When it comes to live music venues, Los Angeles reigns. Ours is a storied history, from the rambling folk history of Woody Guthrie to the rock ’n’ rolling, raunchy ways of bands like the Doors, Van Halen and Motley Crue. And to this day, the city remains one of the best for amazing concerts—and amazingly free concerts—not in small part due to its wide array of venues, from gorgeous outdoor amphitheatres to hole-in-the-wall clubs and dive bars. There’s a steady stream of impressive local talent here, and no big-name artist completes a tour without stopping in L.A. We’ve got it all, when it comes to live music in Los Angeles and we’re damn lucky—see for yourself below.
The 19 best live music venues in Los Angeles
This gorgeous outdoor amphitheater has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. Nestled in an aesthetically blessed fold of the Hollywood Hills, the 18,000-seat venue can bring out the romantic in the terminally cynical. It’s the summer home of the LA Phil, but it’s hosted everyone from the Beatles to Big Bird. Today, summers at the Bowl are a mix of classical concerts and the biggest names from all genres, from rock and pop to country and musical theater.
Shows at this 600-person Westlake spot are consistently indie rock, which makes sense: Owner Michael Swier is the man behind New York City’s Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge and Music Hall of Williamsburg. Shows are priced reasonably, and you can grab a bite beforehand at the venue’s built-in bar and restaurant.
When the Ace Hotel opened in early 2014, we didn’t just gain a super hip hotel in DTLA: We also got a jaw-droppingly beautiful 1920s movie house-turned-performing arts space, which has since billed an impressive lineup of performances, concerts, movie nights, lectures and more. The former flagship United Artists Theater is a 1,600-seat house perfect for folk acts, solo artists and beloved indie bands.
This storied club has a rich musical history: Randy Newman got his start here, and Elton John made his US debut on its stage in 1970. It hasn’t lapsed into irrelevance in the time since, often showcasing bands on the rise—those shows sell out quick. The sound is great and the views are decent from almost anywhere in the room—just stay out from under the balcony.
This pleasant, open-air, 6,000-seat theatre stages big summer shows by acts both national and local. It’s a bit like seeing a concert in the woods, and rivals the Hollywood Bowl in terms of L.A.’s most magical outdoor music venue. The only downside: The “stacked” parking means getting out of the parking lot often takes longer than the show, and VIP “Quick Parking” is a pricey $75.
This sprawling dive, formerly known as Spaceland, remains the leading L.A. shrine to all things indie. The parking is a combat sport, but the venue has good sound and an upstairs lounge with a less-crowded bar and a photo booth (that actually works, on good nights!). The Monday night program, which features free monthly residencies for buzzy local bands on their way up, is always worth a look.
Aside from popular posthumous celebs, Hollywood Forever is also home to summer outdoor movie screenings; Cinespia-hosted sleepovers with projected films, live music and games; as well as a number of unique concert events (past performers include Bon Iver, Lana del Rey and Karen O, to name just a few). Whether on the lawn or in the Masonic Lodge, seeing a show here is a little bit magical, and the bands booked here are always top notch and perfectly suited to play to a crowd of both living and dead.
We like venues that take good care of their performers, and that’s clearly the case at L.A.’s home for cultured, bankable singer-songwriters and brilliant comedians. The likes of Aimee Mann, the Watkins Family, Andrew Bird and perennial hot-ticket artist-in-residence Jon Brion ply their trade in the remarkably intimate 280-seat space.
As the $274-million crown jewel of the Music Center, Disney Hall opened in 2003 to rave reviews. The novelty hasn't yet worn off: Both inside and out, this is a terrific venue. Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall features a 2,265-capacity auditorium with an open platform stage and a stunning pipe organ. The hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale, but the schedule is surprisingly varied (Björk, Sigur Rós, Sylvan Esso, Nick Cave and Iron & Wine have all played here).
