California knows how to party.
It's the unofficial state motto. But not only do we know how, we know where. Los Angeles is home to a wide spectrum of live music venues, from the teeniest Echo Park hole-in-the-wall only you and five friends know, to grand ol' dames who've weathered the city's ups and downs, to infamous Hollywood haunts where traces of the glitter glam-rockers left behind still sparkle. But that little club's sound system might leave you deaf and you probably won't be able to see the stage in one of those big arenas. So what are the best venues in L.A. to hear live music? We polled L.A. Weekly's music writers for their favorites, and the full list is compiled below.
10. The Smell
For more than a decade The Smell has provided an all ages location for music lovers in L.A. Keeping things cheap (most shows are only 5 bucks), the Smell has an accessible, welcoming vibe, and is run entirely not for profit. This space was essential in the development of the unique L.A. noise and punk scenes, with acts like No Age, Mika Miko, and Abe Vigoda as regular guests. Now, bands like Pangea, Bleached, and FIDLAR carry the torch. -Kai Flanders9. Eagle Rock Center for the Arts
This Eastside jewel is a community center for arts education, organizing art camps and after-school programming, but it's also a hub for beat culture. Why else would Peanut Butter Wolf have chosen to throw the most massive of his numerically aligned parties here? Last year, for the Stones Throw honcho's 11-11-11 party, he pulled exactly 1100 of his own records, renting a U-Haul to tow them to the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. Brainfeeder label mates Teebs and Austin Peralta also are regular performers in this historical space, taking advantage of its classic architecture and open floor plan to create a unique performance venue definitely worth making the drive for, Westsiders. -Kai Flanders8. Blue Whale
Located in a corner of Little Tokyo that sees the least amount of foot traffic, the Blue Whale is a jazz sanctuary. The sound system is perfect, the house piano is a jewel and the bar staff takes care of you. Whether you want to hear avant-noise from serious-looking Europeans or soak up some straight-ahead sounds from our vast collection of local talent, the Blue Whale is always a worthwhile bet. -Sean J. O'Connell7. Orpheum
There's a magic spell that is cast when you walk through the doors of the Orpheum. All of the despair and decay of Broadway melts away into the lush red carpet and you're suddenly humbled by the building's beauty. Once you find your seat and look up at the golden painted ceiling, your imagination goes haywire and you can see the ghosts of the Marx Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald and Jack Benny dance across the stage. The Orpheum is one of the best places to see a show because it commands respect. No one knows exactly how (we're pretty sure magical pixies sprinkle dust on you when you enter), but no one talks out of turn in that theater and if a cellphone goes off the culprit dies of mortification. It's one of the few places in Los Angeles where you are guaranteed to hear the whole concert without interruption from the people behind you, which in itself is pretty miraculous. -Molly Bergen6. Wiltern
In a city full of historic theaters, the Wiltern is unique. Officially known as the Pellissier Building, the theater and office complex was designed as a vaudeville house. The Wiltern Theatre opened its doors on Oct. 7, 1931, as the Warner Theatre, but the theater went dark only two years later, due to the Depression. In 1956 the building was sold to Franklin Life Insurance and by 1979, with tax benefits exhausted, Franklin Life Insurance decided to file for a permit to demolish the building and sell the vacant lot. Developer Wayne Ratkovich bought it, and his architect Brenda Levin began massive renovations. Today Live Nation, the behemoth promotions company based in Beverly Hills, hosts a wide variety of events -- not just concerts, but everything from benefits and galas to Lebowski Fest. Eight decades in, it's both a reminder of, and a contributor to, our local cultural history. -Lainna Fader