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Best places to see live music in Southern California.
(PJ Loughran / For The Times.)

The 55 best places to see live music in Southern California

Under the right circumstances, a few hours of live music can change a person: The 16-year-old indie punk who dives into the all-ages DIY scene surrounding the Smell. The record executives at a Hotel Cafe bar table awaiting a young singer named Billie Eilish. Obsessed devotees converging on Hollywood Forever Cemetery for an evening among the gravestones with Lana Del Rey.

Until COVID-19 pushed pause on concerts in 2020, most didn’t need to be reminded of live music’s transcendent nature. We took for granted the bounty of stages available on any given night, both in soundproofed rooms and, enabled by a climate perfectly suited for them, at outdoor amphitheaters. Their forced absence left a gaping hole in L.A. culture.

Luckily, most survived. These 55 venues include legacy theaters, spacious clubs, Sunset Strip mainstays, historic institutions and duct-taped dives. Combined, it’s a patchwork of venues that gives fans of virtually any music genre the opportunity to commune, sing and dance with kindred fans.

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The Alex Theater
(WACSO / For The Times)

Alex Theatre

Glendale Theater
Nearly a century old, this one-time home to vaudeville and silent movies in Glendale is an exceptional if under-utilized midsized venue for live music, theater and dance. With an epic mix of ancient Greek and Egyptian decor, the 1,400-seat room was designed by the same architects behind Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre and Egyptian Theatre. The Art Deco marquee was added in 1940, but recent upgrades to the backstage make it a first-class concert venue, where the annual all-star Wild Honey Orchestra benefit concerts unfold in honor of a major classic rock artist (the Beatles, Beach Boys, etc.).
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Alex's Bar

Long Beach Club
Alex’s Bar is a dedicated dive for rock ’n’ roll, with a monster mash decor of skulls, red curtains and velvet paintings of Elvis, Lemmy and Bowie on the walls. The popular club’s logo depicts praying hands over a beer bottle, and fans drive miles for the mixed drinks, brews on tap, photo booth and a roster filled with hard-edged punk, roots and other outlaw sounds — performed by new voices and established rockers who can play much bigger rooms in nearby L.A. It’s a destination for rock vampires with the welcoming vibe of a neighborhood tavern.
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The Belasco
(WACSO / For The Times)

The Belasco

Downtown L.A. Theater
Like so many historic L.A. theaters, the Belasco came back in 2011 from hard times and disrepair to become an especially stylish venue for live music. Beneath the ceiling’s huge gilded dome, its stage has lately been home to some of the heaviest voices in hard rock, along with dance, soul and comedy. Built in 1926 (a year before the Mayan next door), the theater and spacious upstairs ballroom offer visitors a trip back in time with ornamental Spanish and Moorish decor.
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Brookside at the Rose Bowl

Pasadena Festival Ground
Think of the tree-lined expanse of greenery surrounding the Rose Bowl as an in-town version of Indio’s Empire Polo Club, where Coachella and Stagecoach take place every April. At least that’s how Goldenvoice, the promoter behind those mega-festivals, has framed the Brookside, which it’s increasingly using to stage smaller, one- or two-day shows like Just Like Heaven (’00s indie rock) and Palomino (left-of-center country). Pro: No need for a pricey Palm Desert Airbnb. Con: You’ll still get stuck in traffic winding through Pasadena’s residential streets.
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The Canyon

Agoura Hills Club
Under the motto “Where Music Meets the Soul,” the Canyon is a roomy, 1,200-capacity supper club with a calendar filled with legacy acts, tribute bands and current stars. In 2021, Foo Fighters chose this room on the western edge of L.A. County for their first full-attendance show after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Originally founded two decades ago as the Canyon Club, it remains the flagship for a chain of spaces under “the Canyon” brand across SoCal, including the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. In Agoura, the effect is more Vegas showroom than L.A. concert hall.
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Catalina Bar & Grill

Hollywood Club
Though L.A. lacks a cabaret scene to rival New York’s, Catalina can come close to the experience on the right night. A low stage with a grand piano faces a wide room of two-top tables; servers quietly bring around steaks and martinis (heed the two-drink minimum). Talent-wise, the club books both jazz traditionalists and those leaning closer to pop; occasionally you’ll encounter an artist paying tribute to some legend of stage and screen. Whoever’s up there, the intimate setting usually inspires satisfying banter.
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Catch One

