Los Angeles is synonymous with entertainment, maintaining its status as the epicenter of the music, TV and film industries. LA’s musical output pulses all over the globe, but there’s no better place to experience it than right in the heart of the city.
Downtown LA is, of course, home to the enormous Staples Center, from which big-name events are telecast on a regular basis and where crowds of 20,000 gather for concerts between equally epic sporting events. Nearby, a host of smaller venues, from intimate historic spaces to state-of-the-art music museums with immersive exhibits, stand ready to showcase the diversity of the city’s offerings. Here’s a sampling of seven great places to catch a show:
Savor the sounds of the GRAMMY Museum
There may be no place in LA better suited to host intimate musical performances and discussions than the Clive Davis Theater. Located on the second floor of the GRAMMY Museum, the 200-seat venue offers up-close encounters with legends and up-and-comers alike. Elsewhere in the museum, you can immerse yourself in the process of recording an album, via interactive studio pods, explore giant touch screens offering glimpses into America’s sonic history, marvel at hundreds of industry artifacts, and sample dozens of music documentaries.
Step back in time at the Regent Theater
Revived with gusto after years of lying dormant on South Main Street, the Regent Theater is once again a first-rate music venue, complete with a pizzeria and intimate cocktail bar. First known as The National when it opened in 1914, the theater spent much of the 20th century as an adult movie house. Today, the offerings range from local rock bands to tribute shows hosted by cover bands and the occasional A-list musician.
Feel the power of The Edison
“Demure” isn’t a word used to describe the sort of happenings that take place at The Edison, where a smoking hot jazz band lights up the night every Wednesday, burlesque shows regularly take center stage, and aerialists hang from the rafters in acrobatic displays of sensuality and strength every Friday night. The club’s basement space in the Higgins Building housed L.A.’s first power plant in 1919 — you can still see touches of it original Art Nouveau design. The Edison still conjures the era of The Great Gatsby, with patrons sipping cocktails made with absinthe and bourbon, as they take in a show.
Catch a classic at The Orpheum
The famed Orpheum Theatre, since its 1926 opening, has hosted the greats of every era from vaudeville to jazz to Motown to rock. Today, the legendary downtown space is used for a great number of shot-for-television performances when it isn’t welcoming ticket holders for its regular slate of concerts. From modern singer-songwriters to retro favorites, a variety of musical acts take the stage on a regular basis and bring crowds out of their 2,000 red velvet seats.
Get highbrow at Walt Disney Concert Hall
With its stunning contemporary design by Frank Gehry, Walt Disney Concert Hall is itself a work of art. As the home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the hall lives up to its dramatic design. The venue also offers performances by the Philharmonic’s New Music Group, which explores the sounds of contemporary cultures around the world, and the LA Children’s Chorus, as well as musical luminaries from Bjork to Yo-Yo Ma.
Jazz it up at Blue Whale
For an ultra-modern take on the listening experience, the physical presentation of Blue Whale offeres an experience unto itself. Filled with leather banquette seating and purposeful typography on ceiling panels doubling as acoustic tools, this music venue engages all the senses. After ordering from the full food and drink menu at the bar, you can wander into the performance space and sit or stand wherever you would like, taking in the sounds of modern jazz in the heart of DTLA’s Little Tokyo.
Step outside the norm at The Smell
Counter-culture enthusiasts find community at The Smell, an all-ages (or “no age,” as the venue prefers to call it) volunteer-run performance space with a true punk aesthetic. There aren’t any corporate sponsors — just an in-your-face, DIY venue where local underground bands rage against the machine and express themselves without rules. The nonprofit space with a vegan snack bar keeps things kid-friendly by remaining alcohol-free, and most shows have a $5 cover to help maintain the space.