Los Angeles Music Scene
Lauren Wells | May 21, 2014
The home of all things glamour and film, L.A. also boasts a strong music history and extremely active modern music scene. During the 1960s, the rock band The Byrds released their infectious hit “Turn Turn Turn” while Buffalo Springfield saw success with the classic rock song “For What It’s Worth.” The iconic Beach Boys also hail from L.A., with their memorable arsenal of surf rock hits such as “Good Vibrations.” Psychedelic rock hall of famers like The Doors called L.A. home, penning singles such as “Break On Through (To the Other Side),” “Light My Fire,” and “Riders on the Storm.” During the 1970s, L.A. took an edgier turn: punk rock band X, hardcore punk band Black Flag, and hard rock band Ratt all emerged from the city at this time. With their hits “Panama,” “Jump,” and “I’ll Wait,” Van Halen is still a predominant classic rock force to be reckoned with. The arena rock band Toto used the 1970s as a time to produce songs such as “Africa,” “Rosanna,” and “Hold the Line.” The 1980s encouraged more experimentation, as bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Motley Crue emerged from L.A. Considered the forefathers of gangsta rap, N.W.A. also called L.A. home. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” hitmakers Guns N’ Roses, Grammy Award winning thrash metal band Slayer, and Grammy Award winning heavy metal band Metallica all honed their iconic music making talents in L.A. The alternative rock band Korn got their start during the 1990s, alongside acts like the indie rock band Rilo Kiley (of “The Moneymaker” fame) and progressive rock band Upsilon Acrux. The millenium introduced Californians to the indie rock duo Best Coast, indie rock band Local Natives, rap rock band Hollywood Undead, and alternative rock band eels. No Age, an experimental punk group, and Health, a noise rock band, lent their talent to L.A.’s modern music scene.
The Wiltern books acts like Elbow, Twenty One Pilots, Iggy Azalea, Franz Ferdinand, Ingrid Michaelson, Haim, and The Wanted. The 1,200 – 4,000 capacity venue offers five levels of entertainment including a mezzanine with two bars. The theatre is attached to the Pellissier Building, a 12-story Art Deco L.A. landmark. Built in 1931, the Wiltern was originally intended for vaudeville performances, but over the years transformed into a popular Live Nation-backed venue.
Located in the Echo Park neighborhood of L.A., the Echoplex is a sister venue to The Echo. Acts like The Rolling Stones, Thom Yorke, Beck, Nine Inch Nails, and The Mars Volta have performed here over the years, putting these nightclubs on L.A.’s indie music map.
Opened in 1922, the Hollywood Bowl is a 17,376-capacity amphitheater located in Hollywood. With the infamous Hollywood sign as its backdrop, Hollywood Bowl is home to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Commonly making cameos in films and television, the venue has hosted the talents of artists such as The Doors, The Beatles, Genesis, Phish, Avicii, and The Beach Boys.
Located on the Sunset Strip, L.A.’s House of Blues follows the iconic brand’s traditions (you can find a box of Mississippi Delta mud under the stage). Booking acts like T-Pain, Black Flag, Katchafire, Magnolia Memoir, and Pato Banton, the venue offers a Gospel Brunch every Sunday.
Hosting acts like Saosin, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Future, The Roots, and Benise, Club Nokia is a 59,000-square-foot venue in the heart of L.A. Catered by Wolfgang Puck, the state-of-the-art venue offers plenty of interactive experiences (think an interactive dance floor, touchscreens, and a large LED installation in the lobby).
The Staples Center in Downtown L.A. is a sport and entertainment complex that is currently home to the NHL’s Kings, the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, and the WNBA’s Sparks. The 21,000-capacity venue opened in 1999 and typically hosts over 250 events per year with about 4,000,000 guests coming through its doors in a single year. Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, John Mayer, and Michael Jackson have all graced the stage.
Located on Hollywood Boulevard, the Fonda Theatre is a 31,000-square-foot venue designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Built in 1926 as the Music Box Theater, the Fonda Theatre has staged plays, revues, concerts, and film screenings over the years.
Downtown L.A. is home to the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live venue, a 7,100-seat theatre that has one of the largest indoor stages in the U.S. Opened in 2007, the venue has hosted big names like The Eagles and The Dixie Chicks in addition to being the home for the Primetime Emmy Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards, the Grammy Nominations Live concert, and American Idol finales.
The stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall opened in 2003 as a 2,265-capacity entertainment venue and has since seen the likes of many classical, jazz, and world musicians. Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the space boasts impressive acoustics and an even more impressive architectural style.
The Greek Theatre, also known as “The Greek,” is a 5,870-seat greek theatre located in Griffith Park. Built in 1929, the venue is a popular spot to see musicians such as Neil Diamond, Harry Belafonte, Chicago, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Of course, the Jonah Hill and Russell Brand film Get Him to the Greek was shot at the famous venue.
Formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, the Dolby Theatre is located in the Hollywood and Highland shopping mall and entertainment complex in Hollywood. Home to the Academy Awards, the 3,332-capacity Art Deco venue was designed by David Rockwell. The venue’s iconic columns even display the names of past Best Picture Academy Award winners. When award season isn’t occurring, performers such as Christina Aguilera, Elissa, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Mariah Carey, Beyonce Knowles, Elvis Costello, Barry Manilow, Prince, and Neil Young take the stage.
An official Los Angeles and U.S. landmark, the 6,300-capacity Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall was built in 1925. Once home to the Academy Awards ceremony and the Primetime Emmy Awards (among other award shows), the Shrine has hosted performances by Fugazi, Michael Jackson, and the Shrine Circus.
The historic El Rey Theatre was built in 1936 and has a 771-capacity, making it an intimate space for a rock and roll show. Located in the Miracle Mile area of L.A., the Art Deco venue was once a single-screen movie theatre before becoming a dance club called Wall Street. Since its dance club days, El Rey has become a well-known concert venue.