Arlington Heights Club
First opened in 1973, Jewel’s Catch One operated for 40 years as a celebrated Black LGBTQ discotheque. The Arlington Heights venue was soon resurrected in 2016 to host nights packed with music on the cutting edge. Behind its black walls is a cavernous but welcoming space, offering two levels and multiple stages for DJs, loud guitars, rock en español, rap, goth, industrial and disco. With a new sound system freshly installed, several bars and a kitchen to fuel fans up on wings and tacos, it’s a dance party that never stops.
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Crypto.com Arena

Downtown L.A. Arena
Old heads — which is to say, folks around since the late ’90s — know it as Staples Center, of course. But it’s not hard to see why a cryptocurrency exchange paid millions of dollars to rename the joint: Beyond serving as the Lakers’ home, this downtown arena is a coveted play for A-list pop stars and rappers, who view a sold-out concert here as a clear sign that they’ve made it. Acoustically, Crypto can be a bit boomy compared with its rival Kia Forum. But the celeb-spotting is always first-rate.
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The Doll Hut
(Robbin Burnham / For The Times)

Doll Hut

Anaheim Club
This tiny old roadhouse off the 5 Freeway is a live-music mainstay in Orange County, hosting rising local talent and touring rock bands on its modest stage since the late 1980s. With band stickers smothering the walls and a drink menu focused on beer and wine, the Doll Hut is a gathering place for true believers in punk, rockabilly, goth, Americana and metal. COVID-19 forced much of the entertainment onto the back patio and parking lot for a time, but the expansion outdoors continues, so fans can mosh inside or out and watch the fireworks over nearby Disneyland.
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Don Quixote
(WACSO / For The Times)

Don Quixote

Boyle Heights Club
Deep in the heart of Boyle Heights, this two-story banquet hall offers more than just the space for your baby cousin’s quinceañera. Goths, techno DJs and big-name reggaeton MCs have all booked massive parties at Don Quixote — which lends itself to the most fascinating people-watching at 2 a.m., soundtracked by Soft Cell and Alexis y Fido.
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Echo / Echoplex
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Echo

Echo Park Club
An Echo Park institution that has long been a center of indie rock, underground hip-hop and brilliantly curated club nights, the upstairs Echo and downstairs Echoplex (with a second entrypoint beneath the Sunset Boulevard overpass at 1154 Glendale Blvd.) require separate entry and book rising and established national and international acts. The Echoplex, which holds nearly 800, has served as home to surprise shows by huge acts including Nine Inch Nails and the Rolling Stones and as a stepping stone for Skrillex, Haim and Big Thief, among many others. The Echo is a smaller room (capacity 350) but with an equally noteworthy pedigree, having hosted early shows by Mac DeMarco, Phoebe Bridgers and Kali Uchis.
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El Cid
(WACSO / For The Times)

El Cid

Silver Lake Club
This Silver Lake venue has undergone several makeovers since it first opened in 1925. It was first christened El Cid in 1962, when two flamenco dancers, Juan Talavera and Margarita Cordova, acquired the space and remodeled it to resemble a 16th century Spanish tavern. While El Cid continues to offer traditional flamenco shows on Saturdays and Sundays, its stage is now open to a wide variety of musical acts. Its kitchen is open too; guests can snack on tapas in the courtyard before enjoying the show.
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El Rey Theatre
(Paul Rogers / For The Times )

El Rey Theatre

Mid-Wilshire Theater
The red carpeting and the glittering chandeliers provide a hint of Old Hollywood glamour inside this Art Deco-era gem just down Wilshire from the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. With a capacity of just under 800 (including a small balcony), the El Rey is a reliable spot to catch next-big-thing types on their way up — indie bands, singer-songwriters, quirky Latin pop acts — not to mention the occasional big star in a hot-ticket underplay.
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The Fonda
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Fonda Theatre

Hollywood Theater
In a city crowded with great music rooms, the Fonda is essential, with exceptional booking, sound and an elegant rooftop patio lounge overlooking Hollywood. The 1,200-capacity, Spanish Colonial-style theater is a major stop on any act’s upward trajectory, and it’s notably been the choice of major artists (Radiohead, Rolling Stones) looking to deliver a special one-off performance. Originally opened in 1926 as Carter De Haven’s Music Box, it hosted live theater, music and blockbuster films under many names for decades. In 1985, it was rebranded in honor of actor Henry Fonda, but it rediscovered its true calling as a live music mecca in 2002.
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The Ford

