West Hollywood has long been a cultural hub of the art scene in Los Angeles. It has hosted everything from upscale boutiques to exclusive art galleries to roaring comedy clubs. Perhaps the art with roots that run the deepest, though, is music. Bands and artists have come from modest beginnings and been discovered at clubs around the city; historic performances have occurred and created nights that became legendary. So many performances and events have been relegated to memory alone. Still, the status of many West Hollywood clubs and venues holds fast, and they’re visited just as often today as they were in the past. Bands still frequent the locations and sell-out shows. Here are some of the most iconic West Hollywood music clubs!
The Allure of Music Clubs
There are many different kinds of music venues, from stadiums to concert halls to outdoor stages to arenas. But none are as intimate and historic as clubs. Clubs are small and generally function as bars and grills during the off-hours. They don’t boast a very large capacity – usually only a few hundred people, if that, are able to comfortably fit inside. There are generally no boundaries between the audience and the stage.
This lack of a buffer adds to the intimacy. It’s one of the reasons many artists like to play clubs – they prefer atmospheres with dedicated fans where they can interact with everyone. Intimacy is important, and it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to recreate that intimacy at a sold-out arena where the nearest fan is 100 feet away.
Music clubs also afford musicians to spend time there as fans themselves, to join other bands in impromptu jam sessions, and to ideally blend in with the crowd.
If you’re at a club, you may very well have an experience unlike any other because of the closeness of the band and the fans.
Since its opening in 1957, the Troubadour has been responsible for being the launching pad of such iconic acts as Elton John, Buffalo Springfield, Tom Waits, and more. Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles met while attending a show, which just proves that you don’t even need to be performing to strike gold.
The Troubadour has always evolved with music. Though it began as a haven for folk, it eventually became a hotspot for the popular bands of the day. The hard rock explosion of the 70s prompted Led Zeppelin to make an appearance, and as metal took off in the 80s, Metallica and Guns ‘n’ Roses made debuts. Popular rock bands of the 90s and 2000s continued to appear, including Korn, the White Stripes, Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more.
Today, the venue hosts everything from hip hop acts to alternative rock, and many popular musicians will make appearances to watch the shows of the bands they love. You can visit the Troubadour at 9081 Santa Monica Blvd West Hollywood, CA 90069, and look for upcoming shows to attend here: https://troubadour.com/calendar/
The Roxy Theatre
The Roxy Theatre is one of the Sunset Strip’s iconic venues. Despite being labeled a theatre, it still very much holds the personality of a club with its low stage, open front standing area, and seated side sections.
As the story goes, the owners of the Roxy Theatre opened the venue in the early 1970s, and the first three performances were all by Neil Young. More famous musicians like Frank Zappa and the Temptations continued to pour in, establishing the Roxy as a must-attend venue for fans and a must-travel-to gig for bands.
The Roxy Theatre has a number of accolades, including the Best Live Music Venue in Los Angeles, which is a heavy claim given the competition in the area. You can visit it for yourself at 9009 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, or have a look at their calendar of upcoming shows here: https://www.theroxy.com/events
The Viper Room
Johnny Depp’s very own Viper Room was not always a club. Its modest beginning as a grocery store is often overlooked, although it did transform into a music venue in the 1970s.
In 1993, the club’s opening night featured a performance by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. From there, bands flooded in – everyone from Johnny Cash to the Strokes had a gig at the Viper Room. The club continues to host music, and it’s been lent out as a location to a number of films. Special events are also the norm at the club.
The Viper Room may very well be the most infamous location on this list. But if you want to be sure to visit an iconic location before it is demolished and revamped as part of a high-rise attraction, shoot over. The Viper Room is at 8852 West Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069, and you can see who’s what’s next for it here: https://www.viperroom.com/calendar.php
Whisky a Go-Go
Whisky a Go-Go opened in 1964 and was regarded as the first discotheque in America – but it later became a bastion of rock and roll. There are many ways to explain how important the venue was in the history of rock, but how about this tidbit to show the magnitude: the house band that worked the venue was the Doors. Yes – one of the biggest rock bands in the world started as a house band for this small club!
In addition, bands like The Who and Cream made headlining debuts at the venue. This trend continued with more musicians appearing, like Van Halen and the Ramones, until the venue had a temporary closure before reopening with more minimalism. In the 1980s, Whisky a Go-Go hosted more thrash and metal bands, and fans had more room to bang into each other during the frenzied, hectic performances.
If you’re looking for a good time, you can check out Whisky a Go-Go at 8901 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069. Check out their upcoming events here: https://whiskyagogo.com/calendar/
The Rainbow Bar & Grill
The building that houses the Rainbow has been present for nearly a century. The club itself opened in the 1970s alongside many other historic music venues.
The Runaways were formed in the parking lot – not even in the venue itself. It became a spot for bands to gather and hang out as much as it was a place to catch a show. Lemmy of Motorhead fame had a perpetual spot in the venue, eventually culminating in a statue being erected there in his honor.
Pay a visit to the Rainbow by going to 9015 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, or make a reservation here: https://www.rainbowbarandgrill.com/#
Enjoying Sunset Plaza
West Hollywood has legendary venues everywhere, and it’s also home to the iconic Sunset Plaza. Spend some time shopping, eating, and enjoying the sights before you go to a concert! Make your visit memorable and set foot where the most famous individuals in the world have also strolled – Sunset Plaza.