Where To Play: The Best Live Music Venues In Los Angeles
Planning a tour? We've put together a list of the best live music venues in L.A. for independent artists to get a gig at.
Navigating Los Angeles’ sprawling expanse as an independent musician can be daunting. The music industry ecosystem is unpredictable and hyper-kinetic, an effulgent pinball machine in which the performer becomes the pinball – bouncing from wall to wall until, largely by happenstance, the pinball finally collides with its destiny. This analogy aligns especially with the bewildering task of finding worthwhile live performance opportunities in the City of Dreams.
The truth is, there is no cheat code to finding good shows to play in LA; however, finding the right resources can make an otherwise insurmountable task feel approachable.
On the long checklist of things to consider when you're trying to get booked, the question of “what venue” should be at the forefront. Specifically: “Where does my music belong? Where will my music react? Where will I be allowed, encouraged, loved for making and performing music?” There's always a degree of trial and error in finding the answers to any of these questions. That being said, the below guide should give you a good idea of where to look for gigs in L.A., as well as what to expect when you get a gig in Los Angeles.
1. Club Tee Gee
3210 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039, United States
This 76 year-old dive has been generating word of mouth on the east side and beyond for decades, especially as of late for its popular and multifarious DJ events.
What was once primarily a watering hole has expanded upon its original form, quickly becoming a go-to spot for those looking to visit some of LA’s most exciting dance parties. Tee Gee has earned their reputation by booking DJs spanning several genres and, crucially, different levels of experience. While this seems to be their most consistent brand of event, they also host live shows on a fairly consistent basis.
We spoke with Garcia Sien, longtime Pirate LA customer and cofounder of the roving dance party Club Teal, an “all inclusive party where guests hear music they didn’t know they needed in their lives”.
Garcia had this to say about their experiences with Tee Gee, which have recently led to a Club Teal residency at the club:
“The booking process at Tee Gee is seamless. They are extremely good at communicating their needs as well as respecting ours which is something many venues struggle with in this city. Tee Gee is great at taking chances on new acts, events or parties and communicating when something does or doesn't fit their aesthetic, clientele, etc.”
This is a venue that's all about supporting emerging artists. To enquire about performing or putting on an event at Club Tee Gee, email email@example.com.
2906 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026, United States
A prime location is one of this classic saloon’s largest assets. Its home on Sunset Boulevard boasts some serious walk-up potential, and happens to be a stone’s throw away from one of our LA rehearsal studios. The charmingly compact bar regularly showcases local artists spanning “indie, punk, country, folk and singer/songwriters".
Silver Lake Lounge is great for newer acts looking to get shows under their belt, and also for more established artists looking for the perfect location for a bar residency. Former Pirate employee and LA-based musician/photographer Charlie Weinmann had the following to say about this classic eastside haunt:
“Silver Lake Lounge is an institution! It’s the venue equivalent to your favorite pair of socks – reliable, cozy, never overstated. The back patio is a hidden gem for kicking back between sets or eating ramen after loading in. The Lounge will never die.”
The Silver Lake Lounge booking email (firstname.lastname@example.org) is listed on their website, indicating their willingness to make shows happen for artists ready to help put in some of the legwork of preparing and promoting a bill.
4850 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029, United States
In conjunction with nightlife curator Restless Nites, Rubycon Records and Tapes hosts intimate in-stores featuring “up-and-coming artists from a variety of genres” to the budding East Hollywood neighborhood. According to their website, their events typically exhibit newer talent amid LA’s Electronic and Post Punk scenes.
A gig at this venue has potential to lead to further opportunities, as Rubycon works with Restless to book live shows and DJ sets across several larger venues in Los Angeles.
If you'd like to pitch your band for a performance at Rubycon Records and Tapes, get in touch with them using the contact form on their website.
4. The Smell
247 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, United States
Photo: LA Downtowner
This downtown no-frills space has been a mainstay of DIY in Los Angeles since 1988. The Smell strongly broadcasts their own booking parameters: “You must know a booker or a band already on a bill. Ask them for help.” This statement may come off as a bit unforthcoming, but it speaks to a transparency that is hard to find at most venues in LA. Plainly, the Smell is saying that in order to play there, one needs to attend shows, talk to bookers and bands, organically place themselves within the scene this establishment has worked hard to cultivate in order to be a part of it.
While the Smell doesn’t offer booking opportunities as typically as some others nearby, its track record of past events speaks for itself in terms of cultivating crowds around new artists.
To get a gig at The Smell, you can't reach out the venue directly. Instead, reach out to the promoter or band running the night that you want to play at:
'You must know a booker or a band already on a bill. Ask them for help. That's how it works. You can not book your band through this contact form. All booking related emails will go unanswered.'
740 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046, United States
Oftentimes, the most memorable live music experience takes place in not so ordinary settings. Genghis Cohen, a beautiful booth-laden Chinese Restaurant in the Fairfax District offers such an environment by hosting intimate concerts in an adjoining backroom.
Upon entering, there’s a decorous dining room to the left, but to the right is a red-lit, 50-cap room with a miniature, theatre-esque stage available to established bookers and DIY party planners alike. Genghis Cohen is the perfect setting for artists looking for an easily packable and equally striking venue.
Henry Hawke, semi-frequent Pirate customer and lead singer of the exciting new genre cross-pollinating project Pop.Fang spoke to his experience playing at Genghis Cohen:
“The show at Genghis Cohen was great and very fun. The aura of the room was moody and intimate and we filled the room out, making it feel very welcoming and homey. I prefer packing a small room to playing a big show with no one there for sure”.
If you want to put on a gig at Genghis Cohen, you can submit an event inquiry directly via their website.
901 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, United States
Many larger venues in Los Angeles have smaller affiliates elsewhere in the city. Such is the case for Moroccan Lounge, the intimate counterpart to the Teragram Ballroom.
In many ways, Moroccan Lounge feels like a miniature version of Teragram, making it a great option for smaller acts – it has great sound and atmosphere but does not require a large crowd to fill it out. This association also creates opportunities for less established acts to get on the radar for bigger shows down the line.
Moroccan Lounge’s website contains a FAQ in which it directs enterprising acts to reach out if they are seeking opportunities via a general booking email:
“The best way to get a show at the Moroccan Lounge is to e-mail email@example.com to the attention of our Talent Buyer, Julian Montano. Booking requests are not accepted via phone or at the club itself.”
More Live Music Venues In Los Angeles
Beyond the venues listed above, L.A. is home to hundreds more. Websites like DoLA, Resident Advisor, and Dice.fm serve as catalogs of current live events across the city, and compile very pertinent information not only on where shows are taking place, but also on aspects such as affiliated bookers/labels and past performers, all of which can help determine the right prospective show settings.