It might be a gorgeous Art Deco relic, but the 800-capacity El Rey runs a roster that’s decidedly dust-free. From Joji to Empress Of to the Lemon Twigs, the schedule is full of acts du jour, with the older but still-interesting likes of Yo La Tengo, Raphael Saadiq and Hot Chip also appearing. Sound and sightlines are both excellent.
If you grew up around the turn of the millennium, the latest genre-focused music fest from Goldenvoice is like your middle school dance playlist come to life. Lovers & Friends features seemingly every hip-hop and R&B star from the late ’90s and early aughts, including Ms. Lauryn Hill, Usher, Ludacris, Lil Jon, TLC, Nelly and T-Pain, plus some more contemporary picks like Jhené Aiko, Summer Walker, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat and Saweetie. The fest, slated to take over the grounds around the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, was originally scheduled for May 9, with another show quickly added for May 8. But following the cancellation of all springtime concerts, Lovers & Friends has reverted back to a single-day fest, this time around scheduled for August 8 (all original purchasers will be notified about their orders). Thankfully, it seems most artists have made the jump to the summer date (though we noticed Sean Paul and Monica are no longer on the lineup). Lovers & Friends’ exhaustive lineup goes much deeper than the headliners: You’ll also see Brandy, Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Ginuwine, Dru Hill (we looked it up: Sisqo is still listed as a member), 112, Eve, Mase, Cam’ron, Montell Jordan and more. Tickets originally went for $145–$175, or $230–$250 for VIP; though passes are now sold out, there’s a waitlist on the fest’s site.
Cake on the eyeliner, cry it off and then dance away the tears at this inaugural 1980s goth and new wave fest feauting Morrissey, Bauhaus, Blondie and Devo. On September 12 (the show was originally scheduled for May but has been moved), the grounds around the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson will host the Cruel World Festival, a one-day-only music fest that features almost every ’80s alt obsession imaginable: the Psychedelic Furs, Echo & the Bunnymen, Violent Femmes, the Church, English Beat, Public Image Ltd, Gary Numan, Missing Persons (you know they’ll play “Walking in L.A.”) and more.
You’ve been meaning to go to the opera for ages, but, well, it’s just too expensive and your Italian is a little rusty. Right now, though, you have no excuse: The LA Opera is livestreaming living room performances on its Facebook account. Tune in each day and you’ll see a couple of different performers tackling their favorite classical songs from the comfort and safety of their living rooms—or, on some days, you might catch an archived stream of a previous production.
Nearly 125,000 music lovers make a pilgrimage to the Empire Polo Club during each identical weekend of Coachella, whether bound for campgrounds or shuttling over from golf resorts and midcentury modern homes. Though its bespoke dining experiences and hotel party scene may try to steal headlines, Coachella remains about the relaxed desert air euophoria of a well-curated music festival. Coachella’s all-embracing three-day lineup consistently crafts the pool of performers from which all other summer music festivals borrow. RECOMMENDED: See our complete Coachella coverage
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Normally we cry a little bit heading into Coachella season because we know it means withstanding the desert sun, choking on dust, squeezing through crowds, waiting in line for food and punishing our feet for three packed days (look, we’re old, alright). But with Coachella postponed until October, we’re shedding a single tear because we won’t be able to do all those things this spring. But you’ll still be able to get a taste of Coachella on April 10 at noon, when the 2020 edition of the desert music fest would’ve kicked off. That’s when Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert, a behind-the-scenes retrospective of the annual event, will premiere on YouTube. The latest trailer for the documentary includes snippets of interviews with past performers like Ice Cube, Moby and Jane’s Addiction frontman (and Lollapalooza founder) Perry Farrell. But more enticingly, it teases clips of performances from seemingly every major act in recent years: Beyoncé, Paul McCartney, Travis Scott, Madonna, Radiohead, Childish Gambino, Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Daft Punk and Travis Scott, just to name a few. It also revives a few moments we’d nearly forgotten about (the Tupac hologram!) and includes a clip of the late Huell Howser’s visit and interview in 2008 with festival founder Paul Tollett (seriously, go watch that episode of California’s Gold). So start pulling together your Couchella essentials for when the documentary premiere next Friday at noon, from the comfort of your own couch. In the mea