Hollywood Hills Amphitheatre
Over the last century, countless concertgoers have sung praises of the majestic Hollywood Bowl, but across Cahuenga Boulevard resides its earthier counterpart, the Ford. Nestled deep in the craggy terrain of the Hollywood Hills, this 1,200-seat outdoor amphitheater is a popular stop for the more offbeat among L.A.'s artistic community. Not only can you sip craft margaritas under the stars — at the Ford, you can discover your new favorite artist too. This summer’s slate includes appearances by Kamasi Washington and Best Coast, live DJ sets courtesy of the Chulita Vinyl Club and Devonté Hynes performing with the L.A. Phil.
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Fox Theatre in Pomona
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Fox Theater Pomona

Pomona Theater
Another former movie palace, the Fox in Pomona is a carefully refurbished Art Deco anchor to the city’s active arts colony of clubs, galleries, shops, restaurants and bars. Beneath its neon-accented tower, the Fox offers the full range of popular and forward-leaning music. Major touring artists playing SoCal will often squeeze in an additional night playing there or the neighboring Glass House — especially during Coachella season. With its small-town flavor and public lots charging only $1 after 7 p.m., the Fox is a user-friendly alternative to a night out in the big city.
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Gold Diggers
(WACSO / For The Times)

Gold-Diggers

East Hollywood Club
Tucked behind a grimy East Hollywood facade, this dimly lit dive bar is part of a multi-use venue that also includes a boutique hotel, recording studio and restaurant. And it’s steeped in history: In the 1980s, the place hosted exotic dancers and had rehearsal rooms for hair-metal bands; before that, B-movie king Ed Wood used the space as a soundstage. Soul singer Leon Bridges is such a fan that he moved in to make his Grammy-nominated 2021 album “Gold-Diggers Sound.”
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Grand Performances

Downtown L.A. Amphitheatre
Nestled in the communal California Plaza amid high-rises at the top of downtown L.A.’s Angels Flight mini rail car, the annual nonprofit Grand Performances series has hosted artists including Stevie Wonder (with Ozomatli), Angelique Kidjo, Kamasi Washington and Ana Tijoux, and regularly books some of the city’s best DJ crews and production companies for massive weekend dance parties.
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Greek Theatre
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Greek Theatre

Griffith Park Amphitheatre
The second most famous outdoor venue in Los Angeles — it will turn 92 in September — earned a recent Hollywood boost with the 2010 comedy “Get Him to the Greek.” More representative of the city’s demographic mix than the Bowl, the Greek focuses on contemporary pop, rock and Latin music. Santana, for example, has played the Greek more than three dozen times, as has Neil Diamond — who recorded his multiplatinum live double-album “Hot August Night” as part of a 1972 10-night stand. These days, the Greek’s variety is notable: Recent summer and fall bookings have included Kacey Musgraves, Phoebe Bridgers, the late rapper Juice Wrld and Alabama Shakes.
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Hollywood Bowl
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Hollywood Bowl

Hollywood Hills Amphitheatre
If it’s true that endurance is the ultimate arbiter of quality, the pit near the bottom of the Cahuenga Pass deserves a spot at the top of any ranking of L.A. — nay, U.S. — outdoor venues. Celebrating its centennial as an institution, the Bowl remains a global destination for both artists and fans. Whether it be a night under the stars with Grace Jones or Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Phil, concerts here are, by definition, events.
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Masonic Lodge / Hollywood Forever Cemetery
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Hollywood Forever Cemetery and Masonic Lodge

Hollywood Theater
The famed Hollywood cemetery abuts the Paramount lot to the south and a bunch of hiding-in-plain-sight recording studios and music management offices within a few blocks in any direction. On weekends throughout summer and fall, the cemetery opens its gates in the evenings to host outdoor concerts and film screenings on communal greenspace, as well as indoor concerts at the Masonic Lodge on the cemetery grounds. Over the years, Lana Del Rey, Flying Lotus, Bon Iver and Tame Impala have played among the graves of musical legends Chris Cornell, Dick Dale, Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone and many others.
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Hollywood Palladium
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Hollywood Palladium

Hollywood Club
Opened as the city’s grandest dance hall in 1940, the Palladium stage was christened by a dashing young Frank Sinatra and thrived through the post-World War II big band boom times. Starting in the 1950s, it became a Latin music hub after radio personality Chico Sesma moved his Latin Holidays events to the space. As its fortunes waned, punks and new wavers took it over — the Clash, Talking Heads, Social Distortion, Ramones included. In 2008, Live Nation bought the Palladium, and Jay-Z, like Sinatra before him, unveiled the multimillion-dollar rehab.
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Hotel Cafe
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Hotel Cafe

