The Five Most Underrated Bands of Orange County

Categories: lists
For a long time, a major topic of discussion between music journalists and musicians has been: How does Orange County measure up to the other metropolitan creative hot spots around the country such as Austin, Portland, Los Angeles and New York? Is OC a musical universe unto itself, producing top-shelf, cutting-edge bands capable of influencing generations of subsequent musicians, or is the land of citrus simply a weigh station for Silver Lake hipsters to expand their audience as they make their way to venues in San Diego? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. While the debate continues to rage, let's take a look at some really cool bands from 2010 who have yet to get the recognition worthy of their talent.

5. Bella Novela
Yes, we're aware this power trio is technically from Long Beach, but it falls within our coverage area, so shut it. Here we have a band that forgoes the indie pop saturating music scenes in favor of dynamic, high-energy cinematic rock with prog sensibilities. Lead vocalist Jackie Ojeda is a diminutive lass whose stature belies a bellicose voice. She's backed by guitarist Jacob Heath, who busts complicated and serpentine licks, while drummer Jannea McClure attacks the skins with unparalleled fury. Truly a joy to watch.


4. The Steelwells
 Here's another OC band whose talent has been recognized locally, but deserves some serious international love. They won the 2010 OC Music Award for Best Song for the tune "El Capitan," a calypso-rhythmed guitar romp accompanied by cascading xylophone melodies and haunting, howling vocal harmonies. While they've scored month-long residencies at venues including the Silverlake Lounge and Costa Mesa's Detroit Bar, this Fullerton quintet deserve to hit the road in style. We'd like to see them funded by somebody else's money and in the comfort of a luxurious tour bus or, perhaps, a private plane.


3. Telomere Repair
 Okay, OC purists, we've got another pick to show the LBC the proportionate amount of love. Telomere Repair are a three-pice prog-punk outfit calling to mind some of the better emo bands of the mid-'90s including Cursive, Braid and At the Drive-In. But what sets them apart is they do it without the vocal melodrama. Telomere Repair are known for kooky, stutter-step drum rhythms and wonked-out fuzzy guitars. Their shows are intense, lively affairs, and they've been at it for more than half a decade.


2. Glen and the Sunshine Gang
With lyrics lampooning iconic late-'80s/early-'90s television show Saved by the Bell (as well as the end of humanity), Glen and the Sunshine Gang rock a sound that lies somewhere between Sum 41 and Andrew WK. Dig the rap from their song "Y2K": "There it goes, my bank account just drained/Is that a shooting star?/No, it's just another plane/Move underground/Better hover under hills/'Cause if the people don't get you/maybe your toaster will."


1. Dusty Rhodes and the River Band
The year 2010 was a sad one for these guys. Lead singer Dusty Rhodes left the group in a bid to win a seat on the Anaheim City Council. He lost. While these guys garnered plenty of local accolades, including multiple OC Music Awards, the closest they got to national recognition was when guitarist Kyle Divine went on LA Ink to get a tattoo of a piece of cheese, which memorialized a car accident he suffered, which resulted in his inability to eat dairy.

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