The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa carries on Detroit Bar’s musical legacy
By Kelli Skye Fadroski / Staff Writer @ the OC Register
Jan. 21, 2015
Since beloved local music spot Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa closed its doors last February and the Wayfarer opened in its place in July, new owner Jeff Chon has kept his promise about continuing the tradition of live entertainment that highlights up-and-coming O.C. talent.
The space was once Club Mesa, a punk rock dive bar, until the Memphis Group took over in 2001 and transformed it into a more hip, inviting and lively spot. Detroit Bar was host to a wide variety of genres and nightly entertainment including DJ spotlights and the popular, and free, monthly Monday night local music residencies. Through the years, bigger-name acts like Stereolab, Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Raveonettes and the late Elliott Smith graced the small stage and it was a place where now mainstream local bands like Cold War Kids, Foster the People and Young the Giant grew their audiences.
When it was announced that Detroit Bar would be permanently shut down, local musicians and frequent patrons quickly took to social media to share their memories, as well as concerns about losing yet another O.C. music venue. There was confusion over what would become of the building, which sparked disappointed outcries when rumor spread that it would be made into an upscale gastropub.
This was initially a headache for Chon, who is a Costa Mesa resident and also owner of the Alley Restaurant & Bar in Newport Beach and Tabu Shabu in Costa Mesa. He shakes his head and laughs about it now, as he sits down for a chat in the remodeled bar, restaurant and concert room. The space underwent a major face-lift, which included relocating and expanding the bar, adding a full kitchen, completely redoing the bathrooms, knocking down walls in the main room for a more open floor plan and better stage visibility, creating vaulted ceilings and adding in rustic, Americana decor.
“As you see, we’re not a gastropub,” Chon joked. “We do have food, but we’re certainly not serving up and pushing five-course meals here. The kitchen element was something Detroit always lacked and we wanted to be able to offer our guests really good food that’s fresh and not frozen, but simplified. So they can come in, catch a bite to eat and still enjoy a show.”
In keeping up with Detroit Bar’s music legacy, the sound system was also updated and is noticeably more crisp and clear than before.
“We’re still not 100 percent where we want to be with it,” Chon admitted. “We’ve been open seven months now and we’ve been making little changes here and there because it’s been a give and take with the variety of music we do here now … but it gives us a chance to hone in on our skills and make sure the sound is really good.”
The 300-capacity, 21-and-up only Wayfarer has continued the monthly Monday night residencies, along with booking several national touring acts in the electronic, blues, roots and indie rock genres. While there’s no cover charge for Monday residencies, as well as select other shows, depending on the time and artist booked, there are some door covers and ticketed shows that run between $5-$15. Eric Keilman, director of talent and booking for Wayfarer, who also booked acts at Detroit Bar, is excited to continue to pepper in homegrown, up-and-coming talent among larger acts.
“I want to see local bands grow out of here like they did at Detroit Bar,” he said. “There are a lot of artists now that have the same potential as some of those bigger bands – like Young the Giant and Cold War Kids – that came out of this corner and it’s important for them to have a place like this to play.”
Christopher Faris, vocalist and guitarist for local rock outfit the Devious Means, which is Wayfarer’s January Monday night resident band, said that although the venue name has changed, the stage still feels very familiar. The venue also hosted the album release party for band’s latest album, “Other Animals,” in September. Faris added that he was impressed with the new layout and decor, as well as the pride in ownership and friendly correspondence the venue staff has had with bands.
“When I heard Detroit Bar was leaving, I felt like it was was the end of an era, but that it was also for the best,” he said. “It had made its mark and it was really time for a change and this feels like an ideal replacement. It’s changed in a way that it feels like a brand new place, yet it still feels really good to be here.”
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