20 Bands That Started on Orange Coast – Sound That Defined a Generation

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Orange County has seen more than its fair share of talented acts over the years, and I’m not just talking about your typical pop singers either. We’ve got groups that run the gamut – from hardcore punk and metal bands that’ll knock your socks off with their intense guitar work all the way to ska artists who’ll mellow you out with their smooth sounds.

What I’m trying to say is, the bands from this area didn’t just play shows – they practically burned the house down with their energy.  So, you better get comfortable because I’m gonna fill you in on 20 acts that really lit up the stage. Let’s get started!

But first, are you eager to visit those concerts and events and hear some of your favorite bands live? Here are the upcoming events that you should visit at all costs!

20. Atreyu

Atreyu sure knows how to rock out. Their music takes classic songs we all know and puts a scary twist on them. Can you imagine your grandma hearing “Suicide Notes“? She’d probably think zombies invaded or something!

It’s cool how a band from the neighborhood like Yorba Linda can make such an impression. They prove you can take metal to new places and find new fans. I bet some folks counted metal out, but Atreyu proved them wrong.

Career Highlights

  • Atreyu started under the name Retribution and released an independent EP titled “Visions”. They later changed their name to Atreyu, inspired by a character from Michael Ende’s “The Neverending Story” and signed with Victory Records.
  • Their first studio album, “Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses,” was released in 2002, followed by “The Curse” in 2004, which brought them mainstream recognition.
  • They released several more albums, including “Lead Sails Paper Anchor” in 2007 and “Congregation of the Damned” in 2009, before going on hiatus in 2011.
  • Atreyu reunited in 2014 and released “Long Live.” Their latest work includes the album “Baptize” in 2021 and “The Beautiful Dark of Life” in 2023.

Top Hits

  1. Becoming the Bull
  2. Falling Down
  3. Ex’s And Oh’s
  4. Right Side of the Bed
  5. Lose It

19. Fu Manchu

Next, we got Fu Manchu all the way from San Clemente. These dudes are total SoCal vibes – you know, skateboards, surfing, and that stoner rock sound. Their music would be perfect for chilling on the beach on a lazy day…or for thinking deep thoughts while you’re out grabbing a midnight snack.

I can totally picture cruising around with the windows down, vibing out to their tunes. It’s got that laidback, mellow vibe that’s totally made for just hanging and enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

Career Highlights

  • The band started as a hardcore punk band named Virulence and underwent multiple lineup changes in the 80s and 90s.
  • They released their debut LP “If This Isn’t a Dream…” in 1989.
  • In 1990, they changed their name to Fu Manchu and released the single “Kept Between Trees.”
  • Their first album, “No One Rides for Free,” came out in 1994, marking the beginning of their focus on themes like muscle cars and drag racing.
  • Fu Manchu’s lineup has been consistent since 2001, featuring founding members Scott Hill, Brad Davis, Bob Balch, and Scott Reeder.

Top Hits

  1. Strange Plan
  2. FU30 – PT 3
  3. Time Is Going On
  4. Slow Ride
  5. Kept Between Trees

18. Dusty Rhodes and the River Band

Dusty Rhodes and the River Band play all sorts of stuff like gypsy punk, folk music, and what I can only say is everyone just yells together. Not usually my kind of music, but they must be doing something right to get all those awards, right?

Just goes to show that going all out crazy on stage can work out really well even if it’s not what I’m used to listening to.

Career Highlights

  • They signed with SideOneDummy Records in late 2007.
  • Their first full-length album, First You Live, was released on October 19, 2007, and was named the best album to come out of Orange County in 2007 by The Orange County Register.
  • They toured and played with national acts such as Dirty Pretty Things, Brand New, Gogol Bordello, and others.
  • Their second album, Palace and Stage, was released on May 19, 2009.
  • The band finished a self-titled album in March 2010, which featured new recordings of previously released material and newly composed songs.
  • They disbanded on August 5, 2010, and played their final concert on June 10, 2011.

Top Hits

  1. Dear Honey
  2. Ghost Trails
  3. Leaving Tennessee
  4. Keys to the Truck
  5. Street Fighter

17. The Vandals


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The Vandals have been at it for years. Their lineup is consistent since 1990, and they are still putting out their fun punk tunes. I’ll give it to them, they sure don’t seem too worried about what anyone thinks of how they look or sound.

