KUCI Stereobox: Keeping It Cool at the ARTery

Orange County isn’t exactly known for its underground music scene. However, the recent free shows hosted by KUCI at The ARTery in Costa Mesa prove that is changing.

Last Thursday, KUCI, the University of California, Irvine’s official radio station, hosted its second Stereobox event featuring two bands, The No. 44 and Girl Friday. The quirky venue is located in between the empty shipping containers behind Costa Mesa’s anti-mall, The Lab, making it a small and intimate show, fitting for KUCI which prides itself on being an underground pirate radio station. Before I launch into a recap of the evening, I should disclose that I am a part of KUCI and am therefore biased. However, the objectively well executed show and obvious enjoyment of everyone that attended who were not exclusively part of the event  speaks for itself.

On the outside, The ARTery doesn’t look like much, it’s literally just a shipping container. When it’s not hosting shows, it’s the home of various art installations and galleries that are free and open to the public. The shipping container is large, but narrow and painted white on the outside. It’s hard for more than four people to stand side by side in the tight space. There are two purple couches placed along the wall, tightening the space even more but helping create the relaxed, hipster vibe that emanates throughout the venue. Multi-colored lights hang from the low ceiling and a large tinsel cassette tape l is stuck to the wall. The side of the first shipping container has a large sliding door cut through it which opens to the outdoor standing area where the bands performed. It was a cold night, but the cramped space with just enough room to dance made a jacket unnecessary.

The first band to perform was Girl Friday, an all-girl garage rock fivesome from LA. They played an hour long set with tracks off their first EP “Tiny Hands.” The title perhaps gives away the political commentary and rebuke of gender politics in the male-dominated music industry. The set was fun, energetic and if anyone tries to say girls can’t do rock music, they should just take a listen to this band’s record.

After a little more than a half hour intermission, The No. 44 was set up and ready to go. The psychedelic rock band from Pomona played tracks from their debut EP “Venus Eye Trap.” The fast tempo and harmonized vocals got everyone, especially the drunk guy in the back, dancing. Both bands sounded amazing and seemed genuinely excited to be playing the show despite its size. People having dinner at The Lab or just wandering around the area came in to check out the music and enjoy the atmosphere of people talking and hanging out.

“It’s so great that [KUCI] is collaborating with Costa Mesa, these events should happen more than just once a month,” said Amber Karaholios, a Costa Mesa resident who wandered into the first StereoBox event in December by accident, drawn to the live music that was blasting, and decided to come to the second event on Thursday.

That’s the best part of these events. People show up alone, start talking with other people hanging around and then enjoy listening to live music together (one of the greatest possible forms of bonding). It’s a great way to meet people and everyone tends to be friendly and outgoing. From a marketing point of view, it’s a wonderful way to get people listening to KUCI, which all students should be doing already, and extend the listenership beyond campus. The shows are always well advertised on social media, even though they tend to start later than what’s posted on the flyer, plus it’s a great night out and one of the best ways to support the station. Not knowing the bands isn’t a good enough excuse to not go because it’s hard not to fall in love with that tiny little rectangle between two shipping containers.