Stages Large and Small: Live Music in LA

Greek Theatre | Photo courtesy of Jay, Flickr 

With so many creative people living in LA, the live music scene is supported like nowhere else. Just about every national act on tour books at least one show in Los Angeles, and the quality of local talent is unmatched. So whether you’re looking for a big, arena-rock experience or just a taste of local music at a smaller venue, you’ll find what you’re looking for on LA’s stages.

The live music calendar is a vast, rapidly changing lineup of national acts and local legends, so sometimes the best way to keep track is to know the venues and find the niche that fits your taste. But keep in mind that this introduction to LA’s live music venues is just the beginning.

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Photo courtesy of STAPLES Center


There’s no shortage of star power at the world-famous STAPLES Center, located at the spectacular L.A. LIVE complex in Downtown Los Angeles. Known as one of L.A.’s premier entertainment venues, STAPLES Center hosts concerts, sporting events and much more throughout the year. Some of music’s biggest names such as Taylor Swift and The Rolling Stones have graced its stage and The GRAMMYs have been held there fifteen times and counting!

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Photo courtesy of Derick Snow for LA Tourism

Walt Disney Concert Hall

If you’re a fan of classical music, Walt Disney Concert Hall can’t be beat. It boasts perfect sight lines throughout and finely tuned acoustics that make every seat worth the money. If you’re a fan of great sound, you might want to take in a performance just to hear the venue’s natural amplification; it makes music come alive. Opened in 2003 to widespread acclaim, the architecture often gets mentioned first, but the venue was built to host live music, and it lives up to its promise. The Los Angeles Philharmonic performs here from October to June. They play at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer.

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Photo courtesy of Grand Performances

Grand Performances at California Plaza

There’s nothing better than a free show, and these no-cost performing arts events taking place throughout the summer have earned a special place in the hearts of local music fans. Known for presenting tomorrow’s stars today, the lineup features diverse acts performing during lunch hours, in the evenings and on the weekends. Located in the heart of Downtown, the plaza can handle crowds of up to 5,000 people in an urban garden surrounded by water features.

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Microsoft Theater at L.A. LIVE

One of the city’s crown jewels of live music venues, Microsoft Theater L.A. Live, formerly known as Nokia Theatre,  opened in fall 2007 with a six-night stand by the Eagles and the Dixie Chicks. The venue made its television debut later that year, hosting the American Music Awards in November. With 7,100 seats all situated no more than 220 feet from the stage, there’s truly no bad seat in the house. And the theatre happens to have the largest stage in Southern California, measuring 180 feet by 80 feet.

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Hollywood Bowl

There aren’t many venues in LA (or in the nation) as legendary as the Hollywood Bowl. A concert here can include a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine, a setting sun casting a warm glow over the proceedings and a family-friendly atmosphere that’s as laid-back as anything in LA. More than 17,000 people can attend a concert here, so the energy level is always high. Make sure you plan in advance because concerts tend to sell out. During the summer, the Los Angeles Philharmonic leaves behind the Walt Disney Concert Hall and sets up shop here for regular performances.
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The Wiltern | Photo courtesy of The Queen of No, Flickr

The Wiltern

Located in one of LA’s most distinctive Art Deco buildings, The Wiltern regularly hosts popular national acts in several different genres. With capacity topping out at about 2,300 (depending on seating configurations), the theater feels intimate and close-knit without being overly crowded. A tiered-floor configuration also allows for optimal viewing throughout the venue. The acoustics are excellent at this venue, earning it a reputation for being one of LA’s best live music venues for bands to tape their shows. The theater is located at the final stop on the Metro Purple Line on Wilshire Boulevard at Western Avenue. In fact, this is where the name came from — by combining the first part of “Wilshire” with the last part of “Western.”

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Photo courtesy of Greek Theatre, Facebook

The Greek Theatre

Located in Griffith Park, The Greek Theatre has been around since the late 1920s. An outdoor amphitheatre along the lines of Hollywood Bowl, it’s an intimate venue with a seating capacity of about 6,000. Neil Diamond once played fourteen consecutive nights at the Greek in 1986, and plenty of other musical legends have made their mark here as well. National acts tend to be the norm on the schedule, with the amphitheatre operating from April to mid-November.

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Photo courtesy of Ford Amphitheatre

The Ford Amphitheatre

Owned and operated by the County of Los Angeles, this outdoor venue in the hills north of Hollywood has an eclectic calendar highlighted by world music, ethnic dance, folk music, blues, jazz and bluegrass. With 1,200 seats and an outdoor setting, the Ford Amphitheatre feels as intimate as anything in LA.