They just do their own thing. And you know what? It works for them! While other bands come and go, those Vandals are still around, making people laugh and enjoy their silly songs.

Career Highlights

  • They have released ten full-length studio albums, three live albums, and three live DVDs.
  • The band has toured the world extensively, including performances on the Vans Warped Tour.
  • Known for using their music as a vehicle for comedy and sarcasm rather than serious issues.
  • The lineup has fluctuated significantly, but Joe Escalante has remained through all incarnations of the band.
  • The current lineup of Escalante, Dave Quackenbush, Warren Fitzgerald, and Josh Freese has been intact since 1990.
  • They performed overseas for US troops, including a performance in Afghanistan in 2006.

Top Hits

  1. My Girlfriend’s Dead
  2. Don’t Stop Me Now
  3. Anarchy Burger (Hold The Government)
  4. Euro-Barge
  5. Urban Struggle

16. Ignite

Ignite don’t just get up there and make a bunch of noise like some bands. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely rock out and get everyone pumped up.

But there’s also some real meaning behind their music too. They aren’t afraid to speak their minds about important stuff.

Career Highlights

  • They filmed a live DVD at The Troubadour in 2005, which was never released due to technical issues.
  • They signed a deal with Abacus Recordings in 2005 and released the album Our Darkest Days in 2006.
  • The band toured Europe in 2008 and headlining shows at Persistence Tour 2009.
  • The departure of their long-time lead singer, Zoltán “Zoli” Téglás, in 2019 introduced a new singer, Eli Santana, in 2021.

Top Hits

  1. Veteran
  2. Bleeding
  3. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  4. Let It Burn
  5. Nothing Can Stop Me

15. Young the Giant

Young the Giant, those indie rock darlings from Irvine, managed to crash the MTV Music Awards with their hit “My Body.”  They’re big, they’re catchy, and they’re every record label’s dream of a safe bet.

Career Highlights

  • Formed in Irvine, California in 2004 as “The Jakes.”
  • Signed by Roadrunner Records in 2009.
  • Released their self-titled debut album, “Young the Giant,” in 2010.
  • “My Body,” “Cough Syrup,” and “Apartment” charted on the US Alternative Songs chart.
  • Toured with bands like Incubus and Kings of Leon.
  • Performed at major festivals, including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits.

Top Hits

  1. Cough Syrup
  2. My Body
  3. Apartment
  4. Mind Over Matter
  5. Superposition

14. Reel Big Fish

Reel Big Fish is a band that actually made it big by making fun of themselves. And they play their music with brass instruments of all things.

Their concerts are a blast though, like one big party where everyone jokes around together. It’s pretty funny how they turned being self-deprecating into a career.

Career Highlights

  • Formed in 1991, the band started as a cover group before releasing their own material.
  • They gained mainstream recognition in the mid-to-late 1990s during the third wave of ska with their gold-certified album Turn the Radio Off.
  • The band’s single “Sell Out” became well-known on mainstream venues like MTV.
  • Despite losing mainstream recognition after the ska revival, they gained an underground cult following.
  • Frontman Aaron Barrett is the last remaining founding member still performing in the band.

Top Hits

  1. Beer
  2. Sell Out
  3. Everything Sucks
  4. She Has A Girlfriend Now
  5. Take On Me

13. RX Bandits

RX Bandits sure didn’t stay still with their music. They started out playing ska, but I guess they wanted to shake things up. So they went and added all kinds of new sounds to their songs.

Their music kind of progressed over time into something different. It sure wasn’t easy blending all those complex beats and styles together. But they didn’t want people putting them in a box, so they kept experimenting with new and different sounds.

Career Highlights

  • They formed in 1995 in Orange County, California, and were part of the third wave ska revival of the 1990s.
  • Their first studio album was released in 1996, and they gained attention with their album “Those Damn Bandits” in 1997.
  • They released “Halfway Between Here and There” in 1998, and “Progress” in 2001, where they began to move beyond the third wave ska sound.
  • They’ve performed at major festivals like the Vans Warped Tour, Bonnaroo, Coachella, and The Bamboozle.

