Sarah Tomlinson is a Brooklyn- and Los Angeles-based journalist and celebrity ghostwriter. Her father-daughter memoir, Good Girl, is out now from sister company Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2006, I was lucky enough to work as a freelance rock critic for The Los Angeles Times and to have many friends in the music industry. This meant once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see incredible concerts, from Barry Manilow on Valentine's Day at the Staples Center to Glenn Danzig on Halloween at the Greek Theatre, plus so many up-and-coming and established artists at venues in-between. Here's my vote for the five best live music venues in Los Angeles.
Related: Shopping Guide To LA's Little Tokyo
611 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Okay, true enough, this isn't actually a music venue. But this nonprofit theater dedicated to supporting the best in classic and new indie cinema has been known to screen some incredible films with live musical scores. Not to mention movies with musical import, often with live performances by artists featured in the films, from Kris Kristofferson and Harry Dean Stanton answering questions and dueting at a screening of the classic 1972 film,Cisco Pike, to the screening of the moving Ramblin' Jack Elliott documentary, The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack, made by his daughter Aiyana, and the raucous Thelonius Monster doc, Bob and the Monster, which both featured live shows by their subjects.
1822 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
An early outpost in the hip neighborhood of Echo Park, the Echo has long attracted fans of punk and indie rock for packed and sweaty high octane gigs. Established indie acts like Justin Townes Earle and Two Gallants played here on their way up, and garage rock stalwarts like The Dirtbombs continue to play here just because. A variety of themed nights offer the chance to discover new artists in genres from punk to country, as well as down and dirty dance parties.
610 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Sure, it's in an area of central Los Angeles that borders Little Ethiopia, and technically, it's a supper club, with a full dinner menu and plenty of classic cocktails served in a swanky room (at least by rock club standards). But The Mint has been known to attract enough authentic country artists to makes it seem like it could just as well be in Bakersfield or Nashville. Just take singer Ronee Blakley, perhaps best known for playing the country star, Barbara Jean, in Robert Altman's Nashville, who released an album recorded live at the Mint in 2008.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Lush and centrally located, this Hollywood landmark features the burial sites of a veritable who's who: from silent screen heartthrob Rudolph Valentino to punk icon Johnny Ramone. In past seasons, the site has provided an inspired, atmospheric setting for concerts from The Flaming Lips playing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety to Sigor Ros creating ethereal indie magic. Also worth checking out are smaller concerts held in the Masonic Lodge.
McCabe's Guitar Shop
3101 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
A folk musician's dream, this West LA space includes a front room featuring a lovingly selected range of guitars, mandolins and banjos. But the real treasure is the back room, where modest rows of folding chairs are circled by dozens of gorgeous instruments, creating the cozy feeling of a living room show. Most of the greats have played here since the venue began hosting live music in 1969, from Joni Mitchell and John Lee Hooker to Robyn Hitchcock and PJ Harvey. It's the kind of space where you never know what living legend might drop in to join a set.
Related: Dining Guide To LA's Little Tokyo
for more features.