Los Angeles is spoiled for live music choices. Mega-venues like Gibson Amphitheatre, Walt Disney Concert Hall and Staples Center are never more than a freeway away, while mid-sizers including the The Wiltern, El Rey Theatre and Hollywood Palladium dot the urban landscape from the Valley to the sea. Nowhere in the city are you out of earshot from a nightclub, bar, coffee house or detached garage with a band up on stage doing its thing.
On the list of what makes a music venue great, a few of the qualities that rate are: quality of bands, size and passion of the crowd, freedom to rock out with your socks out, access to food and most definitely drink and a little sex appeal. So with that in mind, here are five of the best live music venues in Los Angeles.
As Los Angeles live music venues go, Largo is amazing and they feature an eclectic mix of established performers that you otherwise wouldn't see along with big names trying out new material. Think Jon Brion, Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Mann, Jackson Browne, Fiona Apple... you see now why this place is great?!? These guys are also a little haughty, which can be a mixed blessing. There is a strict no-cell-phones policy and talking during performances will also earn a withering rebuke. Do not arrive late or you will not be allowed in. But the 'tude is worth it once the music starts: there's not a bad seat in the house, the acoustics are primo and the intimate setting encourages artists to open up and engage with the crowd.
This is not a misprint: LACMA makes this list because it has one of the best schedules of free concerts you will find anywhere in the city. The April-November Jazz at LACMA series hosts such luminaries as Wayne Shorter, John Clayton, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann, Billy Childs, Arturo Sandoval, Cannonball-Coltrane Project and Ernie Watts. Beautiful weather, the great outdoors and jazz under the stars, all for the bargain price of nothing! Bring a chair or blanket to lounge comfortably on the grass while you listen.
Great name, even better venue. The Smell is all about inclusiveness: all ages are welcome, gigs are typically around $5 and it's even run as a not-for-profit. The vibe is punk and the crowd is young, a combination that guarantees the energy level is somewhere north of insane every night. Local indie faves No Age got their start here and this venue is a factory that churns out solid acts. Warning: The Smell does not serve alcohol, so figure something else out. Warning II: There are no pre-sales and crowds form quickly, so arrive early to make sure you get in.
In the rock 'n' roll dictionary (Is that a thing? It should be a thing.) next to the entry "live music venue" there's a picture of the Troubadour's iconic facade. The stage is small and the setting feels intimate, despite the fact several hundred people are crammed together rocking hard and sweating. If the walls of this West Hollywood institution could talk, they would get a $10 million advance for a tell-all book. You can find at the Troubadour new acts before they hit it big, along with major performers looking for a little street cred. Not to be missed.
Quintessentially L.A., the Hollywood Bowl is aces according to whatever metric you want to apply. Top bands and music events? Check. Great crowd? Got it. Can you rock out with your socks out? Totally. Food & drink? In spades, bro. The Hollywood Bowl is one of the world's premier outdoor music venues and they have the awards to prove it. There are close to a dozen food vendors inside and you can even bring your own grub, if you like. You can also bring your own alcohol (within certain limitations) to L.A. Philharmonic concerts, but not to other events... not that that's ever stopped anyone!