Last Updated: August 28th
As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles certainly doesn’t lack for live music choices. It seems like every night of the week you can catch a wide variety of superstars, cult favorites, or up-and-coming artists in any one of the hundreds of venues spread out across the gargantuan city, ranging in size from the 50-person dive bar to the massive, 100,000-seat Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Of course, as any regular concert-goer is aware, it’s not just the artist and the crowd that helps define a great show, but the space itself which can either enhance the atmosphere and the music pouring from the stage, or detract from it if the venue is poorly staffed, run-down, or dogged by bad sound and poor sight lines. Fortunately, for the citizens of LA, there are a multitude of places where you’re rarely ever liable to run into any of those aforementioned issues. Here are the 15 best of the bunch.
The Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl isn’t just the most awe-inspiring venue in Los Angeles, with its storied history and epic backdrop, it’s one of the grandest live entertainment centers in the entire world. Whether you’re seated in one of the lower boxes, sipping from a glass of wine while being regaled by Fleet Foxes or Father John Misty, or are ensconced in a loftier section watching Kanye West bring his melancholy opus 808s & Heartbreak back to life, a ticket to the bowl practically a guarantee on a night you won’t soon forget.
There are many historic clubs around West Hollywood vying for your almighty dollar. The Whisky A Go-Go and The Roxy spring to mind as notable examples, but it’s hard to beat the plush confines of the Troubadour. The list of names who’ve breezed through this seminal 400-seat venue is too numerous to recount. Even to this day, when big bands hit the city in looks for a more intimate place to play — like Guns ‘N’ Roses just before their big reunion tour a couple of years band — more often than not you can find them here.
The Henry Fonda Theater
This 1,500-seat, Spanish Colonial-style space is the perfect place to catch some of the best mid-tier bands on the circuit today. Though it’s changed hands and names numerous times in its nearly 100-year history, the Fonda was taken over by Coachella organizers Goldenvoice in 2012, and has since emerged as one of the premier spots for visiting indie rock acts.
The Theatre At The Ace Hotel
The Theatre at Ace Hotel is perhaps the premier live music location in Downtown LA. The large theater got a full restoration around 2014 and is currently one of the most opulent venues in the entire city, with its vaulted ceilings and ornate plaster and metal accents that evoke a gothic-Spanish sensibility. It’s inner-beauty and centralized location has drawn a bevy of incredible artists to its hallowed halls in the years since, everyone from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Spiritualized and John Prine to Jimmy Page. (You can also catch Uproxx’s monthly RX showcase at the Ace as well, though it’s not in the theatre.)
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The Forum in Inglewood, California. One of the most historic venues in the world. Led Zeppelin rocked this joint 16 times in their career, and it's been a dream of mine for pretty much my entire adult life to see a concert here. Tonight it's finally going to happen. Just got a guided backstage tour and I'm freaking out right now.
For my money, there’s no better venue I’d rather catch a show in the Los Angeles area than the LA Forum. I’ve seen rock bands and hip-hop artists in more arena-sized venues than I can even remember, and none of them sound anywhere near as good as they do in this concert-only space. As a Led Zeppelin fanatic, I also can’t help but recall the 16-times the band shook the Forum to its very foundation throughout the 1970s.
The Greek Theatre
The greatest part about living in LA is the near-constant stream of excellent weather. That’s especially fortuitous for concert-goers who prefer to catch artists out in the open air. While the Hollywood Bowl is the obvious destination for this setting, you can’t sleep on the Greek Theatre. As a smaller space, set into a canyon in Griffith Park, the Greek is the optimum location to catch any number of established heavy-hitter hitting the circuit like Liam Gallagher, Neko Case, Alison Krauss or Haim as well as up and comers like Khalid or Weyes Blood.
The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
You might think that a cemetery isn’t the most ideal location to take in a loud rock concert, but if you’re talking about the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever, you’d be dead wrong. This 150-seat venue leans into its locale with a dark-lit, gothic vibe that lends a heavy sense of atmosphere to the occasion no matter who’s playing onstage. While you’re there, make sure to pay your respects to rock legends like Chris Cornell and Joey Ramones who are buried nearby.
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ECHO FLEX is back this Saturday (6/9) 🔥Party to all your favorite 2000's era hip hop jams & more! See resident DJs @jeremyburke, @itscamtang, & @djsteviebe as well as special guests, AMIKA AKAYA & HONEY, from the awesome hip hop weekly party, Cyber Ceremony. $5 before 10, $10 after! RSVP → Link in bio . . . . #amikaakaya #echoflex #2000s #echoplex #loudvillage
As its name suggests, this 350-seat club is located in Echo Park and is a prime spot for a sublime night of indie rock. Recently, The Echo has hosted some of the brightest names blazing new trails within that genre, including Speedy Ortiz, Preoccupations, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and Soccer Mommy to name just a very few. Even if you’ve never heard of anyone on the bill, chances are good you might have your mind blown discovering something entirely new and exciting.
Any hip-hop aficionado in the Los Angeles area knows that The Novo is the spot to catch some of the best and brightest that the culture has to offer. Whether that means SZA, Vince Staples, Pusha-T, Joey Badass, Jaden Smith, if they’re going to perform in town, best chances are they’re going to touch down here.
You could just as easily call this the house that Jon Brion built. Before moving to its current location at the Coronet, Largo was something of a playground for the multi-instrumentalist to perform music with some of his more well-known friends, including Elliott Smith and Fiona Apple. Since moving, Brion still regularly performs here — and he’s definitely worth checking out if you can score a ticket — but the venue also hosts a diverse collection of comedians and musicians over the course of the week.
The Hollywood Palladium
The Palladium has been hosting concerts since the big band and swing era of the 1940s. Since then, it has seen some of the biggest music legends of the last 70-plus years take its stage, everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley and Black Flag to the Black Keys. In 2008, the art deco venue received a much-needed renovation by current owners, Live Nation, that helped restore it to its former glory and re-established its place among the best venues in Hollywood.
The Wiltern is as colorful a landmark as you’re liable to find in Los Angeles. Its outer exterior features an eye-catching art deco facade that entices any passersby to stop and stare. Located in Koreatown, the Wiltern is one of the prime Live Nation-run venues in the city and as such, draws an impressive array of different artists into its ornate halls each and every year. And, with only a 2,200 seat capacity, there’s hardly a bad seat in the joint.
The emergence of downtown as one of L.A.’s newest hotspots has been one of the biggest changes the city has undergone in recent years. With all of the new luxury condos and high-end restaurants, there’s also been an influx of cash to spruce up some of the older venues in the area as well, like The Regent. Located in the Old Bank district, the Regent got a major cosmetic facelift a few years back in 2014 and has since become one of the premier, intimate live music destinations in the area, hosting everyone from EDM acts to free jazz players and beyond.
El Rey Theater
Originally opened as a movie theater in the 1930s, like many other opulent film-houses from that time period around the country, the El Rey soon gained a second life as a concert venue when the massive multiplexes began to take over the scene. Operated today by Goldenvoice, The El Rey regularly plays host to an eclectic array of different artists ranging from Dirty Projectors and Angel Olsen to Lily Allen and Chromeo.
In 1989, a fire nearly destroyed this old Vaudeville theater located in downtown L.A., but rather than see it bulldozed, the owners decided to restore The Orpheum, and since then — and after another renovation in 2001 — it’s played host to some of the biggest and brightest live music entertainers in the world. In 2018 alone, the venue has seen everyone from St. Vincent, Liam Gallagher, The Monkees, and Robert Plant grace its stage.