Music venues in Los Angeles are so world-renowned, particularly the independently operated ones, that the impression they make belies the team behind the fame. There is rarely more than a handful—if that—of individuals that are involved with the machinations of the shows put on in these spaces. From booking to promotion to the managerial aspects that keep the legends of these venues going are generally handled by the same persons year in and year out with a dedication and a determination that can only come from genuine love for the music resulting in a cultivation of a scene and a place for artists to grow.
There is no safety net for these venues, as the pandemic instantly proved with their doors slamming shut at the very start, their staff left without recourse and their futures so uncertain that the only certainty looks to be permanent shuttering. Here are a few local venues in the Los Angeles area that you can help support!
Positioned in the grittiest, non-gentrified part of Downtown Los Angeles, 1720 is named for its address. Without another establishment in any direction, the raw-feeling space stays true to the warehouse nature of the neighborhood, bringing the edginess of an underground event to its events. At the same time, whether you’re attending a grimy drum ‘n’ bass night courtesy of Los Angeles’ Respect crew or Y La Bamba’s Latin indie-pop or the hardcore punk of Refused, 1720 offers state of the art sound, light, drinks and light fare. A visceral experience, it’s a very different one from some of DTLA’s other, also amazing multi-genre venues, such as Teragram Ballroom, Moroccan Lounge and the Regent Theatre. Just over two years in operation and delivering a wealth of great nights during that time, 1720’s site is heartbreakingly peppered with “postponed” and “cancelled” notifications for the time being.
Theatre at the Ace Hotel
Much of the time at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel is spent with your head on swivel looking around and up at the magnificently ornate glittering walls and vaulted ceilings of this stunning historic theatre. Part of the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, the theatre is the original one Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and DW Griffith established for their independent United Artists studio. After being restored, it reopened in 2014 and has been host to a wide range of arts-based events. There is no limit to the experiences at the Ace from Patti Smith or Michael Kiwanuka taking over the stage, to a screening of the M.I.A. documentary MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A or the 1960 classic, Spartacus, or an intimate conversation between Flea and visual artist Thomas Houseago. The revival of these gorgeous theatres in and around DTLA, including the Mayan, the Globe and the Paramount, has been a boon for the arts and culture of the city, and it’s devastating to see it halted.
There is a certain type of performance that can only happen at the Hotel Café. Intimate space, low stage, sometimes a sprinkling of chairs and tables, and the artist being able to show their craft in its most distilled form. Many a musical act has had its first shows at this tiny Hollywood space, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, to name a few. Marquee name or otherwise, Hotel Café is a place to connect with an audience in a personal way. There is no separation between the musician and the crowd. More often than not, they are tuning their own equipment between songs and managing themselves between instruments while the attendees become part of this exchange. It’s a fantastic breeding ground for the artist who may move down the street to the multifunctional Gold Diggers, or further east to the Bootleg Theater or the Satellite, each with their share of now-famous artists and secret shows.
First opened (then closed) in Brooklyn, and since 2017, in Silver Lake, or more specifically, Frogtown, Zebulon can be a bar, a café, a live venue, or all at once. The Brooklyn originals plus Los Angeles music originals from Everloving Records plus Jesse Peterson and Mia Doi Todd keep the musical ethos of Zebulon intact, but not limited, as the venue hosts cinema and literary events as well. Best plan of action for an evening at Zebulon is arriving in time for dinner on the outdoor patio under the bare but warm bulbs, then shifting indoors for a night of unexpected sounds be they from Australian indie-pop out-of-the-box Haiku Hands or British wunderkinds Black Midi. For now, Zebulon is available for take-out alcohol and has a few platforms set-up to assist in its survival until it can re-open its doors in the spirit it has always attended. This is also the case with other neighboring bar/live venues such as Permanent Records Roadhouse and Silverlake Lounge.
Who hasn’t had their time on the legendary stage of the Troubadour? The plastered walls read like the history of the Los Angeles music scene in this storied venue that smells like disinfectant and feels like rock ‘n’ roll. From Bob Dylan and the Byrds all the way to Metallica, Pearl Jam and White Reaper, one of the last shows before the place had to pause live gigs. the Troubadour is both an achievement for any performer and the place they return to when they have far outgrown its capacity. Cases in point, Guns n’ Roses in 2016 and the Black Crowes at the end of last year. The space, which has always been independently owned and operated, is in serious danger of closing, and with it, a major music touchstone. There is donation link on the venue’s site. As for Troubadour’s Sunset Strip counterparts, the Whiskey and the Viper Room up the road, the former has a nominal fee for its live stream shows.
Learn more about The National Independent Venue Association & #SaveOurStages HERE