Every band started as a local band, and the same is true for comedians, poets and other artists. Some towns provide less support than others, but Orange County has a large network of amateur nights and open mics to ensure everyone will get a fair crack at making it big. From restaurants and bars to coffee shops and art houses, check out these various dwellings for a place to try out your art.
125 N. Broadway Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Every Monday and Thursday night, this hybrid coffee shop/restaurant offers an open microphone to anyone with the guts to try their hand at entertaining a crowd. It offers a variety of bands, from the best of OC indie to whatever else the neighborhood brings in the door. The amount of artwork is staggering, with the craziest and coolest knick-knacks from around the globe filling up every nook and cranny of this establishment. After playing a set, be sure to grab some of Gypsy Den’s home-cooked meals, including the delicious pastries.
2300 E. 4th St.
Long Beach, CA 90814
Whether it is an espresso you crave or a life-long devotion from an intelligent audience, Portfolio is definitely the place for you. It introduced poetry readings in 1990, emerging as the premiere place for live art in the area. Friday and Saturday nights give local artists the space to try out new material or sharpen up old favorites. With an extensive menu, plenty of excellent drinks, a patio, multiple rooms and a great vibe, Portfolio is definitely a must-visit.
Fathers Pub & Grub
13912 Ponderosa St., Suite D
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Some places try to win you over with great atmosphere and fancy lighting, with the money spent on high-priced food going right into the mise-en-scene. Not Fathers Pub: this place is built for fun with little attention paid to anything that would keep the drinks from being stiff and the open mics from being entertaining. Getting the liquid courage to actually try your hand at an open mic is cheaper than most places, so the night won’t be a total loss if you bomb on stage. Don’t think your ironic T-shirt and Macbook Pro will fit in with the peanut shells on the ground, because it won’t, so dress and sing accordingly.
Viento y Agua Coffeehouse & Gallery
4007 E. 4th St.
Long Beach, CA 90814
With more than 400 reviews in Yelp and a 4.5 rating, Viento y Agua has established credibility within the community. Imagine a chic fashion boutique mixed with a Portlandia-esque take on the modern coffee shop and you have a close sense of the unique nature of this place. The open mic is probably the most comfortable in the area, with a warm and welcoming room embracing those willing to put their life on the line. The acoustics are great, the staff is warm and welcoming and the rush one gets after successfully playing a gig will be heightened in this cheeky coffeehouse.
Max Blooms Café Noir
220 N. Malden Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832
This Fullerton watering hole offers not only musicians the chance to embarrass themselves, but aspiring comedians as well. Wednesday and Thursdays offers musicians their shot, but Friday nights are reserved for those with a penchant for the funny. Oftentimes a poetry contest will roll around if music or laughter is not your thing. Whatever the expression of art, Max Blooms is the place for you with its old-fashioned look and cash-only policy. It even shows off photography, paintings, portraits and illustrations created by locals.
Jesse Seilhan is a writer, editor and photographer from the California Bay Area. After moving to Long Beach, Jesse continues his passion for writing and music by covering concerts, interviewing top artists, and giving a dose of wisdom in a crazy, mixed-up musical world. His work can be found at Examiner.com.