When you drive around Orange County, history isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It all looks pretty new. However, there is plenty of history to be had throughout the county – including its music venues. From a tiny punk club to a venue that initially opened more than 100 years ago, these are some of the most historic music venues in the county.
The Galaxy Theatre/The Observatory
3503 S. Harbor Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92704
It may seem a little odd to include The Observatory on this list since it is relatively new. However, before it was The Observatory, it was The Galaxy Theatre, a place where you could have seen any number of bands before they went on to bigger things. It’s a good-sized venue, but it seems intimate especially if you get right near the stage. Part of the history of this place can be found in an album The Blasters recorded at The Galaxy.
The Doll Hut
107 S. Adams Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92802
When it comes to music venues in Orange County, you wouldn’t be wrong in calling The Doll Hut “The Grandaddy of Them All.” The funny thing is that when you arrive at The Doll Hut for the first time, it would be easy to think that you’ve arrived at the wrong place were it not for the neon sign outside. It looks like you’re about to go into someone’s bungalow to see a live band. Orange County stalwarts like No Doubt and The Offspring played The Doll Hut in their formative years, as did Flogging Molly. If you want a taste of OC music history, visit The Doll Hut.
The Coach House
33157 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
From the outside, you might never guess that The Coach House is a classic music venue in Orange County. It’s really pretty nondescript on the exterior. However, when you walk in, you see a venue that feels classic. The walls are lined with photos of musicians – like Emmylou Harris and Taj Mahal – as well as comedians that have played the venue. Considering how long the place has been around, it’s no surprise that there seems to be very little room to accommodate any new photos.
Don the Beachcomber
16278 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
When you walk into Don the Beachcomber for the first time, you feel like you’ve been transported not only to another place, but to another time. This is an honest-to-goodness tiki bar which certainly does have history as a music venue considering that Robert Drasnin – one of the founders of the exotica movement – has played here. Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys have too. Beyond the musical history is a bit of cocktail history as well. Don Beach is the man responsible for inventing The Zombie cocktail, so named because it made a zombie of the first recipient.
The Yost Theater
307 N. Spurgeon St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
The Yost has a lot of history (it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places), although most of it is not strictly as a music venue. The place opened in 1913 as The Auditorium and for most of its existence, it was a movie theater. More recently, it was renovated and reopened as a music venue though. Bands play here, but in a melding of the new with the old, The Yost is known more for DJ shows and club nights, including Tailgate Wednesdays, when you can do some line dancing and ride a mechanical bull.
Gary Schwind is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.