Top Hits

  1. Apparition
  2. Ruby Cumulous
  3. …And The Battle Begun
  4. It’s Only Another Parsec…
  5. Only For The Night

12. Cold War Kids

Cold War Kids is a band that made a record called “Robbers & Cowards” that really cemented them as indie rock legends, in my opinion anyway. Their sound…man it’s just got this kinda moody vibe.

But also has a nice groove to it, too. And the best part is all their songs just stick in your head. The vocals especially, the way it sounds, it just draws you in.

Career Highlights

  • The band gained attention with their debut album “Robbers & Cowards,” in 2006.
  • Their music style blends indie rock with elements of blues rock and blue-eyed soul.
  • Over the years, they’ve released several albums, with their seventh studio album, New Age Norms 1, coming out in 2019.
  • The band’s lineup has seen changes, but core members Nathan Willett and Matt Maust have been constants.

Top Hits

  1. First
  2. Hang Me Up To Dry
  3. Miracle Mile
  4. Love Is Mystical
  5. Run Away With Me

11. Righteous Brothers

The Righteous Brothers were made up of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. Some of their most famous songs besides “Unchained Melody” were “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Soul and Inspiration.”

They sang lots of emotional love songs that really seemed to connect with people. The Righteous Brothers were and remain true musical legends from Southern California.

Career Highlights

  • Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield formed the group in 1963, originally part of a five-member group called the Paramours.
  • Known for their “blue-eyed soul,” their contrasting vocal ranges created a distinctive duet sound.
  • Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005.
  • Rolling Stone ranked them no. 16 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.

Top Hits

  1. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  2. Unchained Melody
  3. You’re My) Soul and Inspiration
  4. Ebb Tide
  5. Rock and Roll Heaven

10. Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold, or A7X for short, has been making some big waves in the heavy metal scene since forming way back in 1999. I know metal music isn’t for everyone, but these guys really know how to rock out.

They’ve been at it for over 20 years now and are still putting out hit songs that their loyal fans just eat up.

Career Highlights

  • The band started with a metalcore sound on their debut album “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet”.
  • They evolved into a more traditional heavy metal style with their album “City of Evil”.
  • They continued success with their self-titled album and faced the tragic death of their drummer, The Rev, in 2009.
  • Released “Nightmare” after The Rev’s death, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
  • Their album “Hail to the King” also debuted at number one and marked a tribute to their influences.
  • Moved towards a progressive metal sound with their album “The Stage” and continue to innovate.

Top Hits

  1. Bat Country
  2. Afterlife
  3. Hail to the King
  4. Nightmare
  5. Beast and the Harlot

9. Sublime


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Sublime mixed together all sorts of styles – ska, punk, reggae, even a little hip-hop. It’s a real cool blend. They’ve been playing for years and were getting better with each subsequent release.

These guys are super talented to take all those genres and mesh them together so well. And they’ve been rockin’ out together for such a long time now.

Career Highlights

  • Sublime was formed in 1988 by Bradley Nowell, Eric Wilson, and Bud Gaugh. They started playing at parties and small clubs, and their first show was on July 4, 1988.
  • Their first two albums, “40oz. to Freedom” and “Robbin’ the Hood,” gained popularity in the U.S., setting the stage for their later success.
  • The band’s lead singer, Bradley Nowell, passed away from a heroin overdose in 1996. Following his death, Sublime’s self-titled album released and achieved major commercial success, with hits like “What I Got” and “Santeria” receiving extensive radio play.
  • Sublime has sold over 17 million albums worldwide, with their music continuing to influence artists and fans alike.
  • The band reunited with Jakob Nowell, Bradley’s son, joining the original members. They have announced that Sublime with Rome is set to disband by the end of 2024.

Top Hits

  1. What I Got
  2. Santeria
  3. Badfish
  4. Pawn Shop
  5. Smoke Two Joints

8. The Offspring

The Offspring has been around since 1984. They’ve been cranking out songs about feeling mad and bored in the suburbs forever. Albums like “Smash” and “Americana” really take me back. It’s like I’m right back in high school with my flattop and leather jacket.

The Offspring really knew how to capture what it was like growing up in a neighborhood like Garden Grove. Feels like nothing ever happens, and you just wanna tear things up sometimes.  Their music from the 90s is pure punk rock – loud guitars and drums with lyrics about being pissed off. Always gave me the energy!

