Good music doesn’t need the best equipment or the best venue to sound great, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Los Angeles is home to some of the most iconic and beautiful venues and performance spaces in the country. From art deco theaters dating back to the golden age of Hollywood to the more modern music halls, LA provides a wide selection of places to listen to great bands. This list combs through all of them to bring you my Top 10 Music Venues in LA. See if your favorite spot makes the cut!
The Roxy is probably the smallest of the theaters on this list, but it’s also the most intimate. The legendary venue brims with new talent and still invites the more established artists to play. The small standing space allows audience members to get up-close-and-personal with the bands, and acts from Bruce Springsteen to Guns N‘ Roses blossomed from green to seasoned on this stage. It’s the place to see the next best thing.
Bands I saw at The Roxy in 2012:
This is the best place to find an acoustically sound performance. The airy general admission standing space may offer visual limitations for those of a shorter height — myself included — but the sound carries perfectly to every corner of the room. With its old 1930s art deco decor mixed with state-of-the-art musical equipment, this theater space provides a seriously enjoyable experience every time.
Bands I saw at the Wiltern in 2012:
The grunge smell pours through the front door, and it just feels right. Big acts played here before they became big. It’s just the kind of place that invites that level of talent. This unassuming, wood-paneled theater is rich with history. From Elton John to Dead Sara, this small space has seen a lot of crazy nights of amazing music.
Bands I saw at the Troubadour in 2012:
El Rey is like a mini version of the Wiltern, but only in terms of size. This venue has held onto the classic charm it opened with in 1936. The theater still uses red curtains to hide the stage between performances, a little detail that gives each performance a special touch, and this inviting venue has brought together a wide variety of musical acts. It’s just a great place in general.
Bands I saw at El Rey in 2012:
The newest of all the theaters on this list, House of Blues on Sunset provides an experience for anyone looking for a full night in LA. The Foundation Room — the main theater space and one of three theaters in the entire building — is equipped with two bars, and a full restaurant sits attached to the space just steps away from the stage. The clean space and amenities will make even the more timid concert goers feel comfortable.
Bands I saw at the House of Blues in 2012:
The initial reaction to a space like the Gibson Amphitheater — at least for those having to shoot a show in this space — is, “Damn, this place is huge!” This kind of arena holds massive performances from massive acts. The seating space outshines the pit, which is different than the other theaters in this list. Acts like No Doubt have filled this amphitheatre, and the space can accommodate 6,000+, but even if you have the last seat in the highest part of the mezzanine, you’ll still hear every word.
Bands I saw at Gibson Amphitheatre in 2012:
Origami Vinyl is by far the most unique space on the list. Record store by day, performance venue whenever a promotional performance is scheduled, this place invites a community of musicians and music lovers in to enjoy good music. I got to experience Origami Vinyl during the Echo Park Rising festival, and just wandering into this space seemed to add even more charm to the whole musical experience. The band plays upstairs in a loft-type room while the audience stands below, looking up and listening. It may not be the most acoustically pleasing venue to play in, but it’s comfortable, and musical, and enjoyable.
Bands I saw at Origami Vinyl in 2012:
It’s not fair to add this venue on the list, I know. It’s an invite-only space maintained by 98.7 FM, and it is located in the historic Hollywood Tower, but it is worth mentioning. It’s on a roof, on a historic building where Hollywood meets the Hollywood Hills. The views are amazing. The acoustic performances are perfect. And yes, it’s invite only, but 98.7 FM generously gives away tickets to lucky contest callers, and this very website you’re on right now often offers lucky followers the chance to win their way in. Just sayin’.
Bands I saw at The Hollywood Tower in 2012:
Club Nokia is very much like House of Blues. It’s new. It has a stage and a bar. It’s in an entertainment vortex, sitting right across the street from the Staples Center and right next to the Nokia Theater. It conveniently sits between restaurants and bars, and parking is abundant. It’s in the same realm as the House of Blues, but it would be unfair to compare the two. They are each fun places to see great music in their own right, and that’s all that matters.
Bands I saw at Club Nokia in 2012:
If El Rey is a mini version of The Wiltern, the Fonda Theatre is a mini version of them both, but again, only in size. This old theater, located right across from the Pantages, boasts a small facade for such a bold interior. The 1920s art deco ceilings, cool red carpet, and mirrored walls makes this place feel more like an old-timey movie theater than a modern musical venue, but that’s what it is, and after experiencing a live show here, it’s no wonder this place has been a testing ground for so many musical acts, from Katy Perry to Radiohead.
Bands I saw at The Fonda in 2012: