You remember, don’t ya, that first time you walked into the Doll Hut?
You went through the creaky front door, and your eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light provided by the beer signs and that goddamn jukebox that seemed to only play Social D or the Misfits.
The worn bar to your front, stage area to the right, and as you walked around back past the flooded bathrooms and the skid-stained pooltable, only to end up at your starting point, you had that first same reaction everyone has: Is that it?
Yeah, approximately the size of one of the backstage rooms at the House of Blues,
the Doll Hut is charming in its wee footprint, especially when considering the bands that have graced that tiny stage:
Back in the day, when Linda Jemison was the unofficial fairy godmother to OC live music, the club became much more than just another OC shed.
The stuff of legend, expecially when the OC roots rock thang was really going strong and that Punk Rock Revival was gearing up for its inevitable payday.
It was a must-do, of course, for any self respecting OC band to play a couple times a year at the Hut, even when the evil Disney Empire down the way almost shut the joint down for good with that wacky road construction!
What the fuck was that all about?
It seemed like a couple years when there was no way to get there from here!
The 5 freeway was a goddamned mess as they scrambled to put up a monolithic parking structure.
And they scacrificed our dear old Disney parking lot, home of a thousand shotgunned beers and hotboxed joints of mersh…. for what? California Adventure?!
And ya call that progress?
But, yeah, ya still booked the gigs there and out of towners did too….
It was always the best to see the touring bands take their first peep inside the door, only to back up, look around as if to make sure they were in the correct joint.
This is the place Offsring started off?
And No Doubt?
Where did Gwen put on her makeup?!
Heh—damn right bub.
In fact, it was Linda’s annual Christmas benefits for the Orangewood Children’s Center that kept CH3 alive during those lean years in the mid nineties.
Burnt out from the riots and music business bullshit, we were grumpy old burnouts at age 30.
But we could always rouse ourselves when Linda called for the Christmas gig: the Hut provided the band a trickling life support system, pulse measured in faint beeps and seismic peaks, blood to the heart and oxygen to the brain.
Back then, we would start rehearsing for the Christmas gig, oh, somewhere just before Halloween—-heh, God, what happened to that dedication and energy, huh?
Nowdays yer lucky if we listen to the Skinhead Years cd on the way to the gig to refresh our battered memories.
We are seriously just this far away from using teleprompters like Frankie did in the final years……
Ah, but what fun it was, to dust off the setlist, and celebrate the Season at the Doll Hut.
To rage within that jaunty roadhouse, the soggy floorboards and dusty uprights shaking with the music, the whole joint rocking and leaking like that other historic OC hovel, the Haunted Shack at Knott’s.
There’s nothing like a night at the Doll Hut, especially if you have to play a set that night.
Setting up and breaking down, negotiating the chatty drunks and the heavy gear going always! in the opposite direction.
It was like moving furniture on a storm swept tugboat, but you finally got everything in place and counted off the downbeat.
Your face mere inches from the crowd, guitars knocked out of tune every other song.
The constant mist of beer and spit from the drunks that yelled the lyrics right back at you.
God, we’re gonna miss this joint!
For now they tell us that the Hut will be no more after the start of the year?
Plans have been made to rebrand, something about a Latino theme and traditional music…which is alright I guess.
But as often is the case whenever someone takes over one of our lovely little clubs, the first rule of new management:
No More Punk!
So one more time, we thought, we’d give it a go.
We made a few calls and got together a crazy lineup to kick off the Holiday Season, and once again made it a benefit in honor of those great nights before:
So come out, won’t ya?
We’ll toast the shack one more time, and play one more song with barely tuned guitars as the beer drips from the ceiling: Tears from the very building itself.
But apparently the building and neon sign have been declared a historical landmark, at least, so that’s something.
We’ll still be able to see it as we drive past on our way to a gig at some corporate club in a theme park.
And on a night we’ll soon be buying fourteen dollar cocktails and trying to see the band around shoulders and shitty sightlines, we’ll look up at that buzzing neon and remember a place of another time.