Career Highlights

  • They were originally formed under the name Manic Subsidal.
  • The band’s current lineup includes lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Dexter Holland, lead guitarist Noodles, bassist Todd Morse, multi-instrumentalist Jonah Nimoy, and drummer Brandon Pertzborn.
  • The Offspring is credited with reviving mainstream interest in punk rock in the 1990s alongside bands like Green Day and Rancid.
  • Over their 39-year career, they have released 10 studio albums and sold more than 40 million records, making them one of the best-selling punk rock bands in history.
  • Their album “Smash” is one of the best-selling albums released on an independent record label, with over 11 million copies sold worldwide.

Top Hits

  1. Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)
  2. Why Don’t You Get a Job?
  3. Original Prankster
  4. Hit That
  5. The Kids Aren’t Alright

7. Middle Class

The Middle Class may not be super famous, but in the punk world they’re pretty much the kings. Their music is really fast, with the lyrics that’ll really make you really think. Sometimes their songs seem to go by in a flash.

But lots of other bands in the hardcore scene sure thought they were awesome. The Middle Class kinda set the bar for how to write songs that drive the point home hard and fast.

Career Highlights

  • Formed in 1977 in Santa Ana, California by the Atta brothers and their high school friend Mike Patton.
  • Recognized for playing at a speed beyond the first wave of LA punk bands, making them stand out for their urgent music.
  • Released their debut 7″ EP, Out of Vogue, in 1978, which is considered the first ever ‘Hardcore’ Punk record.
  • Their 1980 EP, Scavenged Luxury, marked a departure from their earlier material, presenting a more complex sound.
  • Released the full-length Homeland LP in 1982, featuring a tense, sparse, and driving sound.
  • Disbanded after an East Coast tour in support of the Homeland LP in 1983.

Top Hits

  1. Out of Vogue
  2. You Belong
  3. Situations
  4. Home Is Where
  5. A Blueprint For Joy

6. The Aquabats

The Aquabats is a band that’s been rocking out their superhero jams since 1994. Instead of just playing music, they put on a full show. These dudes dress up like superheroes when they perform and blasted out their ska tunes while fighting bad guys and saving the world on stage. Crazy performances!

Oh, and get this – they even had their own TV show for kids! Just like the cartoons we all watched Saturday mornings as kids.

Career Highlights

  • Their album “The Fury of The Aquabats!” in 1997 marked their entry into the mainstream.
  • They started as a ska band and evolved into a rock quintet with new wave influences.
  • From 2012 to 2014, they starred in “The Aquabats! Super Show!” which won a Daytime Emmy Award.
  • Their latest album, “Kooky Spooky…In Stereo,” was released in 2020.

Top Hits

  1. Super Rad!
  2. Pizza Day!
  3. Fashion Zombies!
  4. The Shark Fighter!
  5. Pool Party!

5. Thrice

Thrice is a band that came a long way with their music. They started out playing that really intense, hardcore punk rock. But they didn’t just stay there.  ]Over the years, Thrice has turned into a super talented band, and their songs are crazy intricate.

It’s either pure musical genius or these dudes are totally nuts! Their skills are out of this world.

Career Highlights

  • Founded in 1998 by Dustin Kensrue and Teppei Teranishi while they were in high school.
  • Known for their melodic hardcore punk music early in their career, with albums like The Illusion of Safety (2002) and The Artist in the Ambulance (2003).
  • Their fourth album, Vheissu (2005), marked a significant change with electronic beats, keyboards, and a more experimental sound.
  • Released The Alchemy Index (2007-2008), a four-part, 24-song cycle that showcased different styles reflecting the elemental themes of fire, water, air, and earth.
  • After a hiatus to spend more time with their families, they reunited and released To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere (2016) and Palms (2018).
  • Their latest work includes Horizons/East (2021), continuing their tradition of musical exploration.

Top Hits

  1. The Artist In The Ambulance
  2. Black Honey
  3. Stare At The Sun
  4. Silhouette
  5. Deadbolt

4. Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley was a singer from America who liked to mix different kinds of music together – folk music, jazz, and even experimental stuff. I sure couldn’t pick all those styles apart myself.

Anyway, Tim Buckley was really something else. He didn’t just stick to one sound – he tried all sorts of music. Folky songs, really weird experimental tracks, and everything in between.