Hollywood Club
Thousands of tourists likely pass by Hollywood’s Hotel Cafe not realizing that tucked in a back alley near Sunset and Cahuenga is a modest 200-capacity room that over the decades has booked future stars including Adele, Brandy, Billie Eilish, John Mayer, Katy Perry and Mumford & Sons. Dimly lit and with a red velvet stage backdrop, the Hotel Cafe feels as if it were designed by David Lynch. And though its boldfaced success stories are notable, it has long scheduled mix-and-match, tightly regimented hourlong weeknight showcases for wannabe superstars.
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The Forum
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Kia Forum

Inglewood Arena
Arguably the birthplace of arena rock, the Forum was built to house the Lakers and since 1967 has been home at one point or another to sports franchises including the Kings, the Lakers and the Sparks. Between seasons, the circular landmark has long served as the West Coast’s unofficial barometer of pop musical success. Among the Forum conquerors: the Doors, Sly & the Family Stone, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Yes and pretty much every other rock band of the Bic lighter era. Despite its official Kia-sponsored name these days, it remains the Rolls Royce of arenas for acts ranging from Foo Fighters and Metallica to Cardi B and the Weeknd.
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La Cita Bar

Downtown L.A. Club
Those seeking the most authentically Angeleno experience need look no further than La Cita, the gem of downtown L.A. In the front of the bar is a sweltering Latin dance party, where revelers can rage to live norteño bands and reggaeton alike; meanwhile, the backyard serves as a watering hole for the rockero set, where amid the sea of black tees and tattoos, you may find a local punk legend downing a Modelo (or several).
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Largo at the Coronet
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Largo at the Coronet

Beverly Grove Club
Born on Fairfax in the now-hopping business district between Beverly and Melrose, in 2008 owner Mark Flanagan moved his tiny music and comedy spot Club Largo to the old Coronet Theatre not far away on La Cienega. A historic little venue that in 1947 booked the first screening of Kenneth Anger’s groundbreaking experimental film “Fireworks” and premiered playwright Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo Galilei,” Flanagan’s Largo has since become a testing ground for comedic actors, stand-ups and musicians, among them: Jon Brion, Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and Nickel Creek. Best, the club enforces a strict no-photos policy during sets.
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Levitt Pavilion
(WACSO / For The Times)

Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles

Westside Amphitheatre
Few stages and crowds better represent the essence of Los Angeles than the bandshell at MacArthur Park, where each season curators book artists aimed at fulfilling the Pavilion’s mission: “Building community through music.” The 15th annual season, which once again presents — for free — artists from across the Southern California diaspora and beyond, commences on June 18 and does so with a roster programmed by LACMA Latin Sounds and promoters La Banda Elastica featuring L.A. bands El Gran Silencio, Buyepongo and Las Chikas. In previous seasons, artists including Los Lobos, New Orleans funk band Tank and the Bangas and Malian guitarist Bombino have brought dance music to Westlake.
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Lodge Room

Highland Park Club
In its earliest incarnation, the second floor of a former Masonic lodge in Highland Park offered enough room for hundreds of secret-society members to gather and conspire. In later years, parts of the building served as an equally secretive compound for famed rap producer Madlib and as the launching pad for the Soulection crew. Now the live-music center of a thriving north Figueroa nightlife scene, the Lodge Room hosts jazz, experimental funk and beat music. Since it opened in 2017, the venue has housed burning sets by Black Pumas, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, actor-singer Isabella Rossellini and Texas dance band Khruangbin.
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Los Globos
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Los Globos

Silver Lake Club
A Silver Lake dance venue since it rose as the first L.A. American Legion outpost in the mid-1930s, the two-story complex’s offerings change nightly and represent genres including cumbia, reggaeton, hardcore punk and house music. Once you’ve spent an evening or two in the second-floor bar, sat in its retro booths and grooved on its checkerboard dance floor, you’ll start recognizing it everywhere as a regularly scouted location for film and TV.
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Majestic Ventura Theater

