not much traffic; however getting there in rush hour traffic usually involves a 2-3 hour commitment. Needless to say, sitting in traffic that long sucks. (Scott Feinblatt)
Yes, I’m with the OC Weekly…NOT the OC Register or LA Weekly!
One of the most annoying aspects behind the scenes in music journalism is communication with certain PR folks. Most are well intentioned, well informed and actually pretty cool; but they can also tend to be insistent and persuasive. Others are downright cocky and get pushy. I find that when requesting press passes or securing interviews for the OC Weekly, if dealing with someone unfamiliar with Southern California, a publication like our own can often be confused with other competitors. Over the years, I have been asked “when will this be published in the LA Weekly?” Or I’ve been referred to as a reporter from the OC Register. Of course I always have to correct these individuals, and assure them that we( the OC Weekly) aren’t some janky amateur newspaper based out of someone’s garage in Anaheim, but an actual legit weekly print publication and blog for the communities located in Orange County, read by tens of thousands each week in print and hundreds of thousands, if not millions each month online. (Alex Distefano)
Getting caught up in local band drama
Breakups are hard to do, but penning stories about a band’s inner turmoil is downright awkward. That vibe permeated the rehearsal space in City Terrace where I paid Las Cafeteras a visit last December at their insistence. Former member Annette Torres had just blasted the activist band on social media for being sexist, money hungry musicians. Usually upbeat, the group seemed glum this time around. I wrote about Las Cafeteras since 2010, but they still wanted to record my interview, supposedly for a documentary filmmakers are making—a claim I harbor doubts about. I tried to diffuse tension in the room with some humor, but things stayed thorny while they offered their defense. After two hours, the moment passed, like the story eventually would, too. The band seems more interested in booking tour dates these days anyway than delivering on that promised community town hall on patriarchy.
(Gabriel San Roman)
OCMAs, what the hell are you doing?
To be fair, we’re not sure if this self-serving, back-scratching circle jerk is a best-of or worst-of. On one hand, we love that it celebrates OC music in big venues that some of our local artists really deserve, putting a spotlight away from LA. On the other hand … does BLOK really need five best electronic-slash-hip-hop act awards? (Lilledeshan Bose)
Parking at (some) venues is ridiculous, too expensive or non-existent
Parking is awful and expensive everywhere in cities like LA, so it’s expected that parking at a concert venue there is either scarce or super costly. Parking lots for most places in OC tend to be sprawling and either free or cheap, but many venues (with the exception of the Wayfarer and maybe a couple of others) still insist on blocking off huge chunks of lot space and charging a good amount of money to park miles away—even for press who are basically there to give you publicity (whether it’s positive or not is a different story). When the trick to parking at a venue is finding a space evenly between Carl’s Jr. and Del Taco so neither will tow you, it’s not a good situation. (Josh Chesler)
Getting stalked by the worst local bands
If you’ve written for and have weight with a local media outlet, chances are your name is out there for the world. But the ocean of local OC music is vast— and there are bound to be some attention-seeking urchins out there seeking to rise to the surface. Getting messaged by a random local band/artist/emcee/DJ you’ve never heard of is something that regularly happens if you’re a music writer. This can be good— if you end up enjoying their music. But if they’re not ready for the spotlight (read: lousy), or a little too overzealous in their approach, that places you in the awkward position of having to either say no, or avoid them at all costs. Well, thank goodness for Facebook privacy settings. (Aimee Murillo)
Covering music festivals at Silverado Canyon when it rains
There isn’t a worse location to be stuck in while covering a festival than Silverado Canyon when monsoonal weather hits. For whatever reason, it doesn’t just rain in the eastern hills of Orange County—it downpours, creating mud puddles that swallow you up to your shins and landslides that trap your car in place. Last year, the DoLab hosted Woogie Weekend and Dirty Bird Camp Out at Silverado Canyon—the old stomping grounds of Lightning In a Bottle—and torrential rainfall occurred at both festivals. Tents were flooded, stages were shut down and tapestries were crumpled in the mud. I lost two pairs of shoes to massive mud pools at Woogie and a beanie to soaring winds at Dirty Bird Camp Out. Yet despite the weather induced chaos, the party survived through buckets and buckets of rain at both events, which kept festivalgoer’s spirits high. That aside, however, Silverado Canyon is, perhaps, the worst place to be when it rains. (Mary Carreon)
The deaths that devastate our scene
Yes, death is obviously part of life in any place you go. But when it strikes OC’s music scene, it hits us hard, man. Especially when it’s an artist, journalist or fan who is forced to leave us too soon. Not only the good die young—it’s often the talented and irreplaceable as well. Since I’ve been music editor it seems inevitable that I’ll have to write about this kind of loss every few months. While Sense Field’s Jon Bunch, rockstar Scott Weiland (an OC transplant but still a local guy), Middle Class guitarist Mike Atta and unfortunate soul Nathan Alfaro come to mind as of late, that doesn’t even count for half of the music-related deaths I’ve had to cover. The most heart wrenching for me has to be the cover story on friend and fellow Weekling Andrew Youssef who struggled with Stage 4 colon cancer for years before succumbing barely a month and a half after the story came out. I know there’s always more loss to come, which always reminds me to be thankful for those of us still making this music scene what it is while we’re around to do so. (Nate Jackson)