"Hollywood" may conjure thoughts of cinema at first mention, but the storied neighborhood is just as well known, if not morso, for its live music history. From the opening of the Hollywood Bowl in 1922 to Motley Crue's literal decade of decadence in the '80s, in addition to recent revivals of historic venues like the Music Box (now the Fonda), Hollywood is and has been a music-lover's playground for the last century. Whether you're interested in big name bands or local acts, hole-in-the-wall dives or gorgeous outdoor amphitheaters, this 'hood has it all packed into one lively neighborhood.
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This gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. Nestled in an aesthetically blessed fold in 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, and today mixes classical concerts with all manner of rock and pop.
This intimate haven hosts local singer-songwriters, from incubating newbies to LA veterans like Gus Black, as well as touring acts of the caliber of Peter Morén of Peter Björn & John or the Lumineers. However, when the place is packed, and it often is, sightlines aren't great, and the bar chatter sometimes overwhelms the music.
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.
Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra headlined the inaugural show at this theater on Halloween night 1940. Now, you can take a spin across the recently revamped 11,000-square-foot dance floor, though these days you’re more likely to be moving to Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Sleater-Kinney or Wilco.
While the longstanding likes of Rhino in Westwood and House of Records in Venice have fallen by the wayside, the LA branch of SF's Amoeba has gone from strength to strength; indeed, this is the largest independent record store in the US. The variety of stock (CDs and DVDs, new and used) is awesome, the prices are fair and the staff know their onions. The best part about this gigantic shop? Its in-store shows and signings, where loyal fans can see their favorite bands up-close and personal (behind rows of vinyl, that is).
A smoke break doesn’t mean that you’ll miss the show at Hollywood's Fonda Theatre (formerly the Music Box), where not only is the music hooked up to the rooftop "speakeasy," but the live on-stage performance is projected on the exterior wall. Unfortunately, you do have to buy tickets to the gig to gain entrance, but the prime perch—lounge on one of the scattered sofas on the outdoor patio—from the historic Spanish Revival-style building offers an unobstructed view of Hollywood as you listen to indie faves like Alt-J and the Alabama Shakes. Throw back a brewski and gaze down the boulevard, or, you know, watch the concert inside—that's also good.