Best Music Venues in L.A.
Our Best Of L.A. issue is out. Yay!
It contains many entries on music venues, which makes sense considering that Los Angeles is home to some of the best in the world. Whether you're into jazz, blues, rock, country, hip hop, or just a sweaty mosh pit, there's a spot in the city offering it.
Behold, then, our picks for the best venues in L.A. including, at the end, our pick for the best overall venue in L.A.
See also: Best L.A. Musicians By Genre
Best Large Scale Music Venue: San Manuel Amphitheater
Located an hour northeast of Los Angeles by way of Interstates 10 and 15, the San Manuel Amphitheater is the largest outdoor amphitheater in the United States, holding some 65,000 attendees in its reserved seats and grassy general-admission areas. Built in 1982, the venue was partially funded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and was built to host giant festivals that he put on in 1982 and 1983. Acts such as Van Halen have given way to bands like Mumford & Sons and big hip-hop festivals, but the place still packs 'em in. It's a pretty spot; the venue's location in San Manuel Regional Park offers plenty of green space for preshow tailgating, Frisbee throwing and general revelry. There are even campsites available for fans who want to make a night of it. 2575 Glen Helen Pkwy., San Bernardino. (909) 880-6500, livenation.com/venues/14768/san-manuel-amphitheater. --Katie Bain
Best Massive, Nearby Festival Venue: L.A. State Historic Park
We've got nothing against the far-flung Southern California locations where music festivals are being held with increasing regularity. Except for the fact that they're often deep in the desert and, when you take into account the traffic, often require a half day of traveling to and fro. Why bother going so far when we've got a huge, highly functional festival area right on the edge of Chinatown? It's 32 acres of prime dancing, drinking and cavorting real estate, and it's right off the Gold Line, so there's no need to drive home. From the HARD festivals, which cater to electronic music, to FYF, which is largely indie, to H2O, which focuses on Latin music and hip-hop, L.A. State Historic Park has just about everything, and you won't have to burn through half a tank of gas to get there. Just go soon -- in 2014 it will close for a year for renovations. 1245 N. Spring St., Chinatown. (323) 441-8819, lashp.com. --Ben Westhoff
Best Dance Club: Create Nightclub
Ten years ago, when Avalon Hollywood burst onto the scene, a bespoke nightclub engineered for the electronic dance music revolution was rare here. Now, of course, L.A. clubland has been overrun with EDM venues, and it's hard to think of a Hollywood club that doesn't book superstar EDM jocks. But when L.A.'s A-list nightlife king, Sam Nazarian of SBE Entertainment Group, recently took over one of the city's most beloved EDM venues, the club formerly known as Vanguard, things went to a whole 'notha level. With nearly 1,400-clubgoer capacity, Create Nightclub is one of the largest dance clubs in town. Black banquettes surround the DJ stage for that Vegas effect. Superstar spinners get their own "green room" downstairs. The upgraded sound system is one of the best. Street art by Alec Monopoly graces plush VIP areas. There's even a smoking lounge within the comforts of the venue's four walls. Talent is booked via a partnership with Insomniac Events, the ruler of American EDM. As such, Create has set a new bar for clubbing in the City of Angels. It will be interesting to see how the competition responds. 6021 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 463-3331, createnightclub.com. --Dennis Romero
See also: The Best of Los Angeles 2013
Best Nightclub: Hooray Henry's
Great Britain is so in right now -- think the royal baby, Mumford & Sons and Duchess Kate's always perfect blowouts. So why not a British-themed nightclub? Hooray Henry's is the latest "it" spot from the guys behind Bootsy Bellows, who include John Terzian, Brian Toll, Markus Molinari and David Arquette. From the royal guardsman who greets you at the door to the posh wood-and-brass decor to the gigantic 3-D screen above the DJ booth, Henry's gives Hollywood nightlife something it's never seen before. Instead of sparklers, a candelabra might follow a magnum of Grey Goose to a table. A man dressed as an old-timey British chap will twerk on the dance floor. Some naked lady bits even pop up on that 3-D screen from time to time. The barely month-old West Hollywood club boasts one of the tightest doors in the city, so dress to impress or be willing to splurge on bottle service. 8713 Beverly Blvd., W. Hlywd, 90048. hwoodgroup.com. --Briana Goodall
