Orange County is one of the most expensive places to live in California, meaning that having fun can often cost more than it should. Local music and world famous acts often visit this part of the Golden State and often play in venues that will not force you to take out a second mortgage. From killer bars to world-class venues, some owners know the value of the dollar and keep their customers happy with cheap tickets and stiff drinks. Check out this list for excellent spots in Southern California that won’t keep you from paying your bills on time.
843 W 19th St
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Nestled in the soft spot of Costa Mesa, The Wayfarer (formerly The Detroit Bar) is one of the most unlikely spots for a Grammy-caliber band to play, but head down there on any given night and you might see something unexpected. Its low tickets prices are great for seeing local bands that often play residencies, meaning you can see all angles of an act for the price of one iconic tour ticket. The drinks are made with dancing in mind, and the super intimate concert room gets you closer to the action than others in the area. From no cover to free parking, The Warfarer is definitely one of the thriftiest ways to see live music.
122 E. Commonwealth Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832
Nothing is cheaper than free, and if free is for you, then head down to the SlideBar. Do not expect the best bands in the world or even the top-tier of local talents, but the kitchen in this Fullerton bar is worth the drive alone. The cover bands will welcome you through the door and the sliders and beer will keep you there for the final act. And if the Orange County rock vine wasn’t strong enough, the venue is owned and operated by Lit guitarist Jeremy Popoff.
3503 S. Harbor Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Before you head up to the Observatory, the Constellation Room will welcome you into its warm and tiny arms. This venue-within-a-venue features just as many cool bands as its bigger brother, but at half the face value than the larger room. While you might catch a little bit of sound bleed if some electro-dubstep-punk-thrashcore eight-piece orchestra is playing the main room, on most nights the smaller room is enrapturing enough to keep you entertained. Be on guard, as the entrance usually splits the line up into two groups and nothing ruins a show like standing in the wrong line for way too long.
Related: Best Singles Bars In Orange County
1652 W. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801
The extremely intimate stage built within Chain Reaction is worth the low price of admission, especially if you are into hardcore or heavy rock music. Its super cheap shows are usually under $20 but might be a tad bit pricier at the door. Buying online is super easy but plenty of shows are downright free, meaning getting there early is the smart move if you want in. Don’t expect the best bands in the world, as mostly garage bands that just graduated from their parents’ house grace the stage on most nights.
2920 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Memphis Cafe is another excellent spot in Costa Mesa that might run you a few bucks if you want to check out local music, but it goes one step further every once in awhile. The “Dinner with Dave” specials see the owner of the venue offering free food to those in attendance. So not only do you sometimes get in for free, but other times the cafe provides you with delicious food. Add in a wide array of local talent and you have one of the best music experiences in Orange County, especially if it is nowhere near pay day.
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.