As a former resident of Washington, D.C., I have a deep appreciation for the number and variety of venues here in Los Angeles. While most groups skip over the nation’s capital, anyone who is anyone stops here in LA. When I told my father, a thirty-year accountant, that I was heading to Whisky A Go Go for a friend’s show, he immediately lit up: “Oh man, Whiskey A Go Go! That place is wild! Back in the rock ‘n roll days, people would be doing drugs right at their table!”
This got me thinking how much history, particularly when it comes to rock ‘n roll, has taken place in famed Los Angeles venues, so here are my top five most historic LA venues and why I think each place merits a spot on the list!
5) The Mint
Established in 1937, this landmark venue is so intimate, concertgoers will feel like they are in someone’s living room. While the venue is small enough to not have a bad seat in the house, The Mint has played host to some huge artists. Stevie Wonder, Willie Dixon, Natalie Cole, and Ray Charles have all performed there, showcasing The Mint’s extensive history in jazz and soul. Nowadays, however, The Mint plays host to genres across the musical spectrum. Plus you can’t beat street parking.
Although the Viper Room has only been open for twenty years, it is one of the most well-known venues in LA. River Phoenix fatally overdosed there during the venue’s opening year, but since the tragedy, The Viper Room has become a Hollywood hotspot for up-and-comers and celebrities alike. At 250 capacity, this Sunset Strip venue is small yet has hosted some big names, including Tom Petty and the Heartbreaks. It is now known primarily for its metal and punk performances (and local favorites Steel Panther) and active participation in the Sunset Strip Music Festival.
3) The Roxy
The Roxy, owned by record producer Lou Adler, opened its doors in 1973 and has since left a permanent mark on the music scene in Los Angeles. The small size and stellar acoustics have made it a favorite place for musicians to record live (Peter Gabriel, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen…the list goes on). The bar above the club, On The Rox, has seen its fair share of wild partying and drug use; Alice Cooper, John Lennon, and Keith Moon all frequented the bar, and it was the last stop for John Belushi the night he overdosed.
While the Whisky A Go Go originally opened as a nightclub in 1964, it quickly become a trendsetting music venue, heralding the soon-to-break genres of the time. Nestled on a corner in the heart of the Sunset Strip, this venue has helped launch the careers of a plethora of legendary bands, including The Doors, Alice Cooper, Janis Joplin, The Ramones, and The Misfits. It also became a must-stop for bands from overseas, including The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Oasis. Every night is all ages (a rarity in this 21-and-over town), so this venue will certainly stay in the top five for the foreseeable future.
Ah, the legendary Troubadour. Hands down my favorite historic venue due to its laid back atmosphere, intimate setting, and tendency to showcase singer-songwriters and rock music. Some of my favorite shows have taken place there, and one of my favorite bands, Taking Back Sunday, recorded a live album there as well. This venue played a pivotal role in establishing some of the biggest artists in the industry, including Elton John, James Taylor, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, and Carly Simon. A venue that has been so instrumental in so many careers and that continues to be the center of the music scene in LA deserves my number one spot!