The best venues to see mid-sized bands perform
When the new Ace Hotel opened in early 2014, we didn't just gain a super hip hotel in an up-and-coming part of 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 with a beautifuly ornate, three-story lobby. When you visit, make sure to step out from under the balcony to admire the vaulted ceiling with thousands of shimmering mirrors.
It might be a gorgeous Art Deco relic, but the 800-capacity El Rey runs a roster that's decidedly dust-free. From Fuzz to the Raveonettes, Dizzee Rascal to Autolux, the schedule is full of acts du jour, with the older but still-interesting likes of Roky Erickson and Nick Lowe also appearing. Sound and sightlines are both excellent.
Judy Garland once graced the stage of this landmark, which opened in 1926. Nowadays, it prefers more rock and pop acts such as Ben Harper, Joe Jackson and Neutral Milk Hotel, alongside the occasional comic and film screening. The sound, especially from under the balcony on the main floor, is fine, and the space is wonderfully grand. Unfortunately, the seats have to be the most knee-crunchingly close-set in town, and parking can be a chore (though if you park in the adjacent lot, Two Boots pizza is on your way back to the car).
Spread across three floors, the House of Blues has a decent vibe despite the chain-club factor. The main room’s big and barnlike, but the sight lines and sound are good. Sure, there are cheesy Pink Floyd tribute bands (Brit Floyd), but there are also legit punk shows with the Dead Kennedys, JFA, Channel 3 and a little bit of everything in between. The Sunday Gospel Brunch is always heavenly. The regular menu here is heavy on Southern influenced food and American classics, and you can enjoy live smaller acts while dining in the Voodoo Lounge. If you can pony up the extra cash ($1,000-$3,500), you can become a Foundation Room member and enjoy perks like VIP seating and complimentary valet.
This classy art deco gem packs 'em in for shows from the indie-rock likes of My Morning Jacket, the Eels and Beach House, as well as the odd comic act such as Ron White or Tenacious D. Concerts are seated or standing-room-only, depending on the act. The sight lines are a plus, but elbow room in the best spots can be at a premium, so be ready to get to know your neighbor.
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: Interpol, Joss Stone and Franz Ferdinand all played early US shows here. The sound is great and the views are decent from almost anywhere in the room—just stay out from under the balcony.
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 LA's home for cultured, bankable singer-songwriters and brilliant comedians. The likes of Aimee Mann, John Doe, Jill Sobule and perennial hot-ticket artist-in-residence Jon Brion ply their trade in the 280-seat space, housed in what was once a '40s theater. But most nights, Largo rounds up a consistently stellar stable of comedy talent, from showcases hosted by Patton Oswalt, Nick Kroll and Sarah Silverman to the occasional transcendent set by the likes of Louis C.K. or Tig Notaro.
In its 30-plus years as a Sunset Strip stalwart, the Roxy has been both a major player (hosting early Springsteen and Guns n' Roses shows) and a disappointing has-been (insert name of horrible '80s hair band here). Now that the Roxy has settled comfortably into middle age, the club offers metal, punk, indie rock, singer-songwriters and the occasional local up-and-comer. The tables offer the best views, but the sightlines from the standing risers are fine—and closer to the bar.