Career Highlights

  • Buckley’s musical journey began early, influenced by jazz, country, and the folk music revolution of the 1960s.
  • He started in folk rock but soon ventured into psychedelia, jazz, and funk, showcasing his unconventional vocal stylings.
  • His 1969 album Happy Sad reached No. 81 on the charts, while his 1970 album Starsailor became a cult favorite.
  • Buckley’s life was cut short at the age of 28 due to a heroin and morphine overdose.

Top Hits

  1. Song to the Siren
  2. Morning Glory
  3. I Must Have Been Blind
  4. Buzzin’ Fly
  5. Once I Was

3. The Adolescents

The Adolescents is a punk rock group from California, which, back in the day, really got the hardcore punk scene moving down there. I’m talkin’ they basically STARTED the whole thing in Orange County.

The Adolescents weren’t just some band either – they were the foundation that the whole punk scene was built on in that area.

Career Highlights

  • The Adolescents were formed in January 1980 by Steve Soto after his departure from Agent Orange. The original lineup included Tony Cadena on vocals, Steve Soto on bass, Frank Agnew on guitar, John O’Donovan on guitar, and Peter Pan on drums.
  • They signed with Frontier Records in 1981 and recorded their debut album, known as the “Blue Album,” which was completed in just four days. However, the band broke up in August 1981, just before their first tour.
  • The band has gone through several reunions and lineup changes over the years. They released albums like “Brats in Battalions” (1987) and “Balboa Fun*Zone” (1988). After the death of founding bassist Steve Soto in 2018, the band continued with Tony Reflex as the only original founding member.
  • Their tenth album, “Russian Spider Dump,” was released in October 2020, followed by their eleventh album, “Caesar Salad Days,” in July 2023.

Top Hits

  1. Amoeba
  2. Wrecking Crew
  3. Kids of the Black Hole
  4. I Hate Children
  5. No Way

2. No Doubt


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No Doubt started out playing ska music and had a fun, bouncy sound. But man, did they ever change their style over time. The lead singer Gwen Stefani, is super charismatic, and you simply can’t take your eyes off her on stage.

No Doubt definitely drew from that energy.  The band moved away from ska and more into mainstream pop over time. Some fans thought they “sold out.” But even as they got more popular, they never lost the energy of their early shows.

Career Highlights

  • The band’s lineup has primarily consisted of vocalist Gwen Stefani, guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young.
  • Their 1995 album Tragic Kingdom was a massive success, benefiting from the resurgence of third-wave ska, with the single “Don’t Speak” spending 16 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart.
  • They won two Grammy Awards for the singles “Hey Baby” and “Underneath It All” from their 2001 album Rock Steady.
  • After a hiatus, the band reunited and continues to perform, including a recent appearance at Coachella in 2024.

Top Hits

  1. Don’t Speak
  2. Hey Baby
  3. Underneath It All
  4. It’s My Life
  5. Hella Good

1. Social Distortion

And at the pinnacle, we have Social Distortion. This band has been rocking out for over 40 years now. Forget all that fancy talk – these guys play straight from the gut. Their music ain’t nothing fancy, just gritty guitar and lyrics that feel real.

Career Highlights

  • The band emerged from the Orange County hardcore scene alongside bands like Agent Orange and The Adolescents.
  • The band went on a temporary hiatus in the mid-1980s due to lead vocalist Mike Ness’s drug addiction and legal troubles.
  • They shifted their style to a blend of country, blues, hard rock, and early rock and roll-influenced punk after their reformation.
  • Social Distortion rose to fame with their 1990 self-titled third album, which included hit singles like “Ball and Chain”, “Story of My Life”, and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
  • The band has released seven full-length studio albums, two compilations, one live album, and two DVDs.
  • They have been dubbed “the Rolling Stones of hardcore” and are considered one of the best-selling and most influential punk rock bands, with more than three million albums sold worldwide.

Top Hits

  1. Story of My Life
  2. Reach For The Sky
  3. Ring of Fire
  4. Ball and Chain
  5. Don’t Drag Me Down


So there you have it—20 bands that prove Orange County is more than just sunny beaches and theme parks. It’s a breeding ground for musical innovation and audacious sounds.

Sure, not every band on this list will be your cup of tea, but their contributions to music are undeniable. From punk to ska and everything in between, Orange County rocks—literally.

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