Orange County isn’t exactly the place that comes to mind when you ask most people where they can find a burgeoning art and music scene. But every Thursday, musicians, poets, artists, dancers, and music lovers from all walks of life gather at The Coollab Project in Santa Ana to create—and stir up—a diverse melting pot of culture and talent unlike anything else for miles.
“Everybody Gets Love”
Though the open-air courtyard of 4th Street Market is filled with beautiful sounds every Thursday evening, perhaps the most incredible thing about The Coollab Project is the community that’s sprung up around it. Everywhere you turn, you’re greeted with smiling faces and invitations to converse. Strangers become friends, and for a few hours, the social barriers we’re all so used to just seem to melt away.
This radically inclusive spirit is infectious. Regulars of The Coollab Project tell a similar story of stumbling upon the event, having a blast, and now coming back every week. For many, it’s the community they didn’t even know they were searching for.
It is, however, the platform that Coollab Project Founder Vinson Muhammad, who goes by ALäZ, was searching for when he moved to Southern California from Macon, Georgia. “The purpose of The Coollab Project is to bring artists together for cool collaborations through music,” said ALäZ. “When I moved out here from Georgia in 2016, I wanted to build something that would help musicians, including myself, get their message out to the people.“ His positive energy and message, along with undeniable bars and trumpet chops, have gone a long way in shaping the community of The Coollab Project.
“Respect the Mic”
ALäZ has one request of his fellow Orange County dwellers: don’t sleep on the talented musicians right here in our backyard—instead, come through and give them respect. Styles you’ll hear in one night at The Coollab Project range from jazz and hip hop to spoken word. The event’s host, Rocky Angelini, is an emcee and musician who epitomizes this kind of variety. Unafraid to twist, bend, and blend styles together, Rocky is definitely an OC artist on the rise, and his live performances are legendary, complete with live looping and incredible dance breaks.
House band Apollo Bebop take the concept of musical flexibility to the next level. A modern jazz fusion band led by emcee Brian to Earth, there’s not a style they can’t play. And if you show up in need of musicians to back you up, just ask. They’ll be happy to sit in on a song. No practice required.
In fact, just about every musician at The Coollab Project is willing to lend their talents, and one of the most exciting parts of every Thursday is the jam session. After the Open Mic participants, Apollo Bebop and Rocky Angelini, as well as the night’s featured artist—that’s right, there’s a 15 minute headline slot each week—have performed, all musicians are invited on stage for an improvised jam. The musicians set the tone, rappers and singers trade bars, and the B-boys, hula hoopers, and dancers in the crowd all let loose. It’s truly an experience to behold.
The Coollab Project is truly a hidden gem in Orange County, but the ambitions of the musicians and artists there are far-reaching. The group has seen explosive growth in 2018, and they’re optimistic about the future.
A major part of the soul of the Coollab is its location. There is an intentional effort at the Coollab to honor the ancestors and residents of the great city of Santa Ana. Despite various challenges and wide-spread misconceptions, every Thursday we are reminded of what truly makes this city beautiful—the people. Artists and audience members practice supporting each other financially and are encouraged to take the support beyond the event to local businesses and organizations throughout the community. With this type of collaborative energy, it is only a matter of time before everybody sleeping on Santa Ana and the OC gets a serious wake up call.
Exciting things are indeed happening in Santa Ana, and The Coollab Project is at epicenter of the city’s blossoming music scene. Next time you’re looking for a live music fix, a fun Thursday night out, or even a great spot to impress your date, head to 4th Street Market from 7–9:30 p.m. to support your local artists. You can also support The Coollab Project by purchasing an official T-shirt for $20 at the event, or by following us on Instagram @TheCoollabProject.
Story by Randall Head
Photos/Art provided by The Coollab Project
Santa Ana Arts News
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