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Best of L.A.

Top Ten Historic Rock Clubs in L.A.

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Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 4:32 AM

click to enlarge TIMOTHY NORRIS
  • Timothy Norris
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L.A. has some of the most iconic rock n' roll venues in the country. From the sparkly glam rock of the Sunset Strip to the grimy punk of dim clubs scattered throughout the city, we tend to host some of the biggest national acts on local stages first. When it comes to our important historic local clubs, some have shuttered, but these ten venues are still vibrant.

click to enlarge ANDREA DOMANICK
  • Andrea Domanick
10. The Echo

Entering the double doors of this Echo Park staple, you're likely to see bigger local or touring bands making one of their first stops in L.A. The beauty of the Echo is that you check out any genre of music on any given night. Its appearance may seem drab and a bit mundane, but what you can't replace is its coziness and that there isn't a bad sight line in the entire place. On many nights, the place is packed, allowing you to revel with friends and A-listers in a place as intimate as a large living room. -Daniel Kohn

click to enlarge LINA LECARO
  • Lina Lecaro
9. El Cid

Its flamenco dance shows have been a staple in Silver Lake for decades, but when El Cid became a proper club venue, it proved even more stomp-worthy. From jazz jams to raging dance parties (The Rootdown) to band bookings big (Jane's Addiction) and small (Sunset Junction locals), El Cid's old timey interior and charming outdoor patio offer a one of a kind environment. The space's well-documented capacity issues have seen some struggles over the years, but El Cid has endured even as ownership has changed hands. Most recently club impresario Steve Edleson (current Los Globos owner) sold it to Foodchain Records' Scott Milano, and so far, the place has seen a renewed zestiness -- that goes for the food, too! -Lina Lecaro

click to enlarge COURTESY 3 CLUBS
  • Courtesy 3 Clubs
8. 3 Clubs

The little neon sign outside an otherwise nondescript brick building crouched between a gas station and a strip mall announces only "cocktails." Sure enough, inside 3 Clubs is a slim, classic cocktail lounge: low light, leather booths, and a wall of glittering liquor bottles. But proceed through the double double doors into the adjoining performance room and -- on certain nights at least -- a pocket rocket of a rock club is revealed. The low semi-circle of a stage has hosted everything from sepia-toned folk (The Coals) and dolled-up country (Lynda Kay) to peppy garage pop (The Action Cats) and even full-bore hardcore (It's Casual). -Paul Rogers

click to enlarge LINA LECARO
  • Lina Lecaro
7. Viper Room

When Viper Room opened back in 1993 it was known more for its famous owner (Johnny Depp) than its music offerings. Then River Phoenix's death in front of the place made it a tragic landmark. But infamy aside, the Viper Room's bookings are what make it special. The tiny club gave Metal Shoppe aka Metal School aka Steel Panther its first exposure, as well as the Pussycat Dolls (which started as a burlesque revue). All the secret shows, all-star jams, and crazy moments -- BJMs Anton Newcombe's freak-out captured on film, The Living Things fire-y set that got them banned a few years ago -- are too plentiful to list here, but it's worth noting that even after the club was taken over by the Morton family (Pink Taco) a few years ago, the energy continues to remain as unpredictably venomous as ever. -Lina Lecaro

click to enlarge LINA LECARO
  • Lina Lecaro
6. Dragonfly

Some clubs may be roomier, some may be sleeker, and some may be have bigger name bookings, but perhaps no place in Hollywood has been consistently cool for as long as the Dragonfly. Offering some of the most unique acts in town for nearly two decades, Anthony Belanger's dark and gritty rock grotto has been home to neo-glamsters (Taime Downe's Pretty Ugly club in the '90s), fetishy grinders (Miss Kitty's Parlour), retro-ragers (The Spazmatics) and everything in between. Its solid sound, plentiful sight lines, relaxed outdoor patio and adjacent dance room (added in 2005) continue to be a draw for diverse crowds, and most importantly, bands looking to get up close with fans -- Dave Grohl chose the club for the first of his secret Foo Fighters shows last year. The club celebrates its 20th anniversary this November. -Lina Lecaro

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