As America’s second largest city, Los Angeles is home to an exceptionally large number of popular and historic music venues. This summer, the largest events of the year are the three Taylor Swift concerts at SoFi Stadium. But unless you already have tickets, you can expect to shell out over $500 just for the cheap seats. While money may not be an obstacle for Swifties, you have many other places to enjoy live music. With the exception of larger places like the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, here are 10 historic music venues to enjoy live music in LA.
Historic Music Venues in Los Angeles
El Rey Theatre
5515 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Of the 10 historic music venues on this list, El Rey Theatre is likely the least famous. But be that as it may, it’s an important and historic spot for live music. Built in 1936 as a movie theater, it wasn’t a live music venue until 1994. Still, it took a few years before performances were brought forth on a larger scale. In 1996, came well known artists like Les Claypool, the Goo Goo Dolls and the Cardigans. But the following year, the El Rey was reaching a broader group of musicians, such as Beck, Joe Jackson, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. By the 21st century, more acts have come to El Rey, like Little Feat, Grimes, Lana Del Rey, Lukas Nelson and Adam Lambert. You can find El Rey Theatre just minutes from LA’s world famous La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire.
2700 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Nestled within the hills of Griffith Park, the Greek Theatre is, like the Hollywood Bowl, a Los Angeles institution. Built in 1930, this spectacular open-air venue has been host to some of the biggest names in the music industry. For instance, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond and Elton John have made appearances. In more recent years, the Greek has been host to top acts like Alicia Keys, Olivia Rodrigo, Greta Van Fleet and Demi Lovato. Today, the 5,900-seat venue continues to draw big names, with upcoming appearances from Robin Thicke, Ringo Starr, Tori Amos and more. If you go a show, make sure to pay for parking in advance and get there early.
Related: Famous Music Locations in London
2301 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
If you were to choose just one historic music venue to visit in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Bowl should be your pick. After all, it’s arguably the most famous music venue in the City of Angels and among the best in America. Widely known for its iconic bandshell, the Hollywood Bowl has been entertaining audiences since 1922. In fact, it’s often thought to be the single most important spot in LA for performers, much like Carnegie Hall in New York. Over its long history, the 17,500-seat amphitheater has hosted the best in the business. This includes the Beatles, the Doors, the Supremes, Jimi Hendrix and Elton John. In more recent years, there have been acts like the Who, Paul Simon, Van Halen, Coldplay and Billie Eilish. Like the Greek Theatre, parking and traffic can be problematic at the Hollywood Bowl. In case you go, pay for parking in advance or consider taking the Bowl Shuttle for off-site parking.
6214 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
One of your top choices for live music along Sunset Boulevard is the historic Hollywood Palladium. This Art Deco music venue dates to the Big Band era in 1940, with bandleaders like Tommy Dorsey making several appearances. What’s more, in Dorsey’s band was up-and-coming singer Frank Sinatra. By the Swinging Sixties, rock bands like the Rolling Stones and the Jimi Hendrix Experience came to the Palladium. Of course, contemporaries come to play here as well, such as Metallica, Sting, Wilco, Adam Lambert and Snoop Dogg. Unlike other smaller LA music venues, the Palladium has onsite parking off Argyle Avenue. However, there are many other parking lots within a reasonable walking distance.
3900 W. Manchester Blvd.
Inglewood, CA 90305
Before there was the Crypto.com Arena (Staples Center), top name acts seeking a larger venue would flock to the Forum. While the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena was another historic music venue, that was torn down to make way for BMO Stadium. Sometimes known as the Fabulous Forum, it’s probably seen its better days. However, the Kia Forum continues to draw music acts and other forms of entertainment. During its peak years, the Forum was home to the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and historic music venue. In more detail, were concerts by Cream, the Rolling Stones, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and David Bowie. That’s to say nothing of the 16 Led Zeppelin shows and appearances by Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.
The Kia Forum in the 21st Century
Despite losing business from newer venues, the Forum still brings in the biggest names in the music industry. For instance, Taylor Swift made an appearance here in 2017 as part of KIIS FM’s Jingle Ball. Just last year, Kia Forum brought in Dua Lipa for two shows and Harry Styles had a 15-night residency last year.
9009 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA
With the same capacity as the Troubadour and the Whisky, the Roxy is yet another top music venue in Los Angeles. Just a few miles west of the Palladium on Sunset, the Roxy dates to the early ’70, which was an important time in music history. As a matter of fact, the Roxy has been host to top level performers like Smokey Robinson, Frank Zappa, Chuck Berry, Peter Gabriel and even Bruce Springsteen. Of course, the following decades were just as impressive, with acts like Dire Straits, Stevie Wonder, the Go-Go’s, Jane’s Addiction and Steve Winwood. This year, the Roxy has already drawn top-flight acts like Niko Moon, Gwen Stefani and Weezer.
665 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Adjacent to the University of Southern California campus, the Shrine Auditorium has been the setting for several important events. In fact, this historic 1926 theater has hosted 10 Academy Awards shows and 10 Grammy Award. But several other awards shows and music concerts have also been held at this cultural monument. For starters, there have been appearances by musicians like Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, Miles Davis, Elvis Presley and Ella Fitzgerald in the ‘50s. The ‘60s and ‘70s brought in rock bands like the Byrds, Traffic, Jeff Beck, the Eagles and Grateful Dead. While contemporary artists tend to perform at other venues, the Shrine still brings in leading acts. In recent years, there have been appearances by Kraftwerk, Lorde, Björk and Jennifer Lopez.
9081 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Originally a coffee shop in 1957, the Troubadour is among the most famous music venues in Los Angeles. Despite having a capacity of just 500, this nightclub is well known for elevating the careers of many top name acts. For instance, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell made memorable performances in their early years. What’s more, Elton John’s first ever American appearance here. Furthermore, Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles met here. That’s not to mention a couple of odd encounters between staff members and John Lennon.
The Troubadour in More Recent Times
In the following years were music acts like Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Radiohead and Fiona Apple. Fast forward to the 21st century with more big acts like Coldplay, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer and Mike Campbell. While it’s hard to get tickets to the top acts, the Troubadour hosts several shows each week.
Whisky A Go Go
8901 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
It’s hard to say whether the Troubadour or Whisky A Go Go is more famous in Los Angeles. Regardless of this, you should try visit each of these while visiting and especially as a music fan. Although the Whisky came the following decade, it too has had its share as a launching pad for up-and-coming bands. In fact, the Doors were once the house band during the ‘60s. By the end of that decade, Jim Morrison and the Doors were arguably the top American band in the country. If that isn’t enough, other bands got early starts here, like Johnny Rivers, Janis Joplin, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and yes, Led Zeppelin. Even further were historic acts by bands like Chicago and Van Halen. The Whisky A Go Go continues to feature live music on a regular basis, with recent performances by Quiet Riot, Lita Ford, Orianthi and Robby Krieger.
3790 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
If you’re from out of town, the Wiltern isn’t nearly as famous as the Troubadour or the Whisky. However, do not overlook this important music venue in Koreatown. What’s more, the Wiltern has more than triple the capacity of its more famous spots and draws just as many big acts. Indeed, the Jerry Garcia Band has been here several times, as did Sting, Madonna and the Allman Brothers. That’s not to mention Sheryl Crow, Tenacious D, G-Eazy, Concrete Blonde, King Crimson and the Killers. Originally an Art Deco Warner Bros. movie theater, its classic interior is worth the price of admission. Among the upcoming performances are Crowded House, Lil Wayne, Bebe Rexha and Les Claypool.
About the Author
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across over 20 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.