Ventura Theater
The unattainable hot ticket is a recurring nightmare for L.A. music fanatics, but experienced locals have learned to seek nirvana instead with a scenic drive north to the Majestic Ventura Theater, a frequent tour stop for international acts. The 1928 Spanish Colonial jewel brings a full range of rock, pop, reggae, hip-hop and more to its seaside community, with an 1,150 capacity and easy parking. Seats were removed from the floor years ago, but seating remains in the balcony, set beneath the theater’s ancient original chandeliers.
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Mayan
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Mayan

Downtown L.A. Theater
Even in a downtown district crowded with gorgeous, historic theaters, the Mayan stands out. Since reopening as a nightclub in 1990, it’s been home to a wide swath of culture, from EDM and indie rock to the masked wrestling of Lucha VaVoom. On dance nights, the main floor and mezzanine offer different flavors (Top 40, pop, reggaeton, salsa, merengue) and bottle service. With not a bad seat in the house, the landmark 1927 building also draws locals with its meticulous pre-Columbian detail, including gods and symbols carved into the walls, and an epic ceiling modeled after the Aztec calendar.
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McCabe's Guitar Shop
(WACSO / For The Times)

McCabe's Guitar Shop

Santa Monica Club
The back room of West Pico’s folk musical instrument hub (born 1958) houses a stage that’s as familial as the music it supports. The quietest, most respectful room in L.A. during sets, the 150-capacity black-box theater in its earliest days welcomed rising artists including John Fahey, Jackson Browne and Judee Sill, and has continually shown a considered enthusiasm for not just players of acoustic guitars but also harmonicas, fiddles, ukuleles, bouzoukis, sitars, ouds and other stringed instruments. Its expertly curated weekend concerts — no booze, but there are refreshments — have facilitated the performances of artists including the Handsome Family, Sara Watkins, Aimee Mann and Steve Earle.
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The Mint

Mid-City Club
Midtown’s most bankable small venue (capacity 130) for musicianly types, the Mint doesn’t chase breakout indie or buzz bands, preferring instead to book exceptional pros from the city’s vast community of session musicians, backing bands and songwriters. It’s the kind of place where the late Andrew Gold used to hole up for a few days to workshop in front of fans and where Jonathan Richman is sure to land if he’s playing L.A. In May, Creed Bratton, best known for his work on “The Office” but also a former member of the Grass Roots, ruled the club’s modest perch.
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Moroccan Lounge

Downtown L.A. Club
Angelenos have been slinking through these Moorish arches in search of a big night out since 1885. Rumors claim it was bordello back then (more than a century later, it became an actual nightclub called Bordello), but now the place has found its stride as the little-sister venue to the Teragram Ballroom across downtown. The sound veers from indie to LGBTQ disco-pop and beyond, and the live room is partitioned from the bar to make hanging out between sets comfy.
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The Observatory / Constellation Room in Santa Ana
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Observatory/Constellation Room

Santa Ana Club
Orange County has a first-rate music venue in the 1,000-capacity Observatory, with a big main room that offers a surprising intimacy. For much of its existence, this medium-sized shed was called the Galaxy Concert Theatre, drawing fans from across Southern California. After years of decline, it was reborn in 2011 as the Observatory with new owners, updated sound and lighting and a reinvigorated concert calendar. Down the hall was established the smaller Constellation Room, with space for 300 and where hungry new acts can blast off.
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Orpheum
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Orpheum Theatre

Downtown L.A. Theater
A retired vaudeville house and movie theater along Broadway’s row of such venues, the Live Nation-controlled Orpheum is known for being the promotion giant’s musical art house — upcoming concerts include Tori Amos and Cat Power. The company books it sparingly, usually less than a dozen concerts per year. It’s active in other ways, though. Guns N’ Roses shot their “November Rain” video and Michael Jackson shot parts of the “Thriller” video on its stage. A lovely room with a grand balcony, there are few bad seats.
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The Paramount

Boyle Heights Theater
Established in 1924, this all-ages Boyle Heights venue has retained its breathtaking, retro interior without sacrificing its contemporary cool. Known in the olden days as the Paramount Ballroom, the reborn Paramount now hosts fundraisers and salons by local artists and activists, as well as buzzy showcases of punk, indie and alternative acts from across the U.S. and Latin America. The Paramount’s eclectic live music calendar is curated by KCRW DJ José Galván.
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Pip’s On La Brea

Mid-Wilshire Club
Derrick Pipkin in 2010 opened this jazz and roots spot with a charming patio where you’ll likely get roped into taking shots for someone’s 50th birthday party. It’s more of a neighborhood hangout than a touring-act destination, but the bands are tight, bartenders pour heavy and there’s never a bum night to stop by.
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The Redwood Bar & Grill