Best Blues Club: World Famous Barnyard
The aptly named World Famous Barnyard is about as low-down and lively a blues venue as you'll find anywhere in the nation. Featuring live blues, soul, old-school jazz and R&B, this bring-your-own-booze celebration situation happens every Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. at 97th and Main in South Central. It's nothing but a vacant lot strewn with rows of used commodes and kitchen appliances, only partially paved and barely covered with an old awning. It features a revolving crew of hardcore local blues bands but, since there's no website, no publicist and no phone, you never know what to expect -- except that it'll be as genuine as it can be. 9627 S. Main St., Broadway-Manchester. --Jonny Whiteside
Best Blues and BBQ: Big Mama's Rib Shack
The word "shack" in Big Mama's Rib Shack is a misnomer; this is more like Big Mama's living room, and she has an endless supply of hospitality to match. This blues spot, a Las Vegas refugee, became the last outpost of a 50-plus-year-old institution a few years ago. But what it lost in Sin City crazy, it made up for it in hominess. Sure, the night tends to end early at this North Pasadena venue, but it's not for a lack of intensity -- in the form of a wailing full band or just one lonely dude in a mullet tickling an old guitar. If you want to hear some seriously offbeat live blues on a Saturday night and stuff your face with unparalleled ribs, this is the only place west of Texas to do it properly. If you're feeling bold, get a pile of perfectly fried chicken and a rack of ribs, and see how those sweet blues chords vibe with your delightfully diminished heart rate. 1453 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena. (626) 797-1792, bigmamaspasadena.com. --Paul T. Bradley
Best Blues Party: Pete Anderson's Club 652@Burbank Moose Lodge Mondays
Pete Anderson's Club 652@Burbank Moose Lodge Mondays goes down weekly at 8 p.m. (except when Pete's on tour) and runs as precisely as a Swiss clock. The acclaimed, Detroit-born guitarist and his always-first rate combo provide a luxurious, rich mess of all original blues. The music is exhilarating in its bite, feel and delivery, and always displays Anderson's obsessive fixation on what he calls the "3 Ts" -- tone, time and taste. The setting is a tiny, neon beer sign-lit, old-school tavern, which is overseen by the rather eccentric, bearded Moose Lodge shot-caller/barkeep Bailey. It provides the perfect atmosphere for the music. Also: The drinks are cheap, kids are permitted, and there's no cover charge, making Anderson's Moose Lodge Mondays always a gasser. 1901 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank. (818) 842-5851, burbankmoose.com. --Jonny Whiteside
Best Jazz Club: The Baked Potato
In decades past, jazz fanatic Clint Eastwood hung at Studio City jazz spot the Baked Potato. Oh, and Police guitarist Andy Summers gigged there following the supergroup's breakup, Slash played in jam sessions there after Guns N' Roses, and in recent years Joe Bonamassa has slipped in for sets before a hundred fans instead of the thousands that fill his arena shows. The venue was founded in 1970 by Don Randi, and his son Justin is there most nights now behind the bar and out front tweaking the room's legendary sound. Music fans from around the world pass through the doors, and the club can be considered L.A.'s answer to New York's Village Vanguard: a small room where some of the world's greatest musicians stop by to listen and play with their peers. The patrons themselves feel like they're sitting in. 3787 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Studio City. (818) 980-1615, thebakedpotato.com. --Tom Meek
See also: The Best of Los Angeles 2013
Best Jazz Room That's Also a Frame Shop: Curve Line Space
