Small live music venues in LA are like coffee shops—there are lots of them in every neighborhood. That means you can see a concert any night of the week, anywhere in town, without breaking the bank or planning too far in advance. And not just any concert: Many of these local acts are bands that hit it big after catching their break at a free concert during a Monday night residency (we're talking Moses Sumney, Local Natives, Foxygen... we could go on.) These venues are cozy, storied neighborhood joints that have hosted everyone from your cousin's girlfriend's punk band to, um, the Rolling Stones.
This sprawling dive, formerly known as Spaceland, celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015, and it remains the leading LA shrine to all things indie. The sound isn't great and 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.
Music-lovers flock to this jammed club for all flavors of indie, dub reggae and electronica. The temperature can rise to uncomfortable levels when it's crowded, although the back patio offers sweet relief. This may be the Eastside, but you'll be paying Hollywood prices for the drinks. On the plus side, you can get Two Boots pizza next door, and the Monday night residencies always host great local bands. In summertime, check out The Grand Ole Echo, an Americana country/roots showcase every Sunday with niche local bands and lots of special guests.
This big, low-slung space is situated under the Echo, but it's a separate venue with a different entrance. The fare is similar to that offered at the Echo: on-the-rise local indie acts, the occasional residency by LA luminaries and touring artists who draw bigger crowds (The Skatalites, Built to Spill). Like the Echo, it can be sweltering when crowded.
The closest thing to a European squat-style venue in Los Angeles, this stark warehouse-like space near Skid Row is hard to find, but it hosts the latest in local indie-noise, political art-punk and the like. The Smell doesn't serve booze so it attracts an all-ages crowd that skews young. It's where many LA's muscially-minded first test their chops. Of course, vegan and veggie-friendly snacks are available in lieu of booze.
This 1930s warehouse-turned-theater (complete with an exposed beam ceiling, swoon) hosts performances of all kinds, including music, theater, dance and film. Small indie rock bands and local talent are often on tap here, courtesy of The Fold, who've been responsible for some pretty buzzy names (Moses Sumney, most recently). The theater's owners are steeped in the arts as well, from actors to set designers to welders, so it's no wonder they fill the Bootleg's calendar with such varied and quality shows.
This intimate haven hosts local singer-songwriters, from incubating newbies such as folk-popper Meiko to veterans like Gus Black, as well as touring acts of the caliber of Brooklyn psych-folk group Salt & Samovar, Peter Morén of Peter Björn & John, and the Lumineers. However, when the place is packed, and it often is, sightlines aren't great and the bar chatter sometimes overwhelms the music.
The Kibitz Room could be the encyclopedia entry under "dive bar." It's been attached to Canter's Deli since 1961, and back in its heydey, the Doors and Frank Zappa jammed there on Tuesday nights. Stars still frequent the Kibitz, but the clientele there either don't notice or don't care, for the most part. The beer isn't fancy but the jukebox is stellar and the live music ranges from typical open-mic nights (sometimes with great local talent, sometimes with, um, just local talent) to impromptu drop-in shows from the likes of Joni Mitchell or Guns N' Roses. It's dark, boozy and there's 24-hour Jewish deli food right next door.
Club Bahia has been a pretty happening Latin dance club since 1974, but entertainment giant Live Nation took over programming from Monday through Thursday at the end of 2014, bringing both local and national indie, pop and dance acts to the venue under the moniker "Bahia Live." The opening show was a doozy, featuring local acts (and Time Out bands to watch in 2014) Gavin Turek and De Lux. If that's any indication, we have lots of good shows to look forward to.
Depending on the night, this hangout is either a grungy watering hole favored by a sad open-mic crowd or a grungy rock club favored by local indie bands. The sound is dire, the sightlines are impossible and the smell of beer is fierce, but ascendant out-of-towners and local acts usually deliver, and bring in hordes of friends and fans, making it a tight squeeze.
This beautiful church not only has LA history, it's also making itself a community-driven home for live music by hosting local bands along with its regular services (and food drives, and school gardening lessons...). Unitarians don't just book religious rock. The up-and-coming acts that play here come from all walks of life. It's a venue of inclusion that just happens to be gorgeous and have great sound to boot.
This unique performance space hosts stellar music acts. Both local and traveling bands—usually country, bluegrass or singer-songwriter—count it among their favorite places to play in LA. But the Outpost is also a flexible, indoor-outdoor space that's been everything from a gallery to a classroom to a backyard BBQ complete with barrel bonfires, darts and pillow forts. It's a quirky, colorful place where a community of welcoming, creative and musically-minded Eastside folks gather.
This unique performance space tucked into a dingy strip mall in Echo Park, hosts concerts, art shows and performances for crowds of all ages (mostly young'ns), giving uber-local, often very young acts a place to perform. It's BYOB and there's no stage, making for intimate, sometimes tightly packed performances. Luckily there's ample outdoor space to cool off because inside it's hot and loud.
Since expanding and upgrading its sound system, the historic Mint—it opened in 1937—is now a pretty comfortable room, despite what you may have heard. The Mint is one of those (formerly) shitty venues locals love to bag on, but also love for its LA-centric programming. The schedule of roots- and blues-oriented acts includes notable touring bands along with more local, intimate shows. Excellent food and some fun storytelling, spoken word and comedy events round out the calendar.