Downtown L.A. Club
For decades, this downtown bar was the watering hole for hardboiled reporters of the L.A. Times (then located a block away), with a direct phone line from the barstools to the newsroom. Under new ownership since 2006, the Redwood now exists as an intimate venue for new music both plugged-in or acoustic, with a vibrant nautical theme to the decor and full bar and kitchen. The wood paneling and paintings of sailing ships make for a warm setting as a full, nightly calendar of new artists and local music vets perform on the small corner stage.
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The Regent
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Regent Theater

Downtown L.A. Club
One of the city’s oldest surviving theaters, the Regent opened in 1914 as a downtown movie house but a century later was firmly reborn as a place for the loud and indie, with room for dance nights, mini-festivals and film screenings. For patrons not satisfied with the fine bar options inside, there’s the Prufrock Pizzeria and the Love Song bar (both named for T.S. Eliot) flanking the theater entrance. With room for 1,100 fans facing its ancient proscenium on a sloped concrete floor and a newly created mezzanine level, this intimate room is built to last.
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The Roxy
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Roxy Theatre

West Hollywood Club
One factor captures the essence of the Roxy, which since its 1972 opening by music mogul Lou Adler and Sunset Strip club owner Elmer Valentine has remained one of the city’s best music clubs: Neil Young and Crazy Horse christened the Roxy’s stage. Since then, the place has been a coveted tour stop not just in L.A. but on the way to national and international success. Just ask the Ramones, Patti Smith, Prince, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse and Adele, among hundreds of others.
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Santa Barbara Bowl

Santa Barbara Amphitheatre
Carved into the hills above Santa Barbara, this outdoor amphitheater built in 1936 — and renovated not long ago to the tune of $40 million — is worth the drive up from L.A. to catch major pop acts in a more intimate setting than the Greek Theatre or the Hollywood Bowl. On a clear evening, the plum location offers a gorgeous view of the ocean, which also means the place gets chilly after dark. Bring a sweater.
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1720

Downtown L.A. Club
Sometimes there are advantages to your club being buried under a freeway exit at the fringe of downtown L.A. This cavernous yet crisp-sounding independent venue has become L.A.’s go-to spot for brutal metal, techno and hip-hop acts that would wake the neighbors anywhere else. Drinks are pricey, and it’s not exactly a bucolic spot to linger once the show’s over. But if you’ve got an itch that only a heaving mosh pit can scratch, this is where to go.
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Silverlake Lounge

Silver Lake Club
The last two years saw so many independent venues close, among them the beloved Satellite in Silver Lake. So the return of Silverlake Lounge, the neighborhood’s other longtime tiny indie rock and comedy club, was a happy surprise for local bands getting their sea legs again. It first opened in 1938, but after many incarnations it’s under fresh management, so your psych-rock trio can probably get booked with relative ease. Graying locals who miss the ol’ Monday night residency circuit will be thrilled to make that awkward mid-set trek past the stage to the bathrooms once again.
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The Smell
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Smell

Downtown L.A. Club
Every music scene needs a room like the Smell, where adventurous young acts can experiment with noise and abandon. The all-ages, alcohol-free club with room for a snug 130 is a little taste of pure bohemia in downtown L.A. Fully dedicated to music and art, and run by volunteers and true believers, the old brick space has so far survived threats of demolition and real estate development to help birth a couple of generations of local indie rockers (No Age, Best Coast). Tickets are usually priced at $5 (cheap!) and the modest snack bar is vegan only.
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SoFi Stadium

Inglewood Stadium
A state-of-the-art alternative to Dodger Stadium, the Rose Bowl or the perpetually crumbling L.A. Coliseum, SoFi has quickly become a favorite tour stop among the relatively few live acts capable of filling a stadium. For fans with the right connections, the building offers suites and VIP rooms with great views and perks galore; for those sitting in the nosebleeds, SoFi’s enormous high-def screens mean you can leave the binoculars at home. Consult a map before you come: The place is so big that it houses the separate 6,000-seat YouTube Theater on the same premises.
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Sound

