Top 20 Venues for Live Music in Los Angeles

El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.

No matter how obscure your musical preferences, you can find your groove in one of the diverse Los Angeles live-music venues. Here are our top 20 Los Angeles live-music music destinations, in no particular order.

There might not be any concert-going experience so quintessentially L.A. as a night at the Hollywood Bowl. Whether the evening’s program includes a headlining rock band or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Playboy Jazz Festival or the KCRW World Festival, the Bowl becomes a gathering place hours before showtime when attendees swarm the grounds for picnicking. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, 323.850.2000.

A stone’s throw from Museum Row on the Miracle Mile, the art deco El Rey Theatre is a stunner, from its nostalgic neon signage to the grand chandelier-lighted ballroom. El Rey has a knack for booking artists on the cusp of mainstream stardom, giving fans the chance to see artists such as Lana Del Rey in a relatively small setting before they graduate to bigger venues. 5515 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 323.936.6400.

Herb Alpert’s Bel Air supper club projects the kind of retro classiness that might fool you into thinking it’s been here for decades. Live jazz performances, Tuesday through Sunday, are accompanied by an upscale American menu of steaks, seafood and nostalgic sides such as creamed spinach. More famous performers may mean a nominal cover charge. 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel Air, 310.474.9400.

When the Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber-types of the music industry perform in Los Angeles, they do it at the Staples Center downtown, one of the biggest arenas in town with 20,000 seats. And if your ideal concert includes pyrotechnics, costume changes, dancers and/or earth-shaking volume, you won’t be disappointed if you buy a ticket to a show here. 1111 S. Figueroa St., downtown, 213.742.7326.

The erstwhile Spaceland in Silver Lake has begun a second act as the Satellite. Despite the name change, this dive is still a fixture of the Eastside music community. (It helped launch the careers of Elliott Smith and Beck, among others.) The Satellite books acts popular with the Pitchfork-reading set, such as Magic Wands and Gauntlet Hair. (Most shows are for patrons 21 and older.) 1717 Silverlake Blvd., Silver Lake, 323.661.4380.

Named for its cross streets, Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, the Wiltern was built in the glamorous art deco style, and headliners such as Wilco and the White Stripes’ Jack White stop here. Vertically challenged concertgoers appreciate the balcony seating and multiple levels of standing room, making a view of the stage possible even from the back of the theater. 3790 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 213.388.1400.

Largo at the Coronet in midtown has a charmingly informal vibe; it only recently began to offer a formal ticketing system. Certain local performers treat the Largo as their second home; Jon Brion plays monthly, occasionally bringing collaborator Fiona Apple with him. Comedians such as Russell Brand appear frequently, too. 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., 310.855.0350.

Adjacent to Ace Hotel Los Angeles, in the heart of the city’s Broadway Theater District downtown, sits a restored, 1,600-seat movie palace from the 1920s with a three-story, 2,300-square-foot grand lobby, an ornate open balcony and mezzanine and a vaulted ceiling with thousands of tiny mirrors that glimmer when lit. Bands that have graced its sage since its reopening include Florence + The Machine, Wilco, Andrew Bird, among others. 929 S. Broadway, downtown, 213.623.3233.

In the mid-20th century, the Broadway Theater District downtown boasted the grandest movie palaces in the city. One of the few that have been restored is the Orpheum. The theater’s Wurlitzer pipe organ is still operational, but these days you’re more likely to find entertainment in the form of film screenings or pop concerts. 842 S. Broadway, downtown, 877.677.4386.

When the Hollywood Palladium opened its doors, the first act to appear was Frank Sinatra; it reopened in 2008 with a Jay-Z show. Music trends may have changed in the past 50 years, but the Palladium’s retro-glam good looks and ability to attract top-notch performers haven’t. 6215 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, 323.962.7600.

For house-music aficionados, Avalon Hollywood is dance and DJ central Thursday through Saturday. Upstairs from the main venue is Bardot, a hip French-inspired bar and lounge with its own free shows featuring DJs and rock bands. Monday’s regular “School Night” is a winner; recent performers have included A Fine Frenzy and Kimbra. 1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood, 323.462.8900.

L.A.’s most iconic music hall opened in 2003, its design (by architect Frank Gehry) inspired by a sailing ship, and its acoustics nonpareil. It’s a fitting home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the most innovative orchestras in the world. The hall is also used for pop and rock concerts to inspiring effect; past collaborations have included Death Cab for Cutie sharing the stage with members from Magik*Magik Orchestra. 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown, 323.850.2000.

If the mammoth Staples Center at the L.A. Live entertainment center downtown doesn’t appeal, look to Club Nokia a few steps away—comparatively tiny with its 2,300-person capacity, but with similar pop-radio players you’d see at Staples. Three bars and a sleek lounge create inviting environments to cool your heels between sets. 800 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown, 213.765.7000.

Myriad musicians have recorded live albums at the Troubadour—including three who named their albums Live at the Troubadour. It’s a favorite stop for musicians who live in L.A. and even those who don’t; arena headliners such as as Prince and Coldplay have come here to preview new material. Small enough to lend intimacy to the ballads of a singer-songwriter, but big enough for a raucous rock show, the Troubadour is a treasure. 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 877.435.9849.

The Echo and its downstairs counterpart, Echoplex, compete with the Satellite to book the hottest super-indie bands of the moment. Hipsters abound, but they’re not too cool to dance at the regular “Bootie L.A.” nights, featuring DJs spinning rock and pop mash-ups. 1822 Sunset Blvd.; 1154 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake. 213.413.8200.

Like your matzo ball soup with a side of indie rock? Then visit the music lounge attached to 80-year-old Canter’s Deli, the Kibitz Room—the divey-est, strangest little club and bar in town. It has a history with rock ‘n’ roll royalty: The Doors, Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell kibbitzed and jammed here. These days, neighborhood bands and karaoke nights are the main attractions. 419 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., 323.651.2030.

The Greek Theatre has many of the Hollywood Bowl’s stellar qualities: an outdoor amphitheatre with excellent natural acoustics in a beautiful setting. The Greek’s size (fewer than 6,000 seats) is far from overwhelming, and amid the towering pine trees of Griffith Park, the venue is even a little romantic. 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Griffith Park, 323.665.5857.

The flailing music industry hasn’t seemed to affect Amoeba Music, the independent record store in Hollywood where you can find gaggles of scenesters picking through rare vinyl from morning to night. A stage in the back of the store hosts free concerts from nationally known acts (Otis Clay and the aforementioned Lana Del Rey) as well as some local musicians and DJs on the rise. 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, 323.245.6400.

The Fonda Theatre goes by many names. It was originally christened as Carter De Haven’s Music Box and is formerly known as The Henry Fonda Theatre and The Music Box. Today the all-ages Hollywood institution showcases everything from your favorite up-and-coming indie bands to hip hop in the historic 1920s theater. While you’re waiting for your favorite band to take the stage, head to the rooftop lounge for a drink and sweeping views of Hollywood. 6126 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., 323.464.6269.

Every L.A. singer-songwriter worth mentioning has probably paid her dues playing at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. Although it helps to do your research about the performers, many play here so regularly that if you do stumble upon a local favorite, chances are he may just be back within the week. Rachael Yamagata played here in her early solo career. (Note: All shows are for people 21 and older.) 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, 323.461.2040.

Sign up for FREE to receive our exclusive Weekend Roundup!

Get the best things to do in our favorite SoCal spots delivered to your inbox every week

Los Angeles

Orange County

San Diego