The iconic Sunset Boulevard L.A.’s hub for live music. Here are our top picks.
There’s no dearth of places to hear live music in Los Angeles, whether at a revived theater in Downtown L.A., an amphitheater in Griffith Park or an astoundingly massive stadium in Inglewood. But the sprawling span of Sunset Boulevard takes the cake for both quantity and quality of clubs, concert halls, dive bars and theaters showcasing the best music in L.A. Here are the best spots to see a show along L.A.’s iconic 22-mile-long boulevard.
Original story by Hope Urban; updated by Michael Juliano.
Technically this spot isn’t on Sunset (anything east of Figueroa takes the name of Cesar Chavez Avenue), but as a seamless continuation of the same street, we thought the Paramount very much belonged on this list. Boyle Heights’ nearly century-old ballroom has everything from Latino bandleaders to local punk outfits over the years. These days, the all-ages ballroom hosts mid-sized shows across genres (as well as Brooklyn Ave Pizza Co. in the same building).
The Echo + Echoplex
Echo Park’s twin music venues are a one-stop shop for the neighborhood’s music scene. The Echo is ideal for sweaty dance parties, while the bigger, low-slung Echoplex is situated underneath. The fare is similar at both: local indie acts, the occasional residency by L.A. luminaries and touring artists looking for low-key sets. Take heed: It can be sweltering when crowded.
Built as an American Legion Hall in 1929, Los Globos is the kind of place where you’re most surely end up dancing the night away. Its storied history includes being one of the city’s first gay nightclubs, as well as a long-running Latin dance club—a tradition that continues downstairs in the spruced up bi-level space.
Made over into a recreation of a 16th-century Spanish tavern in 1961, El Cid features flamenco dance dinner theater on weekend evenings, with local musical acts, performance art, comedy and even short film screenings throughout the rest of the week. Delicious tapas are available to order at the bar, or sit down for a full Spanish-fusion meal
Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra headlined the inaugural show at this theater on Halloween eve 1940. Now, you can take a spin across the revamped 11,000-square-foot dance floor, though these days you’re more likely to be moving to headliner-font–sized acts looking for a sizable space that’s slightly more intimate than an arena.
Catalina Bar & Grill
This is simply one of the best places to listen to classic jazz. Legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Max Roach and multiple Marsalises have all played the Catalina. An intimate, romantically-lit main room features small round tables in front of the stage. Enjoy filet mignon and a highball with your high-tone jazz.
The Viper Room
Known as the Melody Room in the ’40s and frequented by Bugsy Siegel, the club became a biker bar before it became the Central, where bluesman Chuck E. Weiss held forth every Monday night. It was Weiss who suggested to Johnny Depp that the actor invest in the ailing club, and the Viper Room was born in 1993. Johnny Cash played here, and Hunter Thompson drank at the bar. While it no longer draws as many famous attendees or acts (perhaps because Depp is no longer affiliated with the club) it’s still an intimate room to see a show.
Whisky A Go Go
The Whisky has been resting on its decaying laurels for far too long. Yes, they pioneered go-go dancers in suspended cages; yes, the Doors were the house band; and yes, it enjoyed a new injection of life with punk shows in the ’80s. But that was all a long time ago. Lately, its calendar reveals a lot of no-name hopefuls interspersed with some genuine past-season bonafides.
The Roxy Theatre
The acoustics are incredible here, as befitting a club owned by former record company owner and producer Lou Adler. Many artists—Bob Marley, Frank Zappa and Bruce Springsteen to name a few—have turned their live recordings here into album tracks. Now that the half-century-old stalwart has settled comfortably into middle age, the club boasts consistently strong bookings that traverse metal, punk, indie, singer-songwriters and local up-and-comers.