March 27, 2009

Breakin' it Down at Rockville, CA

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Having Josh Schwartz and Alexandra Patsavas, the creator and music supervisor of The O.C., as enthusiasts was a pretty sweet deal for Phantom Planet in 2003. The duo’s placement of Phantom Planet’s “California” as the theme song to The O.C. scored the band a passageway to success. Phantom Planet was just the first of many bands that would rise to fame in large part due to The O.C. During the show’s second season, Schwartz added to the script a hangout known as The Bait Shop, where music became just as important as the plot. It was in The Bait Shop where bands like Rooney, The Killers and Death Cab for Cutie got their first national exposure to millions of American teenagers and those teens ate it up. In the show’s four-season run, six compilation albums of Music from The O.C. were released. Popularity of music from The O.C. became so widespread that musicians such as Gwen Stefani, The Shins and Coldplay chose to debut their singles in episodes of the show. Schwartz and Patsavas really set a precedent for the power a TV show could have on making an artist famous.
On Gossip Girl, Schwartz’s newer series, he has continued to work with Patsavas to spotlight the up-and-coming groups of the time like Santogold, Kings of Leon and MGMT. Although a Gossip Girl compilation has not been released, it’s very likely that the bands featured on Gossip Girl have a spike in downloads following their exposure.
Yet it is not the illustrious teen dramas of The O.C. and Gossip Girl that have won my full attention in recent days. Rather, it is Schwartz and Patsavas’ latest endeavor, Rockville, CA, a four-to-six-minute episode show that was made for streaming series currently being broadcast on The show takes place at a fictional music-club in Los Angeles, CA aptly named Rockville and the plot follows Deb and Hunter: two attractive, nerdy-types who love music and won’t admit to having a crush on one another. Deb finds herself at Rockville because she’s employed as a record label A&R representative, while Hunter lands at the establishment because, much like the Seth Cohen character on The O.C., he’s just the kind of sarcastic dorky guy who would be a regular at Rockville. Each week, new short episodes feature a different band for about forty-five seconds while interspersed between the slowly developing storyline of Deb and Hunter on their separate quests to find a respective other.
Since the show premiered on March 17, bands on the rise such as The Kooks, The Duke Spirit, Passion Pit and The Kaiser Chiefs have starred in episodes. Although the time each band has in an episode is quite limited, the full performances that were recorded during filming are also available for viewing pleasure on Unlike the groups who ‘performed’ in The Bait Shop on The O.C., unique to Rockville, CA is the attribute that the featured bands actually perform live for the taping.
As an adoring O.C. and Gossip Girl viewer, and obviously a music-lover, I was more or less very excited about Schwartz and Patsavas’ Rockville, CA webisodes. However, upon viewing the first six episodes, I’m not exactly impressed. The show is cutesy, but the music focus is severely lacking. I remember sitting on my parent’s bed in 11th grade and watching Rooney sing, “I’m Shakin’” on The O.C. All I wanted to do was rush to F.Y.E. and buy Rooney’s album the next day. Watching these webisodes last week though, I was barely inclined to click on the full performances link based on the way the bands were exhibited. But of course I clicked and sadly it was not good. The way the performances were filmed makes these bands seem less talented and quirkier than they are when performing in real life. I’m not sure if it’s the lighting or the quick zoom-ins and outs, but bands that I have see before live and loved, like the Kooks, did not appear like bands I would want to fall in love with. This was all pretty surprising since Schwartz and Patsavas wooed me into loving over a dozen bands during The O.C.’s four-season course.
Nevertheless, don’t let my music snobbery be a big downer. I think Rockville, CA still has something to offer: quality musicians getting the stamp of approval by Schwartz and Patsavas –– top-rate tastemakers. Since I am a firm believer that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, if you happen to find yourself in the library looking to distract yourself for five minutes or so from doing that disgusting thing known as work, I recommend directing your web-browser to and making your own opinion of Rockville, CA. You may very well find your next music obsession, and that is totally worth five minutes of your time!