Many people in Orange County would rather stay home than deal with the 405’s insanity on a Friday night, and with so many great venues in the area, that choice just got even easier. Finding a good venue is tough, especially if you have to buy a ticket at each one to see if it stacks up to the competition, but this list should give you a head start when looking for a noteworthy night out on the town.
843 W 19th St
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Dedicated to local acts and touring giants, the Wayfarer (formerly, The Detroit Bar) in Costa Mesa mixes the hipster atmosphere with old-fashioned rock n’ roll. Once a punk music venue in the 80s, The Detroit Bar recently became The Wayfarer and often features a local band every Monday as part of a month-long residency. Prices for both shows and drinks are very reasonable. DJs, karaoke and open mics fill in the gaps between concert nights. You’d be hard pressed to find a smaller venue in the area, so if getting up close-and-personal with the act is your thing, look no further.
House of Blues
1530 S Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
House of Blues is a marquee name in the world of live music, and the Anaheim chapter is no different. Located in Downtown Disney, the quality of artists that play here are second-to-none. With a food menu created by a celebrity chef and a sound system that highlights both electric and acoustic performances, there is no need to travel to the Los Angeles brethren location to experience this legendary venue. Be sure to get there early to get a good spot up front, or make dinner reservations to enjoy the show from the balcony.
3503 S. Harbor Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92626
New owners, new sound systems, new bookers and a new directive has made The Observatory the place to be in Orange County. Bringing the best live acts around and housing them in a venue lined up with Coachella-quality sound is a recipe for musical success. This place even has a smaller venue inside, sometimes allowing the owners to run two shows a night, but the architecture of the place means never having to hear the other band play while enjoying the one you came to see.
1652 W. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801
If you like your clubs tiny, hot, sweaty and otherwise “intimate,” Chain Reaction is the spot for you. Mainly showcasing the hardcore/metal/punk genres, Chain Reaction has diversified its musical offerings a bit in the past few years, but still dedicates itself to all-ages shows at low ticket prices. This is the venue to go to if your music therapy involves stage-diving, jumping in a mosh pit or hardcore dancing (and also free parking).
The Yost Theater
309 N. Spurgeon St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
The Yost Theater is actually Orange County’s oldest, and has been a landmark venue since its construction in 1912. From heavy metal heavyweights to up-and-coming DJ diehards, Yost Theater in Santa Ana is dedicated to a variety of live events and giving fans the real estate to rock out or dance all night. Find everything from burlesque shows to live bands to DJs and club nights. A solid sound system helps this venue get noticed, as does the slick lighting rigs, giving those with an EDM edge something to stare at while fist-pumping.