There’s a good reason why there’s been a lot of resurgent talk about The O.C. of late. In part, it’s because Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke launched a rewatch podcast called Welcome to The O.C., Bitches! which has been bringing back waves of welcomed nostalgia.
It’s also partly due to the fact that there has been plenty of renewed speculation about why lead actress Mischa Barton left the show at the end of season three. Barton says she was bullied, Bilson and Clarke said they were confused by that claim, Barton said she “fought to be unfamous“, other people said she was a “nightmare” to work with.
But, lastly, it’s because The O.C. was, and is, just one of those shows that can withstand the test of time, is always good for a revisit and was just (at least until the final season and for the season three episodes that involved Johhny) a genuinely great show that was well written and successfully blended the gritty with the glamourous.
One of the “grittier” elements to the show was the introduction of The Bait Shop in season two. This tiny seaside dive was, inexplicably, run by a 17-year-old named Alex (played by Olivia Wilde who made faux-hawks and butterfly tattoos iconic), had a capacity of about 50 people and yet somehow managed to attract some of the music industry’s most undeniable acts.
In a recent interview with NME, The Subways — one of the groups to have played at what was essentially a shack by a pier — recalled what it was like to appear on the fan favourite series calling it a “spiritual experience”.
The British band appeared in season three episode The Anger Management, with frontman Billy Lunn telling the publication that during the rehearsal they would be provided with earbuds so that only they could hear the track. Everyone else would be dancing in silence so as not to overload the microphones.
“In the first performance we were so self-conscious, it was the weirdest thing,” Lunn said. “The extras in the front row of the ‘gig’ couldn’t stop giggling. Clearly, the ridiculousness of the whole thing occurred to them as much as it occurred to us. We’re used to everything being real and visceral, getting sweaty and bouncing up and down and knocking things over; people jumping about and crowd-surfing. But this was all very precise.”
Lunn also said that it is easy to tell whenever a rerun of the series is playing because they see a surge in their fans.
“If it’s rerun in the States, we will suddenly get this interaction from a completely new generation. It’s amazing – and makes a change from the usual process of being in a band, releasing albums and going on tour,” Lunn said. “It feels like we’re part of a different culture that goes beyond music. It changed everything for us.”
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The O.C. not only put The Subways on the map, but also helped lift the profile of others such as The Thrills and, to a degree Modest Mouse — although the latter had released a massive hit, Float On, and were therefore becoming better known before their stint on the show. Likewise, The Walkmen, who were the first band to play at the Bait Shop but already had a steady following.
Then, there was Death Cab for Cutie.
Yes, Death Cab was Seth’s favourite band and yes, their style of emo-indie-pop could have essentially served as the entire series’ soundtrack, but come on! They weren’t exactly international superstars but they were already too well-known when they played their gig at Newport’s most underwhelming live-music venue.
Remember when the gang went to see Rooney in season one courtesy of Oliver — Marissa’s mate from therapy who was actually a total stalker with a coke habit who held her hostage at gunpoint? Well, that concert was at an actual, proper venue. Why didn’t Death Cab play there? Please, make it make sense.
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However, the musical appearance that stands out in the minds of most die-hard O.C. fans, was that of The Killers. Madison Square Garden headlining, multi-million album selling, internationally renowned, Grammy-nominated band The Killers. At. The. Bait Shop. Getting paid IN CASH by Alex who, as previously mentioned, was 17! Homegirl couldn’t even pour a drink but there she was slipping fiddies into Brandon Flowers’ fist and telling him he was welcome back any time.
To be fair, the Vegas-based rockers only released Hot Fuss a few months before their, now-stuff-of-pop-culture-folklore Bait Shop outing, but Somebody Told Me and Mr Brightside were already huge hits so surely Newport could have found somewhere more suitable for them to play or, at the very least, a more appreciative audience to attend their show.
If you’ll recall, the episode in which the band appeared — The New Era — was the one in which Seth and Ryan attempted a double date with Lindsay and Alex respectively, even though they were each clearly interested in the girl they had set their buddy up with. Aside from Lindsay being the worst character on The OC (second only to Johnny), the four of them barely even registered that they were in the presence of sonic supremity and spent the entire show making dopey eyes at the people they were not on a date with. Sigh.
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Personally, having paid very good money (which granted, Seth and Ryan never did seeing as their tickets were free thanks to Seth’s short-lived stint as a toilet mopper at the Bait Shop) to see The Killers in concert several times, I would never dream of committing such an infraction.
But hey, as I said at the beginning of this article, there is a reason we still talk about The O.C. today — it was so unforgettable that 17 years later I still can’t stop thinking about one of my favourite bands being paid in cash by a teenager who couldn’t serve booze.