Live Music in LA

When we decided to set up shop in Los Angeles, we narrowed it down to two of our favorite neighbourhoods: Venice and West Hollywood. Venice for the artsy, hippie, bohemian, and inspired beach bum lifestyle. WeHo for the energy, excitement, grit and garish atmosphere.

When I tell people in Venice that we nearly landed in Hollywood, they cringe and question how we could ever consider living somewhere as loud and busy as WeHo. Truth is, I’ve got it bad for the gigs. Live music is what made me fall in love with LA, and most of our favorite venues happen to sit in the shadows of the Hollywood Hills.

My groupie tendencies and love of music are what inspired the name of this blog, actually. Sure, LA is famous for the film industry and I’m equally as passionate about that art form. But the bands that were formed here and the music that is inspired by this crazy town seduce me to no end.

Los Angeles is a relentless temptress. Being the nine-to-fiver that I am, it’s hard to hit the town on school nights, but I can’t help myself. Once I’m there breathing in the stench of LA’s late night underbelly, it’s hard to get me home. I realize that doesn’t sound too enticing, but I’m telling you, this city has pheromones.

Over the past several months, my husband (fellow groupie) and I started keeping track of our favorite venues and began listing all the places we want to go next. So far, I’d have to say the Troubadour is my favorite and my husband is partial to the Greek but here’s our ever-expanding list and what we’ve scratched off so far:

Hollywood Bowl
Greek Theatre
The Fonda Theater
Hollywood Palladium
El Rey Theatre
The Echo
Teragram Ballroom
Whisky a-Go-Go
Hotel Café
Roxy Theatre
Trip
The Del Monte Speakeasy
The Orpheum
Basement Tavern
Grammy Museum
Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
The Observatory
The Forum
Troubadour
Echoplex
The Getty
The Mint
The Viper Room
The Shrine
House of Blues – Sunset Strip (now closed)
Club Nokia
Santa Monica Pier
The Regent Theater
The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Pappy & Harriet’s
Bootleg Theater
The Wiltern
Belasco Theater

Before catching a show at the Whisky last week, we had dinner at the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Although I’m about 50 years too late to the party, the place still had an eerie vibe to it and apparently hasn’t changed much over the past several decades. While we were there, hiding in a corner table surrounded by gold records and other precious memorabilia, an older gentleman began telling patrons stories about the old days. How Sinatra would sit and chain smoke and drink for hours with his friends and how Zeppelin would receive blowjobs under the tables from forthcoming groupies. He also shared the “true story” of how Marilyn Monroe, another star who frequented the place, was murdered by the US government and how the hit man who carried out the deed was brutally murdered somewhere in Florida to abolish all evidence. Thank god some of these people are still around to tell these torrid tales.

I love this list of the 50 best music venues in LA from LA Weekly, which has become our cultural bible since moving here.

What am I missing? Is there another music venue I need to add to my list?

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Northeast Party House

The smell as you enter the dark and dingy confines of the Echoplex can only be described as a mix of latex, lager and the blood, sweat and tears that have be shed on its well trodden stage. A venue with a reputation for launching the careers of LA-based bands like Foster the People and The Airborne Toxic Event, the place feels a little haunted by rock star souls of the past. Which is why it’s kind of appropriate that we walked in right as Aussie band Northeast Party House was ripping into a song of the same name, as part of the Culture Collide music festival.

I bought tickets specifically to see Kiwi electro-pop rocker Ladyhawke – who I’ve been following and grooving to for years – but when Northeast Party House hit the stage before her set, I was glad I got there early.

Six handsome lads hailing from Melbourne, on their first tour oversees, it was obvious they were excited to be playing for an international audience. New to the game, however, they were not, blowing up the space with testosterone-driven stage antics, they knew they had earned the right to be there. Their set was tight! And loud. And fucking brilliant.

They reminded me a bit of Blur circa the Blur album, but more up beat. At times you could have sworn Trent Reznor was onstage with them, churning out weird and wonderful sounds as lead singer Zach Hamilton-Reeves went borderline ballistic. Mitch Ansell was insanely good on lead guitar, launching into “Enter Sandman” for a few riffs. I’m pretty certain my husband and I were some of the only spectators to catch on, given the sea of millennial-aged hipsters surrounding us.

Funk rock with pop hooks and a beat you can dance to, but a sound that will blow your hair back. These guys are ones to watch.

Their album Any Given Weekend is available on iTunes. The band plays The Echo in LA this afternoon and then heads to New York for the next leg of their tour. Follow their updates here.

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Restless in WeHo

A lot of people come to California for sun, surf and sandy beaches. For those of us visiting from cooler climates, it’s a quick escape to dryer days and warmer nights. Palm trees, paparazzi and celebrity sightings aside, Los Angeles has many layers beyond the tourist trail and well-beaten path. It’s hard to visit this town without viewing it through a completely different lens each time. She’s not a generic city, but rather an ever-evolving mess of culture, conspiracy and color. All hail the cities of the world with some element of grit and imperfection.

Having just spent 3 weeks in West Hollywood, I can report to you first hand that there’s no sleeping there. Not really, anyway. Sure, the street I was camped out on was lovely and quiet and lined with blooming trees and songbirds. More peaceful than the home I came from, situated in a much quieter city in comparison to buzzing LA. But the energy wouldn’t allow me to slumber. There was no drifting off in this otherwise quiet corner south of the Sunset Strip. There’s too much to do. Too much to soak in.

First off, there are fruit trees flourishing everywhere. I’m not sure if these mile-high godsends of shade are meant to be harvested by the general public, but there were no signs stating otherwise. Why let a perfectly ripe lemon or banana go to waste? And the mansions that line these streets aren’t what you would imagine in this overzealous zip code. Sure, they’re grand in stature and design, but most have been sub-divided from the luxurious castles they once were and turned into multiple rental suites.

I can’t seem to visit WeHo without being drawn to the intrigue and glitterati underbelly that exists at the famed Chateau Marmont. Can’t do it. Call me seduced by celebrity if you must, but it’s the history of the joint that I find irresistible. If only the tormented spirits who haunt the hotels dark and twisting corridors could talk. Maybe they can, depending on which psychic you talk to (and there are plenty). This time we spotted the gorgeous Rose McGowan donning a pixie cut and a cute Prada shift.

Pool parties are part and parcel when staying in West Hollywood. Not just for the people watching or sipping cocktails among social climbers, but because it’s so damn hot. Hollywood can get sticky, even in the dead of winter, so take my advice and seek out a pool situation. SkyBar at the Mondrian and The Standard both allow non-guests to hang by the pool and use the towels and loungers, if you’re spending a bit of cash on booze and food. The Standard has a $30 USD minimum per person, which is easy to burn after a few poolside Pimm’s cups.

Live music is probably what lured me to the Hollywood Hills in the first place, and it’s certainly my reason to return. The House of Blues on the Sunset Strip books everything from A-list rockers to up-and-coming musicians and tribute bands. The Viper Room seems to have an otherworldly list of talent each night, as every time I go, I’m floored by some band I’ve never heard of. Whiskey a Go Go is not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the crowds and are looking to channel the ghost of Jim Morrison, by all means – walk on through to the other side.

Once you’ve recovered from WeHo’s nightlife, head straight to Melrose. Not because the broad who inspired the schwing at one time fictionally resided here, but because it’s the perfect mix of high-end designers, mom-and-pop shops and savory eats to cure your hangover anxiety.

Start with a stripped down – literally – rock shirt purchase from Joseph at Yonada. Not only does he carry every concert T you could dream of, his regular clientele range from Kirk Hammett of Metallica to Zayne, formally of One Direction. For the gals, he’ll snip, tear and shred your T to perfection, creating a custom fit not found at your run-of-the-mill chain store, all for $25 a pop. After Joseph has transformed you from weary tourist to a sycophant with street cred, turn the corner and follow the Where the Wild Things Are street art towards Maison Richard for the best French fare in the neighbourhood. Cap off any Sunday on Melrose sifting through endless tables of kitsch and one-of-a-kind décor at the Melrose Trading Post.

If stargazing – of the celestial variety – is your jam, join the legions of tourists and locals alike to the Griffith Observatory. The night we ventured to this iconic white dome that darts out over the Hollywood Hills, the moon was obstructed by clouds. So the operators of the giant Carl Zeiss telescope were forced to turn the massive apparatus slightly west to catch a crystal clear glimpse of Jupiter and the three moons that surround it. It was one of those pinch me moments.

Speaking of the Hills, hiking is where WeHo gains points, when comparing it to the coast. The Cahuenga Peak trail to the Wisdom Tree was my favorite, but for an easier trek, try Runyon Canyon but don’t drive there. Take an Uber from your hotel, as you’ll never find a place to park.

Finally, back to where WeHo was born, the gay district is fun and fabulous and crawling with fit, young people living it up. Where else can you get male go-go dancers during happy hour?

The coast is what tugs at my heartstrings, but WeHo has definitely caught hold of my soul.

All I wanna do, is have some fun.
Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.

– All I Wanna Do, Sheryl Crow

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