Curve Line Space hosts one of the best jazz series in Los Angeles, and it isn't even a club. Run by Tim Yalda, the venue is actually an art gallery and frame shop on a hip strip of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock; it also happens to host an intimate Thursday music series for only $10. Wooden frame samples hang in the back, while the artists bring some pizzazz to the premises. Swinging vibraphonist Nick Mancini helps book tremendous local jazz talent like Bruce Forman, Vardan Ovsepian and Steve Cotter in the acoustically radiant space, while a bucket of cold drinks awaits anyone with a thirst. Why not drop off your John Coltrane posters for framing while you're there? 1577 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. (323) 478-9874, curvelinespace.com. --Sean J. O'Connell
Best Mosh Pit: Vex Arts
When you see a great hardcore band there's always tons of energy, and this is particularly true at the Vex Arts performance space. The stuffy, sweaty room is home to the most raging slam dancing, stage-diving and dog piles in Los Angeles County. Legendary East L.A. precursor the Vex dated back to the days of Black Flag but shut its doors in 1984. Thankfully, a year ago it returned in the new location as a multipurpose space. Again spearheaded by Joe "Vex" Suquette, it hosts everything from art shows and concerts to skateboard workshops. But the real ragers are the hardcore shows, featuring veteran acts like Infest and Chain of Strength alongside up-and-comers Stoic Violence and Nomads. Once you enter the mosh pit, you won't want to leave. (Until you start bleeding, that is.) 5240 Alhambra Ave., El Sereno. (323) 221-0971, vexarts.com. --Nicholas Pell
Best Basement Dance Party: Del Monte Speakeasy
Located below the Townhouse in Venice, Del Monte Speakeasy is an intimate, burlesque-inspired bar and music venue that feels like a throwback to Prohibition days, when people went out, got loose and danced their asses off in dimly lit underground joints. Del Monte's musical programming is selected by Carlos Niño of Internet radio purveyors Dublab, and acts at this venue are always on point -- whether a local rap/reggae collective, a Jurassic 5 member moonlighting as DJ or an Eastside-bred, Middle Eastern-influenced, rock-trance trio. The basement space is often sweaty hot due to all the energy on the dance floor, but that's the way we like it. (One memorable night, in fact, the band kept playing and the crowd kept dancing even after the power went out.) Plus, the drinks are stiff, the bartenders are friendly, and the cover usually is 10 bucks or less. 52 Windward Ave., Venice. (310) 392-4040, townhousevenice.com. --Katie Bain
Best Club for People Who Don't Like Clubs: Funky Sole
What's not to like about long-running soul dance party Funky Sole? Held at the Echo on Saturday nights, it features a cute crowd there to dance, not pose or prance, as well as raw soul and funk, spun by some of the best vinyl DJs in town. They include Music Man Miles, Clifton aka DJ Soft Touch and Clinton Cameron. As Marvin Gaye would say, we "gotta give it up" to Funky Sole. These guys have been doin' their thang and doin' it well for 11 years and counting, and even the most anti-club type can't help but have a good time. You're telling us you haven't been? 1822 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (213) 413-8200, facebook.com/groups/13170825224. --Lina Lecaro
Best After-Hours Spot: Sound Nightclub
A proposal to extend alcohol-selling hours past 2 a.m. was shot down this year, sadly. But L.A. is nonetheless moving toward a world-class club scene on the level of New York and Miami, and over the past year we've gained a few viable after-hours spots, Sound Nightclub chief among them. Run by the folks behind Playhouse, the 500-capacity box of wood and steel has a proper Funktion-One sound system and is practically built around the SUV-size DJ booth. With the arrival of L.A.'s longest-running EDM night, Mick Cole and Freddy Be's Monday Social, Sound has gone afterhours even on Mondays. Sure, the alcohol is cut off before 2, but there's still time to rage. So next time you're enjoying Sander Kleinenberg in the hours before the sun rises on Tuesday, tell your friends in New York. They might just be a little jealous. 1642 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd. (323) 656-4800, soundnightclub.com. --Dennis Romero
Best Open Jamming: Petie's Place
