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Where to see live music in Los Angeles
There’s nothing like a gig to immerse yourself in a city’s culture. In Los Angeles, this often means getting up close and personal with some iconic performance spaces, each with its own compelling story. We’ve whittled down a very long list to select the absolute best spots to see live music in LA.
Since 1922 the sounds of Sinatra, the Beatles and Adele have echoed around this circle, and the glamour of catching a performance here has never faded. Pack a picnic and a bottle – most events are BYOB.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
The sleek silver curves of this Frank Gehry designed building make it one of LA’s most eye-catching landmarks. It’s home to the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, and the place to go for a rousing performance of classical music or jazz.
In the lush green surrounds of Griffith Park, this beloved outdoor venue has hosted Sir Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and Carlos Santana. Not so overwhelming as the Hollywood Bowl, it has a capacity of nearly 6,000 – and rarely an empty seat.
The Fonda Theatre
The Rolling Stones, Jack White and Radiohead all recently played this Hollywood classic, built in 1926. Low lights and balcony seats bring a 1920s elegance, while the rooftop bar is the place to chill until the headliner comes on.
Teragram ballroom opened in May 2015, bravely choosing the sparse Westlake part of Downtown LA. But with acts as diverse as The Dandy Warhols and Nicki Minaj, three sleek bars, and art deco touches, the intimate yet spacious venue is a firm favourite of local music fans.
The Sayers Club
It may look like a plush living room with battered leather sofas, Afghan rugs and an enviably well-stocked bar, but the stage here (which descends from the rafters), has been graced by Prince, Slash and The Black Keys.
What other venue could get away with Miley Cyrus one day, the Moscow Ballet the next and, a week later, Patti Smith? With looks like this – luxurious burgundy seats and corniced ceilings housed in a duck egg, art deco tower – The Wiltern can get away with anything.
Sam Smith and Deadmau5 are among acts to have packed out this former burlesque hall, which has retained its original opulence. The huge courtyard offers breathing space when it gets stuffy.
Fancy catching some tunes with Johnny Ramone, Jayne Mansfield and Rudolph Valentino? LA’s most unusual concert venue is a cemetery, Hollywood Forever, where the luminaries come to die. Gigs are performed in the Masonic Lodge and, in summer, to picnicking crowds on Fairbanks Lawn.
The booming voices of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Nat King Cole have bounced off the scarlet walls of The Mint. More recent acts include Macy Gray and The Wallflowers, playing to relaxed crowds grazing on tapas.
Whisky a Go Go
This spot used to have a pretty decent house band – The Doors. The iconic, delightfully dark rock venue still adds a fistful of grit to the glitz of Sunset Boulevard.
The Roxy Theatre
Co-owned by legendary producer Lou Adler, the once-debauched Roxy has featured headliners from Cheech and Chong to The Temptations. It was also a hangout for John Lennon, Keith Richards and Alice Cooper, while madam Heidi Fliss hosted parties here in the 1980s.
Securing a ticket to a gig at this huge Sunset Boulevard venue is no mean feat. Built on the site of the Paramount structures in 1940, performers over the years have included Glen Miller, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones and The Black Keys.
The Viper Room
Forever etched in memories as the backdrop for River Pheonix’s untimely death of a drug overdose in 1993, this gritty little venue deserves more recognition for showcasing upcoming rock bands. It also has a bar stocking rare whiskies (and Jack Daniels), tucked underneath the main stage.
When it isn’t hosting a Lakers game or Disney’s Frozen on Ice, this huge sporting arena is one of the best places to see live music in Los Angeles, with performances from Muse, One Direction, The Who and Ellie Goulding.
In Studio City, LA’s oldest jazz club hosts nightly revues and serves – as you might have guessed – jacket potatoes with toppings from teriyaki chicken to Philly cheesesteak.
Buried in a nondescript Little Tokyo mall, the Blue Whale opened on the site of an old, rundown karaoke bar in 2015. Its soft grey belly, furnished with tuffets and a piano, is a sanctuary for jazz musicians and jazz lovers.
Decades of American music history have played out on the stage of this lovely old theatre, from Judy Garland’s vaudeville performance to the filming of American Idol. The 1926 building even has a Mighty Wurlitzer organ, one of only three working organs in southern California.
Sir Elton John played his first US gig at the Troubadour, Janis Joplin partied here the night before she died of a heroin overdose, and Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity at this legendary club. A night at the Troubadour still feels like rock n’ roll history in the making.
The Regent Theater
Set in a vintage 1914 cinema, this 1,000-capacity venue hosts regular retro nights, cool local bands and DJs. When the crowds get too much, grab a perch on the mezzanine level, a drink at one of the two bars or a slice of Neapolitan at the attached pizzeria.
Written by Ella Buchan