Rockin' Detroit Bar celebrates 10 years

Club Mesa, a popular Costa Mesa destination for punk shows in the 1980s and '90s, is long gone.

A decade ago The Memphis Group transformed the old club at 843 W. 19th St. into Detroit Bar. It hasn't stopped rocking Orange County.

On Saturday, Detroit Bar will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Since opening in 2001, it has established a reputation as an O.C. hub for internationally-renowned artists, and up-and-coming local talent. Detroit Bar is now widely seen as at the forefront of presenting a variety of genres of new music, including alternative, world, hip hop, disco, and electro house. KCRW radio out of Santa Monica, for one, regularly mentions bands and gigs performing at Detroit Bar.

"I have to say what keeps the music-goers coming back is the bands, both local and national," Vince Phung, its events and promotions manager, said in an e-mail.

"We have some of the most talented musicians come through so that any music enthusiast would be hard pressed not to stop by at least once," he added. "Then we win them over with our atmosphere and amazing bar staff. Even when we have a packed house we maintain the feel of a lounge, a place where you can just hang out and have a drink."

In a speak easy lounge meets rock 'n' roll nightclub setting that can accommodate 300 to 400 people, Detroit Bar offers locals and visitors the opportunity to experience an eclectic mix of live performances by indie-rock outfits, critically acclaimed touring acts and cutting-edge DJ lineups.

Past local, national and international talent have included: Airborne Toxic Event, Album Leaf, Ariel Pink, Autolux, Chk Chk Chk, Cold War Kids, Crystal Castles, David Bazan, Deerhunter, Dinosaur Jr., Elliott Smith, Fitz and the Tantrums, Foster the People, Helmet, Ima Robot, Kid Sister, Little Dragon, Local Natives, Matt Costa, Mike Snow, Modest Mouse, Pinback, Ra Ra Riot, Peanut Butter Wolf, Shiny Toy Guns, Steve Aoki, The Breeders, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Young the Giant.

Among these bands, Stereo Lab, Black Lips, Cold War Kids and Matt Costa have returned to play at Detroit Bar when they could have sold out much larger venues.

To mark the decade, Detroit Bar on Saturday will host an intimate, invitation only celebration. It will feature performances by Peanut Butter Wolf, DJ Charles Feelgood, Danny Love, Cocoe, Scotty Coates and a special guest performance by Stones Throw recording artists Vex Ruffin. Guests will enjoy a hosted bar and complimentary Memphis catering for the special occasion.

"It is really just a big party to say thank you to our friends, family and the local music community who have supported the bar over the last decade," Detroit Bar founder Dan Bradley said in an e-mail. "Some have graduated on to family life, like myself, and don't get out much to see a show like they used to, which makes this milestone a great opportunity to get everyone together to reflect on some magical moments and good times that have been experienced at the venue."

Bradley's plans for the future include several facility upgrades to enhance the show-going experience. In the meantime, Detroit Bar will expand beyond the venue for a special series, "Detroit Bar Presents," featuring shows at the Yost Theatre in downtown Santa Ana.

However, as the prevailing digital age continues to revolutionize the way society consumes music, opponents argue that live music is becoming a thing of the past.

Bradley disagrees.

"Nothing can replace the experience of a truly great live performance in a small club environment," he said. "I think that if anything, the strongest outlook in the music industry today is the live music business. Live music has a very bright future because people still have a basic need to connect and come together outside of the online, digital world to have real-life experiences…."

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