Orange County and Los Angeles: The Battle Continues

by Kevin Brent

It’s all territorial, isn’t it? When you get right down to it? Galaxy theater vs. The Palace. The Palladium against the Sun. Anti Bar and (gulp ) Club Mesa. Orange County and Los Angeles. The two co-exist on the same creaky peninsula, yet the power of musical credence floats like a pendulum from one county to the next evenly and with a droning, constant rhythm. I guess it all comes down to healthy competition in a distorted, amplified kind of way and in the end, aren’t we all happy? Supremacy will never truly be decided, our two pieces of land will be forever hinged not counting devious acts of God, and rock and roll will always still be rock and roll, damn it.

That having been said, the power is in our hands – behind that infamous “Curtain” metaphor.

In the eighties Los Angeles ruled and there is no denying the depth of music the region produced. The Red Hot Chili Peppers or Jane’s Addiction could be caught at the Roxy or Whiskey on any given Friday night while Fishbone could be seen at any house party anywhere, anytime. All knew and respected their roots, all bowed to the doctrines set forth by the deep rooted funk of George Clinton and Parliament or even went back even further to the cool blues of Miles Davis or John Coltrane’s love supreme. They were careful not to trample on the hardcore or straight edge punk which gave them their free will, as they propped X’s Los Angeles freely in their music and Flea – in a stark moment of clarity—stated that Fugazi’s Steady Diet of Nothing is the album that inspires his life.

Orange County was never far behind, just lacking variety and a niche expansive enough to embrace a larger region. While the Vandals and Agent Orange were coming of age, they still fit neatly into the punk, XXX label categories of which airplay was not only non-existent but spat upon. Literally. Locally, it was a good time for music, but lacked the formula for appealing to a wider scope. The record labels were staked in L.A. and that’s where O.C. bands traveled on the weekends, to play the clubs on the Strip or to check out the acts at the Olympic Auditorium and salivate at the possibilities.

It’s always been an enigma as to why Angelinos rip on the birthing of heavy metal in their own backyard. It seems to always be a black eye to purists that metal of all shapes and sizes slugged its way in and out of Gazzarri’s during the middle of the decade, then went out with a whimper when Nirvana struck and strangled the life out of the strip. It’s almost as if the battle L.A. thought their musicians would wage with the North instead turned into a retreat and all out surrender. Nothing good has come out of Los Angeles since Guns ‘n Roses. Just in time for Orange County to make it’s move.

Diversity now reigns supreme throughout our beachside empire, as the accolades descend upon the conglomerate factions known as No Doubt and Korn. They have completed the kind of takeover only before seen on Wall Street, monopolizing every television, radio, and internet airwave available all the while dictating status quo to the fledgling acts. There may have been no Limp Bizkit without Korn, while locals Hed(pe) would much further from the industry signing table then they currently find themselves in front of.

And without Gwen and No Doubt, the collision of pop style and bubble gum ska probably would not have been so precisely orchestrated. These bands have reached the atmospheric ranks of a Van Halen or Guns ‘n Roses, and seems to have, based on sophomore record sales and tour revenues, equal monetary stature as well.

Even the smaller guys in the pond like Reel Big Fish and Assorted Jellybeans have benefited, touring the globe, even prospering in large venues like the Universal Amphitheatre and anywhere KROQ decides to stage it’s annual Weenie Roast.

Is O.C. back on top to stay? No. But we have finally established ourselves as worthy and equal opponents, capable of denting anything from nationwide top-40 rankings to the respectability of our groundbreaking (mostly punk) predecessors. L.A. will have it’s glamour again at some point and when they do, they will realize it’s only a matter of time until we are breathing down their necks again. That aforementioned peninsula all of a sudden seems a bit smaller and a lot more orange.