There are few experiences more quintessentially Los Angeles than spending a summer evening under the stars while catching a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The amphitheater is one of the most famous venues in the world, with a stage that has hosted everyone from Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand to Prince and Lady Gaga. Scenic backdrop? Check. A certain indefinable magic? Check. In fact, we'll go so far as to say that until you've see a show here, you haven't really experienced Los Angeles.
After playing home to concerts, theatrical productions and an Easter Sunrise service, the Hollywood Bowl kicked off its first official season in the summer of 1922. It was a barebones experience for spectators, who sat on temporary wooden benches to watch Alfred Hertz conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The scenery and the sounds, however, were hard to beat. Located in a bowl-shaped area of the Hollywood Hills that was once called Daisy Dell, the spot where the venue now stands was chosen, in part, for its natural acoustics. Those are amplified by electronics as well as the bandshell with its distinctive white arches. It's actually the Hollywood Bowl's fourth bandshell - the first two were designed by Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Over the years, the Hollywood Bowl has served as the setting for all manner of moments - sweet, stunning and strange. In 1923, to celebrate the final payment on the Bowl's debt, the mortgage to the venue was burned on stage. Three years later, composer Percy Grainger and Swedish poet Ella Viola Strom were married on stage in front of 22,000 people. In 1968, The Doors recorded what many fans consider to be one of the band's best concerts. The Beatles, Monty Python, Van Morrison, Morrissey and Ben Harper have also recorded shows at the Bowl.
Following the annual Playboy Jazz Festival (June 9-10), the 2018 season officially kicked off on June 16 with Diana Ross. The summer really started heating up with the July 4th Fireworks Spectacular featuring The Go-Go's, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Upcoming perennial favorites include John Williams: Maestro of the Movies (Aug. 31 - Sept. 2), Fireworks Finale: Harry Connick, Jr. Celebrates New Orleans 300th Birthday (Sept. 7-9) and The Sound of Music Sing-A-Long (Sept. 22). Other highlights include Bon Iver (Aug. 5), Randy Newman (Aug. 12), Grizzly Bear (Sept. 23), and Beck (Sept. 28).
Throughout the year, the Hollywood Bowl hosts fantastic "Lease Events" (non-L.A. Phil-produced events). This year the Bowl has welcomed LCD Soundsystem & Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Paul Simon, James Taylor & Bonnie Raitt, Kevin Hart, Andrea Bocelli, Mariachi USA, and Rod Stewart & Cyndi Lauper. Coming up: Dave Matthews Band (Sept. 10), Lauryn Hill with Dave Chappelle & De La Soul (Sept. 18), Florence + the Machine (Sept. 25-26), Interpol (Oct. 4), and Ozzy Osbourne (Oct. 11).
CLASSICAL TUESDAYS & THURSDAYS
The Hollywood Bowl is the summer home of the L.A. Phil, which performs on Classical Tuesdays & Thursdays during the season. Several performances will be conducted by Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, who kicks off this year's classical series on July 10 with Bernstein 100, a centennial celebration featuring some of the American maestro's most beloved music. Dudamel will also lead the orchestra in Verdi's Otello (July 15), the National Ballet of Cuba production of The Nutcracker (Aug. 14 & 16), and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, featuring famed violinist Itzhak Perlman (Aug. 21).
The Bowl's popular movie screenings feature live accompaniment by the L.A. Phil, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ (July 5), Star Wars: A New Hope (Aug. 7 & 10), and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Aug. 9 & 11).
The orchestra is also known for its collaborations with modern musicians, such as Rodrigo y Gabriela (Aug. 17-18). The tradition dates to 1943, when the orchestra backed Frank Sinatra, the first time a pop singer appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
JAZZ AT THE BOWL
Curated by the LA Phil's Creative Chair for Jazz, Herbie Hancock, this year's weeknight jazz concerts include Seal & Corinne Bailey Rae (July 18), TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo' Band (Aug. 1), Gregory Porter & Savion Glover (Aug. 15), Queen Latifah & Common (Aug. 22), George Benson (Aug. 29), and Wynton Marsalis with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (Sept. 20).
The Hollywood Bowl season runs from June through September and tickets go on sale in early May - unless you're a subscriber. The perks of membership mean you can buy tickets before the general public. The question of where to find the best seats in the venue is hotly debated. For the four-person boxes near the front of the stage, be prepared to spend more than $100 per person. If you're looking for value, you can still score $1 tickets in the Bowl's nosebleed section on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. When a show is sold out, arrive at the box office on the day-of and you may be able to snag spare tickets.
The most difficult part of attending an event at the Hollywood Bowl is getting in and out. Parking is expensive ($18 - $50) and afterward, expect a lengthy wait before you pull out into traffic. Rideshare services are an option, or you can stash your car at one of the Bowl’s 14 Park & Ride lots located throughout the city from Torrance to Chatsworth. (It costs $7 for a round-trip if you reserve at least 48 hours in advance; $12 for walk-ups.) You can also park at either Universal City or at Hollywood & Highland and hop on a Bowl Shuttle for the ride to the venue ($6 round-trip, no reservations). If you have the pedal power you can bike to the Bowl, or Go Metro and take the Red Line to the Hollywood & Highland Station and walk up the hill.
At least half the fun of any show at the Hollywood Bowl is picnicking. Unless it's a Lease Event, you're welcome to bring your own food and drink, including alcohol. If you want a pre-made, upscale picnic basket you can pick up baskets packed with salads, sammies, and even caviar at Joan's on Third, the Oaks Gourmet Market, Little Next Door, Tender Greens and Petrossian, among other eateries. Once you get to the Bowl, you'll find 15 official picnic locales with tables and benches. Areas 6 and 7 are the most coveted because they're closest to the stage. Arrive at least an hour (maybe two) before showtime if you hope to claim one. You can also bring your comestibles to your seat. Pour a glass of rosé, bust out the snacks and make friends with people sitting nearby.
In August 2015, the L.A. Phil announced a ten-year culinary partnership with The Lucques Group, helmed by the James Beard Award-winning duo, Chef Suzanne Goin and Restaurateur/Wine Director Caroline Styne. The Lucques Group provides exclusive food and wine services throughout the Bowl, from the wine bar and onsite restaurants to the marketplace and concessions. Concertgoers can expect the high-end seasonal menus and exceptional wine pairings that gourmands enjoy at the duo's L.A. restaurants: Lucques, a.o.c., Tavern and The Larder.
Morning rehearsals at the Bowl are occasionally open to the public. If you have the time, call 323.850.2000 and find out when.
Have a moment to spare? Before reaching the main gate, take a slight detour and pop into the Hollywood Bowl Museum to hear recordings of shows that have been performed at the amphitheater, including clips from Miles Davis and Pink Floyd.
Built in 1940, the Art Deco monument Muse of Music, Dance, Drama at the entrance of the Hollywood Bowl features a fountain and a 15-foot granite statue of the Muse of Music. The monument was designed by George Stanley, who also designed the Oscar statuette and sculpted the Sir Isaac Newton statue at the Griffith Observatory.
Feel like splurging? For a minimum donation of $2,000 per season, enjoy non-stacked valet parking and enter through the Bowl's VIP West Gate, where you're likely to spot celebs heading to their box seats.