The jam sessions at Petie's Place in Tarzana are noncompetitive, so don't be scared. Held on Wednesdays, they're hosted by Amy Licence and Rob Sisino, with house drummer Jim Xavier providing assistance. The venue provides drums, amps and PA; all you need bring is your instrument or drumsticks. (And, of course, your vocal cords, should you be inclined to sing.) Other than that, come as you are. Many in attendance are musicians who are there just to jam, while others arrive in groups to showcase their work. It can feel a bit like karaoke, only more inspired. One recent night a local belted out some Blondie, followed by a blonde in thigh-high white boots and hot pants doing ZZ Top, backed by a bass player and a guitarist. Because, why not? 6025 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 708-7773, facebook.com/pages/Peties-Place-Open-Jam-Night/592094260815360. --Norm Jenssen
Best Neighborhood Music Venue: Trip
Even before the Central Social Aid & Pleasure Club closed earlier this year, Trip was shaping up to be the best venue in Santa Monica. While there are other worthy contenders on the Westside -- such as the intimate blues bastion Harvelle's, rockin' martini lounge Liquid Kitty, venerable R&B landmark the Mint and folk-roots oasis McCabe's -- the beer-&-wine bar Trip presents a wider variety of entertainment, in a laid-back, unpretentious setting. A typical week's bookings encompass everything from indie rock, punk, reggae, Latin and folk to weekly burlesque and comedy nights. The bar is a hangout for Chicago Bears fans, and there's a pool table and a cool jukebox. But what separates Trip from the rest is that it's open seven nights a week -- and every show is free. 2101 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 396-9010, tripsantamonica.com. --Falling James
Best Country Venue: Echo Country Outpost
Whether it's a hillbilly hootenanny, a hick happenin' or just a plain old sweaty throwdown, the Echo Country Outpost has been putting together the most uniquely countrified events in Los Angeles for the past few years. They've had all kinds of Nashville rejects, punked-up shit-kickers, even Kim Deal doing quiet twangy ballads solo. To call the Outpost a mere venue, though, undercuts all of the art and general craziness you can find on any given night. (Uh, a frog fry? Yeah, that happened once.) It's not a bar, a stage or an art gallery, it's more of a playground that sits comfortably somewhere in between. 1770 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park. (323) 667-9606, echocountryoutpost.com. --Paul T. Bradley
Best Venue Where the Music (and the Booze) Is Free: Sonos Studio
Located smack in the middle of the city, the year-old Sonos Studio is not a big room, and its shows, listening parties and interview sessions -- featuring folks like Beck, The Lonely Island and Solange -- often have lines around the block. But they're worth queuing up for, as the events at the space are (a) free and (b) have free booze. And we're not talking Gordon's spirits but stuff like gourmet Screwdrivers made with Aranciata and Svedka. Not only that but the place also usually has art and tech exhibits tied in to the musical guest: Beck's party had recording equipment so attendees could make their own versions of his songs, while The Lonely Island were featured in funny, ludicrous photos on the wall. And, as you can imagine at a space bankrolled by the Santa Barbara speaker company, the sound quality is first-rate. 145 N. La Brea Ave., Fairfax District. sonos-studio.com. --Ben Westhoff
Below: The big cahuna, our choice for the best overall music venue
Best Music Venue: El Rey
Though it's a beautiful 1936 art deco theater with luxurious staircases and preserved details, the El Rey isn't the most ornate venue in Los Angeles. It isn't our city's hippest spot, either. But the El Rey offers a concert experience second to none, thanks to a combination of pleasing aesthetics, solid bookings and accessibility. Whether you're sipping a White Russian while watching Jeff Bridges or a gin and tonic while taking in Femi Kuti, it's a clean, comfortable room with good sight lines and sound. Parking on the surrounding Miracle Mile streets isn't usually a problem, and the lines aren't usually too bad. In fact, the spot maintains a touch of glamour from its days as a first-run movie house: the kind of place that's as much fun for the experience as for the band. 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile. (323) 936-6400, theelrey.com. --Ben Westhoff
See also: Best L.A. Musicians By Genre
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