UPDATE (3/10): Goldenvoice has officially postponed both Coachella and Stagecoach until October. Here’s the festival organizer’s full statement: At the direction of the County of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to COVID-19 concerns. While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials. Coachella will now take place on October 9, 10 and 11 and October 16, 17 and 18, 2020. Stagecoach will take place on October 23, 24 and 25, 2020. All purchases for the April dates will be honored for the rescheduled October dates. Purchasers will be notified by Friday, March 13 on how to obtain a refund if they are unable to attend. Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in the desert this fall. An updated version of our original story appears below. We thought a then-pregnant Beyoncé having to defer her headlining slot in 2017 was the biggest thing that could ever hamper Coachella, but, well, here we are: Coachella 2020—as in, yes, the entire two-weekend fest—has been postponed. On Monday night, multiple outlets (including Billboard, Variety and Rolling Stone) cited sources who said that this year’s music festival, which was scheduled to take place April 10 to 12 and 17 to 19, was in talks to be pushed b
Whether you couldn’t land tickets to Coachella before they sold out or simply didn’t feel like emptying your bank account, you’re in luck: A taste of the desert music fest is coming to L.A. Each spring, Goldenvoice, which puts on Coachella, gathers some of the fest’s sub-headliner acts for a string of club and theater shows mostly in L.A. and Pomona during the days leading up to and between the two weekends of Coachella. At this year’s local Coachella shows—which we still affectionately refer to as Localchella, despite being officially billed as “Goldenvoice Presents April” for years now—FKA Twigs, Disclosure, Doja Cat, Hatsune Miku, Princess Nokia, Alec Benjamin, Yaeji, Mura Masa and more are all set to perform at local clubs like the Roxy and the El Rey, as well as spots a bit to the east like the Fox Theater Pomona and the Glass House, plus more far-flung locations like the Santa Barbara Bowl and Pappy & Harriet’s. There’s even a mini fest of sorts, dubbed Chella, taking place at the Riverse County Fairgrounds with Cuco and Chicano Batman. Tickets for two shows (Hatsune Miku as well as Tanya Tucker and Orville Peck) are already on sale, but the rest go on sale on these three dates: February 21, 28 and March 1, all at noon. There are also a couple of TBAs on the schedule that go on sale in a couple of weeks—there’s one at the Fox Theater Pomona that could be a pretty big name judging by the venue, so stay tuned for more info. UPDATE (3/5): Run The Jewels, Martinez Brothers
We’re still a couple of months away from music festival season, but we’re already deep into its hype-building harbinger: lineup announcement season. That continues today with the radio-friendly lineup drop for Virgin Fest, the reentry into the festival scene from Richard Branson’s travel and hotel company of the same name. Lizzo, A$AP Rocky, Anderson .Paak, Major Lazer, Ellie Goulding and Kali Uchis will top the fest’s inaugural SoCal outing, which takes place at Banc of California Stadium and Exposition Park on June 6 and 7. Virgin Fest is attempting to define itself by adopting an “all are welcome” ethos, from booking a majority-female lineup down to relabeling general admission passes as “fan tickets.” No matter the name, though—and unlike Virgin’s earliest forays into stateside fests—this one will cost you: Fan tickets start at $229, with multiple tiers of VIP upgrades available, as well. (Don’t worry, though: Everyone will have access to complimentary Wi-Fi, indoor lounges and climate-controlled bathrooms.) Back to the music: The full lineup includes a genre-hopping mix of 30-plus acts, including Jorja Smith, Banks, Clairo, Tanks and the Bangas, Japanese Breakfast, Lay Zhang, Celeste, Trixie Mattel, Empress Of and Madame Gandhi. Doing a bit of back-of-the-envelope math, we’d expect the per-stage programming to be similar to the schedule of the defunct FYF Fest (but with only three stages, you’ll hopefully be hoofing it around Exposition Park a lot less than that former