Los Angeles has long been one of the biggest destinations for struggling young rockers to come out, live cheap, and struggle to grab a spot on stage to take their shot at that all-important record contract. The clubs in the Sunset district, particularly those on the Sunset Strip, incubated some of the biggest rock acts of all time long before anybody knew who they were. The top three clubs drip rock history from their very walls.
You might want to hold your nose when you first walk into the Whisky A Go Go (8901 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 310/652-4202, www.whiskyagogo.com, cover $10). Despite a stench almost as memorable as its sound, throngs of music fans pack into the Whisky every night of the week. Most nights you’ll get a lineup of new bands—sometimes as many as seven in one evening. For those shows, you can pay about $10 in advance or $12 at the door to see groups that might (or might not) be the Next Big Thing.
The Whisky also hosts many cover and tribute bands that pay homage to the elder statesmen that once played here, such as Led Zeppelin and The Doors. And once in a great while, the Whisky hosts a major event like The Police reunion tours, or a performance by a current star.
Almost next door to the Whisky you’ll find The Roxy Theatre (9009 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, http://theroxyonsunset.com). A comparative newcomer to the scene, The Roxy opened in 1973 with Neil Young performing. The second(ish) generation of heavy-duty rock acts made their name here (think Guns & Roses, Jane’s Addiction, and Pearl Jam). Today you’ll find the newest acts gracing the stage. Most shows feature three to five bands. The Roxy also puts up non-musical shows, from standup comedy to full-on theatrical productions to performance art.
The big black-box theater has an open dance floor, comfy-ish booths (if you can get one), and bare-bones food service during shows. Nearby parking is nearly non-existent, so think about taking public transit or a cab to the show. You’ll find the performance calendar on the website, and tickets available through major ticket agents. For one of the best after-hours parties on the strip, try to get into On the Rox, located directly above The Roxy. Or stagger next door to the Rainbow Bar & Grill (9015 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 310/278-4232, daily 11 a.m.–2 a.m.).
It’s not on the Strip, but its reputation is just as big and bad as its brethren. The Troubadour (9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, www.troubadour.com) opened its doors in 1957. Over its more than 50 years, Bob Dylan jammed, total unknown comic Steve Martin sang, Tom Waits was discovered, Billy Joel opened for somebody else, Metallica headlined for the very first time, and countless A-list bands have recorded in and even about The Troubadour (and my husband once played the Troubadour!).
Today, you’ll find everyone from Coldplay to Fiona Apple to the newest amateur acts at The Troubadour. If you’re in town past the weekend, come on down for a fabulous “Free Monday” and save your money for drinks. You can check the events calendar in advance to find your favorite bands, then buy tickets online or via fax. If you’ve decided on a whim to hit tonight’s show, you can buy tickets at the on-site box office on the day of the show only, so long as the show isn’t sold out.
If you’re looking for something smaller in the way of a semi-underground club, your best bet is to ask around once you’re on the ground in L.A. hot spots turn to cold spots quickly here, and the locals usually know what’s up.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition