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Best Places To See A Concert In Los Angeles

The best places in Los Angeles to see a concert? Well it depends on what you expect from a musical experience, there are the huge venues, arena style, and the intimate ones where you can be close to the stage. I always prefer these ones, that’s why I rarely go to the Hollywood bowl and I have never been to The Forum, but I have seen tons of concerts at the Echo, the Satellite or other small places like these.

• The El Rey Theater: I love this place, if you arrive early enough as I do, you can be in the front, very close to the stage, and it’s big enough to attract famous bands, but not too big to be a pain. Most of the venue is a standing area, but there are comfortable seats on the sides, so a little bit for every taste. I actually end up almost at the same place every time, and the security guards are totally nice. Plus the prices are generally very reasonable. Grade A+

• The Music Box: Almost the same size than the El Rey, with seats in a balcony upstairs and a large standing area. I realize that your experience can be totally different if you cannot be in the front and end up in the middle of the standing area behind tall guys, but I have always managed to see very well. The prices are great too. Grade A

• The Satellite: The place was named Spaceland before, and I tend to call it still with that name because nothing has really changed. It’s really a great place to see bands, in the heart of Silverlake, with a small charge. It looks like a familiar place, intimate and friendly. I went ‘backstage’ one time, actually it is just a small room behind the stage, and it looks like the best Indie bands have let a piece of themselves inside that room. Grade A (the only downside, it’s a pain to park in the neighborhood).

• The Echo: Same feeling, intimate, friendly, and like for the Satellite, their Monday nights are always free of charge! You can end up seeing 4 bands in the same night without paying a dime, except for the drinks of course. Ok these places tend to fill up with a hipster crowd, and the sound is not the best in the city but who cares? Grade A+

• The Echoplex: it’s its twin brother, just a little bit bigger! Downstairs from the Echo, it can fit a much larger crowd for the same kind of shows. Both clubs have great booking for the same low prices. Grade A+

• The Bootleg bar: Again intimate, some kind of best kept secret with a weird entrance that does not reveal what is inside (like the Echo actually). There are very few seats, and that’s may be a problem for some, but the acoustic is great. They also have free Monday shows. The stage may be less wide than at the Satellite, so if it’s crowded, it may be tough. Grade A

• The Silver Lake Lounge: It’s tiny, it is more a bar than a concert place I would say, and the bands who play there are usually lesser known than the ones playing at the other Silver Lake locations, but it can become crowded if the band is good! And in this case it can be really hot over there. Grade B

• Bardot: I go there only for the ‘It’s a School Night’ on Mondays presented by KCRW, and it is a very intriguing place, with sofas all over the place, a gothic décor and a maze of corridors, a chic, ultra chic place for über hipsters. Chris Douridas always books great numbers, and as it is free with a reservation, you have to arrive very early if you want to get in. Also it is probably the only place left in LA where smoking is not prohibited, because technically, it is an open ceiling room (with drapes). Grade B- (because of the long wait and the smoking)

• The Troubadour: The legendary place in West Hollywood. It’s intimate and the place has aged well (except the restrooms). You can feel the atmosphere and the history, it’s one of LA’s oldest clubs, too bad it is a bit far from where I live. Grade B+

• Largo at the Coronet: A small, intimate place with seats, so you have to get there very early to get a good seat. I have been there only once, but I am going to see Fiona Apple this weekend so I will have a better idea. It is generally a little overpriced, but I may be bias: they have an Elliott Smith picture at the entrance. Grade B+

• The Mint: Nice and cozy with a heavy décor and some paintings (one of Johnny Cash) on the walls. I don’t go to the Mint very often, but people go also there to eat which is always a little distracting. Otherwise it’s a nice place. Grade B+

• The Hotel Café: another small place for indie and local bands, with an entrance at the end of a small alley. It’s nice with plenty of places to seat, actually people eat and drink while watching bands, something I don’t do! I haven't been there a lot of times but have enjoyed it. Grade B+

• The Cinema bar: A very small, mostly for Americana music, so not for every taste. The stage is tiny but the place is supposed to be legendary. People at the bar may not paying attention to the band which is playing but if you manage to get one of the few small tables, you are there for a good time. Grade B

• The Roxy: One of the relatively small clubs on the Sunset Strip, which turned into legend! I rarely go there because it is a little far and free parking is really hard to find in this area, but inside it is very spacious, the stage is huge, so you see very well, and the sound is excellent. Grade A (only because of the parking!)

