The Sunset Strip
Although perhaps not as wild as it used to be, the Sunset Strip is where rock legends were born and where they drank — sometimes a lot. Running about 1.5 miles along Sunset Boulevard, the strip became a frequent haunt for musicians in the 1960s when exclusive nightclubs gave way to clubs and venues. David Bowie, Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison and others frequently played and hung out at clubs like Whisky a Go Go and The Roxy, which are still around today. Other clubs, like the ’70s hotspot Rodney Birgenheimer’s English Disco, are but memories. In the 1980s, the Strip birthed numerous hair metal acts, among them Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe.
Today, guests can still go see live music at a number of venues including Viper Room and The Troubadour, or get a drink at Rainbow Bar and Grill, a popular hangout for music legends including John Lennon, Alice Cooper, and Lemmy of Motörhead fame.
Though many notable musicians have their stars along Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, a special section of the sidewalk, outside of the Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard, is reserved for rock musicians. Established in 1985, it’s known as the Guitar Center RockWalk. Here, find the handprints of Val Halen, The Cure, Nancy Wilson, and ZZ Top. Iron Maiden’s prints include a skeletal hand print meant to belong to band mascot Eddie. New inductees are chosen by past honorees.
Guitar Center RockWalk | © edwardhblake/Flickr
Amoeba Music‘s Hollywood location is one of the largest record stores in the world. They pack two floors with music, DVDs, games, art, posters, and more, including the occasional free live show. Amoeba Music is where Paul McCartney’s 2007 EP Amoeba’s Secrets was recorded.
Amoeba Music, 6400 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 245 6400
Opened in 1922, this famed amphitheater holds a lot of history, which is detailed via exhibits, postcards, programs, and photos in a free museum. Acts including The Beatles, Nine Inch Nails, Genesis, Lady Gaga, and Tony Bennett have played on this stage, and top acts — from rock to pop to the L.A. Phil — continue to do so regularly.
Hollywood Bowl, 2301 Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 850 2000
The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live opened in 2008. It contains exhibits and ephemera relating to the history of music and how it’s made, as well as the history of the Grammy Awards. Costumes of notable musicians are on display, and interactive exhibits teach visitors about the recording process. Rotating exhibits have focused on individual artists including Taylor Swift, Barbara Streisand, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson. Lectures and other events are held in the museum’s 200-seat Clive Davis Theater.
Los Angeles Music Center
The Music Center consists of several buildings that offer a blend of art, culture, and live entertainment: The Keck Amphitheater, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Ahmanson Theatre. The most recognizable building is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by architect Frank Gehry.
The public can take a free 90-minute tour of the Center Tuesday through Saturday, at either 10:15 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. The tour teaches about the history and architecture of the buildings, as well as the four groups who regularly perform there: the LA Opera, LA Philharmonic, Center Theatre Group, and LA Master Chorale. Guided and audio tours of just the Walt Disney Concert Hall are available as well. After a tour or show at the Center, guests can pop by Kendall’s Brasserie or Patina for French cuisine, or Kendall’s speakeasy, The Board Room, for a craft cocktail.
Ostensibly, Canter’s is a deli where folks chow pastrami sandwiches before hitting up a music, theater, or comedy show at one of the many nearby venues. Yet Canter’s also contains a piece of rock history. Marc Canter, who currently owns the restaurant, was a childhood friend of Guns N Roses guitarist Slash. An iconic photo of the band sitting in one of the booths was taken by photographer Jack Lue. It was also allegedly the scene of a fight between Tom Waits and punk band, The Bags.
Canter’s, 419 N Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 651 2030
Capitol Studios Hollywood opened its doors 60 years ago, getting down to business with Frank Sinatra’s Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poem of Color. In addition to hosting recording sessions for acts including Green Day, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Paul McCartney, it’s also where a number of hit albums and soundtracks are mixed, and is where the orchestra for the Academy Awards rehearses and records. The studio is still functioning and quite busy, and their current artists often do cool video performances on the iconic tower’s roof. Guests are typically not able to tour the studio, though they do occasionally open up for ticketed special events. Tourists are free to take photos in front of the tower and its mural, Richard Wyatt Jr.’s Hollywood Jazz.
Catch a new band
It’d be impossible to name all the music venues and bars with live bands in Los Angeles, but if you’re looking for a bar with live music, we’ve got a list of them here (many without a cover charge). For emerging indie acts, it’s worth seeing who’s on the bill at Teragram Ballroom in Westlake, Hi Hat in Highland Park, The Satellite in Silver Lake, The Echo in Echo Park, The Hotel Cafe or Three Clubs in Hollywood, and The Mint near Mid-Wilshire.