LA’s Top 10 Small Music Venues
Elton John’s Dodger Stadium performances in the fall of 1975 stand among the most iconic outings in the history of rock and roll. EJ performed a pair of sold-out shows for 110,000 frenzied fans that October, resplendent in a Bob Mackie-designed, sequined baseball uniform only the flamboyant piano virtuoso could pull off.
But as impactful as those shows were, folks often forget that John’s first US appearance occurred five years earlier, just nine miles due west on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, at a place called the Troubadour. There, backed by bandmates Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray, he performed material from his upcoming album, Tumbleweed Connection, including “Country Comfort” and “Burn Down the Mission,” and gave American music fans a glimpse of things to come.
The deep-roots history of LA’s music scene is chock-a-block with stories like this. It’s long been a proving ground, after all, where musicians both up-and-coming and established ply their craft before savvy audiences. Luckily for you, the city is dotted with small-stage venues that provide a unique opportunity to catch these performers up close. StubHub outlines 10 of LA’s best small-stage venues:
Troubadour | 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood
Elton John, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles are just a few of the bands that established future fame at this West Hollywood haunt. The Troubadour is where stand-up Steve Martin and the duo of Cheech & Chong were discovered. Rumor has it that John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were booted from the premises for heckling the Smothers Brothers in ‘74.
The Mint | 6010 West Pico Boulevard, Mid City
Established in 1937, this locale has hosted everyone from Stevie Wonder to actor-musician Harry Dean Stanton, who was a regular performer over a more-than-two-year span. Don’t be surprised if you see stars of stage and screen in the audience: Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn are among those who’ve been spotted.
Whisky a Go Go | 8901 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood
Known succinctly as The Whisky, this corner spot along the Sunset Strip is hallowed ground. The Doors were once the house band; it was a launching pad for Iggy Pop, No Doubt, and Alice Cooper; and the venue has even been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Largo at the Coronet | 366 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Grove
If you’ve yet to catch a Friday night appearance by multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion at Largo, get it on your calendar. He’s produced everyone: Kanye West, Rufus Wainwright, Robyn Hitchcock, etc., but he’s at his best when performing off-the-cuff in this intimate setting. “Largo is the epitome of a listening room,” said LA-based singer-songwriter Chris Laterzo, whose alt-country band Buffalo Robe has played stages both big and small across the city.
The Wiltern | 3790 Wilshire Boulevard, Koreatown
Originally designed as a vaudeville theater, the art deco Wiltern features one of the most dazzling concert hall interiors in the City of Angels. Madonna will perform a residency here as part of her Madame X tour, Nov. 12-25. Also on tap are Andrew Bird, Carly Rae Jepsen and comic Ali Wong.
El Rey Theatre | 5515 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile
A single-screen movie theater in the ‘30s, and a dance hall in the ‘80s, the all-ages El Rey was finally converted to a live music venue in ’94, and some of the top acts in music have been playing here ever since. You may recognize its deco décor from the Cowboy Junkies “Angel Mine” video.
The Echo | 1822 Sunset Boulevard, Echo Park
Echo Park and Silver Lake have sure become hipster hangouts in recent years. Fortunately, The Echo hasn’t lost its edge. The Monday Night Music residency helped spotlight bands like The Airborne Toxic Event, War Paint and Foster the People, while Beck, Green Day, Kendrick Lamar and Thundercat have also thrilled audiences.
The Viper Room | 8852 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood
A part owner when the club made its debut in 1993, Johnny Depp asked Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to perform on opening night, and they obliged. It’s since been a hangout for the glitterati and has hosted Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Oasis, Queens of The Stone Age, Courtney Love, Elvis Costello, Pearl Jam, and more.
The Roxy | 9009 West Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood
A Sunset Strip mainstay since the ‘70s, The Roxy has been the site of some epic shows: Neil Young, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley, The Ramones, Jane’s Addiction, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Chuck Berry, The Sex Pistols, etc. Several of these performances have been captured on tape (see Bob Marley & The Wailers Live at the Roxy).
El Cid | 4212 Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake
Flamenco dancing and authentic Spanish tapas in the heart of Silver Lake is enticement enough. But El Cid also morphs into a unique performance space, featuring live music, comedy and theater. Not bad for a venue that was once a jail-theme café, where “prisoners” served guests.