• The Viper Room: Extremely tiny and again a little too west Hollywood for me. The seated places in the booths are usually reserved for VIPs, and every time I went there, I did not get the same friendly atmosphere I get from the small Silver Lake places, it’s way too hip for me, too celebrity-oriented, and there is the ghost of River Phoenix who tragically died there! Grade B-

• The Wiltern: I almost never go there, it’s generally too expensive. One time, it was seated, another time it was only a standing area, but the place is very large so in case of general admission you better be in the front if you want to see anything. One plus, it is an ancient movie theater, really beautiful with an art deco architecture, coming right from the Hollywood golden age. Grade B

• The Orpheum theater: I went there only once, and it is also an old movie theater, very glamorous with seated places. It was nice, not intimate for sure, I end up going over the seats with my friend at the end of the show to get a close-up. Grade B

• The Mayan: It is a intriguing place as it looks like a Mayan temple with decor from Hollywood movies. I have only been there two times and from what I can remember the stage was a little far away from the audience but the view was good and the sound was excellent. The security guards were very tough as they did not want me to take videos and they were rude with some guy. Grade B

• Club Nokia: Quite expensive in general, the whole downtown experience thing, brand new and still smelling fresh paint. It is a great place with several levels, a standing area and seats upstairs (but you have to pay VIP tickets for these). I just had a weird/bad experience with one of the security guards during a concert who got mad at me because I was taking notes!!! Grade B

• The Gibson Amphitheater: Big place, indoor arena style, with seats except in the pit. I simply cannot stand being 3 miles away from the stage, even though the view and the acoustic are good. But for me it is not the same experience. I know a lot of people like to be comfortably seated with their drinks on the side, like in front of their TV, but not me. I got a ticket to see Massive Attack there last year, but my seat was way up there, I managed to go in the pit, and my concert experience went from a C- to a A+.

• The Shrine auditorium: I would say it is the same than for the Gibson, I had to sit very high and very far from the stage. The view was excellent since the seats are arranged in such a way you hardly see the head of the person in front of you, but again, I want to be close!! This is also where they used to host the Academy Awards. Grade B-

• The Greek theater: It is a nice place, an outdoor arena but at human scale, in Griffith park. The parking is over priced so most people actually walk up there, a rare thing in LA. I have good memories of hot summer nights, and the view is good wherever you sit. Grade B+

• Hollywood Bowl: I know that this place is mythical, but I don’t really like it because it is simply too big: it is the largest natural amphitheater in the United States, with a seating capacity of nearly 18,000! If you get the affordable super seats, you are still way too far from the stage for my taste. Yes the acoustic is exceptional but people get there to have wine picnics and you end up being really distracted by their comments on their menu, and suddenly what is happening next to you becomes more important than the band which is playing. Of course if you can afford the garden boxes, it’s a whole different story. Grade B-

• The Ford Amphitheater: I went there only a few times and it was a long time ago; it is a nice medium-size outdoor venue across the freeway from the Hollywood bowl. There are seats and I remember seeing just ok as some people in front of me were tall. The parking was really a pain, there is no place to park in these Hollywood hills so you have to use the venue parking, which park cars such a way, you have to wait an eternity to finally leave the lot. Grade B-

• The Groove of Anaheim: I have rarely been there, it's a large-size place and I remember a large pit that I had to escape if I did not want to get hurt! Otherwise I could see pretty well, standing a little bit above the people in the pit. The only downside: the parking was $10. Grade B

And then there are the record stores

• Amoeba music: Certainly the most popular and the largest ones. if the band is not that well known you can find a pretty good spot, even front row, and have a pretty good time, but if the band is big, forget about it: There are always special guests who get the best sports and you will have to wait for a very long time outside the store (the record being for Paul McCartney, people camped outside for three days and I don’t think Amoeba wants to see that again!) and you will end up somewhere in the last CD row, not seeing a thing behind all these records… I was lucky a few times but not always, but it's free, so… Grade A+ for small bands C+ for famous bands

• Origami vinyl: They have tons of shows all the time, but it is really a tiny place, a narrow corridor with shows happening upstairs in the loft, although some bands have occasionally performed downstairs. It's obviously not the best place to see a band since you may get a neck pain but what they do for local bands is incredible! Just for this reason, Grade B+

• Vacation vinyl: Another vinyl store, but this one is truly specialized into metal-hardcore-noise music and again what they do to promote these bands is fantastic. I am always in the front and the store can be crowded at times. The only problem being the sound as the bands are always very loud and the store small,… I may en up deaf every time I forget my earplugs. Grade A

• Pehrspace: I have been there only once but I always want to go back since the place is so underground! I thought I had entered someone's apartment by mistake when I went there. With no real stage, it's like people playing in your living room and you feeling special to have been invited. By the way that's the place the Strokes were supposed to play!! Grade B

And there is this place, a little apart since it is not supposed to be a concert place:

ª Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Cool place and I mean it both ways as the Californian nights can be a little cold in this outdoor venue, they also have an indoor venue but I have never been. Whoever got the idea of doing concerts in a cemetery got a great one, since it's fun and a little strange at the same time. The Flaming Lips' frontman Wayne Coyne said he wanted to do that each year to start the summer, and Conor Oberst on Friday night said it was definitively his favorite place to play. I have always managed to be in the front but many people use this occasion for doing blanket picnics which fill the great lawn of the cemetery. Grade A+

There are also the House of blues, the Key club, Whisky a Go Go, the Pantages theater, the Staples center, the Glass house and probably other places where I never go for different reasons.

 

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