Downtown L.A.’s Orpheum Theatre welcomes guests with its Beaux Arts exterior designed by movie theater architect G. Albert Lansburgh. With a Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, the venue stands out as an entertainment mainstay. Named after the Greek mythological figure Orpheus, the Orpheum is a 2,000-capacity space that has been going strong since its opening in 1926. Burlesque and vaudeville acts preceded performances by Little Richard, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, HIM, and Avril Lavigne.
Hosting acts like French Style Furs, Air Life, LA FONT, Papercuts, Dax Riggs, and Brown Sabbath, The Satellite has made a name for itself as a predominant indie music venue. Known to launch careers, The Satellite has a refreshing willingness to put newcomers on the stage for all to see. Bring your billiards skills, because their seasoned pool table serves as a great “break” between sets.
The Wilshire Ebell Theatre has been going strong for 87 years, making it an L.A. icon. Having hosted Judy Garland, Dave Brubeck, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, and John C. Reilly over the years for various performances, the Wilshire Ebell is no stranger to welcoming talent to its stage. Justin Timberlake, U2, Brian Wilson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, and Imagine Dragons have all graced the stage along with icons such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Obama, Jane Lynch, Dionne Warwick, Robin Williams, and Billy Crystal.
At the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, you’ll experience performances from artists such as After Life, Rumspringa, Siti Company, Iva Bittova, and Rodriguez. Located on California State University’s L.A. campus, the venue resides five miles east of Downtown L.A. With programming that includes music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and film, the Luckman’s 200-seat theatre has been a breathtaking artistic escape since 2004.
A former movie palace, the Mayan Theater is a former movie palace turned nightclub. Opened in 1927, the Mayan Revival style theater features ornate decor and has since become an official Historic Cultural Monument. To see acts like Jack White, The Mountain Goats, and Lucha VaVoom, take a trip to Club Mayan!
Royce Hall at UCLA opened in 1929 as an 1,800-seat auditorium for speeches, later becoming a space for live music. Having been the site of various films, Royce Hall is the university’s Center for the Art of Performance, booking lectures, concerts, film screenings, and other performing arts.
Located on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, the Pantages Theatre was designed by B. Marcus Priteca as an Art Deco venue for vaudeville. Later becoming a leader in live theater performances, the Pantages has also been a popular site for TV, film, and music video shoots. Shows such as The Color Purple, Young Frankenstein, Cats, Fiddler on the Roof, Legally Blonde, and Spring Awakening have all been performed here.
An odd location for a party, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is actually a cemetery that hosts movie screenings and concerts (The Flaming Lips, anyone?) from time to time. Often, you’ll find documentaries of the famous deceased are screened at the cemetery. Since 2002, the cemetery hosts Cinespia, an outdoor film screening event that takes place on summer weekends and holidays (the films are projected onto the Cathedral Mausoleum).
L.A.’s Dodger Stadium, home to the MLB’s Dodgers, also hosts a variety of big-name performers such as The Jacksons, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, The Beatles, KISS, The Cure, The Rolling Stones, Bee Gees, Simon and Garfunkel, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Genesis, Eric Clapton, U2, Dave Matthews Band, and The Police. Opened in 1962, the 56,000-capacity venue is one of the oldest ballparks in Major League Baseball.
Run by Live Nation, the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard is an Art Deco building with an 11,200-square-foot dance floor. The standing room only, 4,000-capacity space was built in 1940 and has hosted Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Jay-Z, DJ AM, The Grateful Dead, Keith Richards, Bad Religion, and Los Tigres del Norte.
Also held in Philadelphia, the Budweiser Made in America Festival is held at L.A. Grand Park, where concertgoers enjoy the talents of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Deadmau5, Haim, Phoenix, Nine Inch Nails, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Pearl Jam, among others. With three stages of A+ talent, you can’t go wrong. Held in June, the Playboy Jazz Festival features the talents of jazz icons such as Dianne Reeves, Jamie Cullum, George Benson, Fantasia, and the Kenny Barron Trio. If you still haven’t gotten your jazz fix, the KSBR Birthday Bash brings in some of the best jazz talents. Acts like Dave Koz, Boney James, Nick Colionne, Peter White, and Elan Trotman have all performed at the festival. Every Father’s Day weekend, the Huck Finn Jubilee takes place in Ontario, California where bluegrass acts such as The String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCourys, and Dr. Ralph Stanley perform. The Hard Summer festival books acts like Jack U, A$AP Mob, Axwell, Flosstradamus, Baauer, Tommy Trash, DJ Snake, Carnage, Jack Beats, Pusha T, Tiesto, Nero, and Kill the Noise, among others. Every August, the two-day festival is an electronic music lover’s dream. With a lineup that includes Snoop Dogg, Aloe Blacc, The Internet, Ky-Mani Marley, Kevin Lyttle, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Sarah Reich’s Tap Music Project, the JazzReggae Festival is a two-day event held at UCLA. Going strong for over 27 years, the festival celebrates the intersection of music, culture, art, and food. Making its debut in 2014, the Low End Theory Festival has a lineup that includes Invisibl Skratch Piklz, The Internet, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, Baths, and Teebs. Held at L.A.’s Echoplex, the festival spans the course of two days. WIth a lineup that includes The Strokes, Phoenix, Interpol, Haim, The Blood Brothers, Slowdive, Julian Casablancas and the Voidz, Flying Lotus, and Grimes, FYF Fest takes place at the L.A. Sports Arena and Exposition Park downtown. An electronic music festival, Together As One is held on New Year’s Eve in downtown L.A. Past headliners have included Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, David Guetta, Duck Sauce, and Laidback Luke.