There might not be a better city for live music in the country than Los Angeles. The City of Angels is home to some of the most renowned venues in the world. You can see a concert of any genre, of any level, on any given night.
Don’t Break the Bank
There are dozens of great music venues where you can get in the door for around $20.
The Art Deco-style Wiltern is an architectural beauty. It’s also conveniently located near the Wilshire/Western Metro station near Koreatown’s cultural hub, so getting there from Hollywood and other spots on the Red and Purple lines is easy. The Wiltern does a great job of booking acts from all genres and levels.
The El Rey is located in Miracle Mile and is more intimate than the Wiltern, but it has a similar style. They tend to book acts right on the verge of blowing up. Acts like Lana Del Rey, Tame Impala and Miguel all played here not long before they were singing to the masses.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the most unusual venue in the area. Shows take place on a grass field of the actual cemetery and you’re allowed to bring your own food and booze. Also located on the grounds is the Masonic Lodge, a breathtaking 200-person indoor venue.
L.A. favorites Phantogram performed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery last year and said it’s their favorite venue to play in the area.
The Roxy and the Troubadour are two iconic Hollywood spots that host amazing shows. They’re known for late-notice bookings of major artists who are either trying to shake off the cobwebs before touring or putting on a benefit show. In the first quarter of this year alone, Haim and Grouplove both put on charity-based shows at the Troubadour. In March, Mumford & Sons played two cheap gigs at the Roxy, while Blink-182 played there a few weeks earlier with a reshuffled lineup. You should always keep an eye on the Roxy’s and Troubadour’s schedules, as shows can be announced at a moment’s notice.
The other two major Hollywood venues are the Palladium and the Fonda. They aren’t as intimate but put on great gigs featuring artists on the way up. Shows are usually announced less than a month in advance, yet the schedules are usually pretty beefy.
The Echo and the downstairs Echoplex are small venues in Echo Park. Tickets are usually on the cheaper side, and some shows are even free. You’ll find these places and Silver Lake’s the Satellite booking a majority of indie rock bands, with hipsters arriving in hordes.
Of course, Los Angeles also offers the crème de la crème. You can bet that every major musical act that goes on tour will roll through at least one of these SoCal locales.
The Hollywood Bowl is a true bucket-list item. At Bowl-sponsored events, you can bring your own booze and picnic items inside. In addition to major acts like Ed Sheeran (June 24 and 25) and Heart (Aug. 21 and 22), the Bowl plays host to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and numerous fireworks extravaganzas during their summer schedule.
The Greek is like a less overwhelming version of the Bowl, and amid all the trees of surrounding Griffith Park, it’s quite the romantic setting for a date. Classic acts like Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters (June 2), Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick (June 12) and Brian Wilson (June 20) are counter-balanced on the schedule by cult favorites like Ben Folds (June 27), Wilco (Aug. 5) and Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals (Sep. 18).
Staples Center is known for housing more of the mainstream Top 40. As the NBA season winds down, the schedule at the downtown L.A. mecca has room for acts like Nicki Minaj (June 26), J. Cole (July 19) and Taylor Swift (Aug. 21 to Aug. 27).
Located in Inglewood, the Forum underwent a major renovation in 2013 after being bought by Madison Square Garden. Though it also hosts sporting events, the Forum is now the quintessential arena rock venue. Longtime stadium-rock favorites U2 have a week’s worth of late-May and early-June dates there, Imagine Dragons (July 24) returns and stalwarts Phish (July 25), Boston (July 26) and Rush (Aug. 1) all appear there within a week’s span.
The summer’s marquee festival is the 12-year-old FYF Fest, which has grown considerably since its inaugural show. Power-promoter Goldenvoice joined in 2011 and moved the event to Los Angeles State Historic Park before the festival moved to L.A.’s Exposition Park and Sports Arena in 2014. The Strokes and Phoenix served as last year’s headliners to a sold out crowd of over 40,000.
This year the festival will take place Aug. 22 and 23 and hopefully the logistical problems that plagued the first day last summer at Exposition Park will have been ironed out by the time Frank Ocean, Morrissey and D’Angelo begin crooning. The undercard will feature sets from FKA Twigs, Solange, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Bloc Party, Health, Tobias Jesso Jr., Spiritualized, Death Grips and Evian Christ, among many others.
The Satellite, The Bootleg Theater, Bardot, Harvard & Stone and Amoeba Records are just a few spots that regularly host free gigs.
Hollywood’s Bardot is home to the long-running “It’s a School Night” series that tends to fall on Monday nights. Free with RSVP, this series is notable for hosting bands from all over the world, many of which are playing their first shows in the States. Bands like the Naked & Famous, Haim, the Preatures and Broods have made early stops in their careers here before taking off.
Georgia Nott of the electropop duo Broods opened up about their 2014 Bardot show. “That was a pretty special moment for us,” the New Zealand-bred lead vocalist said. “We had no idea how we were gonna be received by American audiences and they were just so welcoming that night that it was actually super overwhelming in the best way.”
Social media is the way to go for freebie tickets
These L.A. outlets and blogs often give away free tickets. Follow their Twitter accounts — much easier than repeatedly calling radio stations — and soon you’ll be winning tickets yourself.
The Netflix of live music?
Jukely is a concert subscription service that launched in Los Angeles this February and has grown exponentially since. For $25 a month, you can get a ticket to a show every night of the week. For $45 a month, you can get a plus-one to all the shows you decide to attend. True, you’re not going to get into big shows at major venues this way. But they’ve got a solid slate of shows on the lower to mid tier, with new ones posted at 11 a.m. each day.
Every genre is represented, and if you’re traveling to one of the other cities Jukely is offered in — San Francisco, Austin, New York, Miami, Toronto, Chicago — you’re able to use the service there too.
—Mark Ortega, Tribune Content Solutions