Hollywood Club
Dance music in L.A. usually comes in two formats — a corporate mega-rave or an unpermitted warehouse party. Sound is one of vanishingly few clubs trying to split the difference, with tasteful bookings of emerging and veteran DJs (its staff helps book the Yuma Tent at Coachella). Hollywood Boulevard on weekends has never been more feral, but inside, Sound remains a slice of European-caliber clubbing.
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Teragram Ballroom
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Teragram Ballroom

Westside Club
The first Los Angeles venture by a co-founder of New York promoter Bowery Presents has already built a mini-empire on the West Coast, what with its smaller sibling club the Moroccan Lounge a few miles away on East 1st and another rumored project on the way. The favorite stage for the L.A. psych-garage scene centered around Oh Sees’ John Dwyer and the equally prolific Ty Segall, the Teragram has great sightlines, a solid sound system and excellent booking taste. Just ask fans of Dinosaur Jr., Weyes Blood, Richard Thompson and Beach Bunny.
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Theatre at The Ace Hotel
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Theatre at Ace Hotel

Downtown L.A. Theater
Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin opened the place in the 1920s to show movies from their United Artists studio. Now the Theatre at Ace Hotel, restored and reopened in 2014 by the hipster hotel chain, hosts musicians and stand-up comedians in a 1,600-seat room filled with ornate architectural detailing. Arrive early for a pre-show cocktail in the theater’s grandly appointed lobby — or drink more cheaply at one of downtown’s dives before walking over.
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Troubadour
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

Troubadour

West Hollywood Club
Don’t listen to us. Across more than six decades, the club near the corner of Santa Monica and Doheny has helped break artists including James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, the Eagles, Tom Waits, Guns N’ Roses and, in the ‘00s and ‘10s, Warpaint, Haim and Best Coast. Artists love it because the homey venue, which holds 500 and has a little upstairs balcony, makes for giddy audiences.
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2220 Arts + Archives

Westside Theater
The founders of 2220 Arts + Archives — known to many as “the old Bootleg Theater” — bought the building and the business during the pandemic and reimagined it as a community arts center. Among the contributing organizations and curators are record label Black Label Editions, Thin Wrist and VDSQ; LA Filmforum; the Poetic Research Bureau; and the Unwrinkled Ear. Combined, the weekly programming is a profoundly smart mix of experimental music, film, poetry or some combination thereof.
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Whisky a Go Go

West Hollywood Club
The venerable Sunset Strip club that helped launch the go-go dancing era in the 1960s survived the pandemic and has returned to a regular booking schedule. This room supported the Byrds, Love and the Doors in the ’60s; the Germs, X and the Bags in the ’70s; and Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Slayer in the ’80s. For the last few decades the Whisky has been a pay-to-play club. If, for example, a South Dakota metal band, a rich-dude white rapper, a punk duo and an earnest singer-songwriter all pony up, they could end up together on the same Friday night bill. Literally anyone can play on the stage, which makes for very unpredictable nights of music.
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The Wiltern
(Paul Rogers / For The Times)

The Wiltern

Koreatown Theater
The Wiltern is one of L.A.'s premier music venues, an Art Deco masterpiece in the heart of Koreatown, but spent its first half-century almost exclusively as a movie theater. It now offers a busy calendar of music in all genres: pop, metal, world music, EDM, etc. It opened in 1931 as the Warner Bros. Western Theatre amid decor of startling opulence: marble, tile, gold leaf, a sunburst ceiling above the auditorium. Long ago renamed for its location at Wilshire and Western, floor seats were replaced in 2002 with standing-room terraces for a current 2,300 capacity. A marvel regardless of who’s on the marquee.
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Illustration of The World Stage performance venue for a story about the best live music venues in LA.
(WACSO / For The Times)

The World Stage

Leimert Park Amphitheatre
A formative club for Kamasi Washington and many of L.A.’s jazz-crossover titans, the nonprofit World Stage is one of the last spots left standing to casually see world-class jazz in L.A. Music fans across the Southland should do everything they can to ensure that Leimert Park’s real estate boom doesn’t edge out hubs for Black art like this one, which hosts a variety of writing and instrumental workshops in addition to its more formal billings.
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Zebulon

Elysian Valley Club
The esoteric Brooklyn-born club relocated to Frogtown in 2017, bringing with it a stellar reputation for adventurous bookings. In recent years its 300-capacity room and excellently engineered sound system have combined to support concerts by Malian guitar slinger Mdou Moctar, Japanese noise legend Keiji Haino, L.A. songwriter, producer and arranger Van Dyke Parks, singer-songwriter Caroline Polachek and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore.
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