50 Best Live Music Venues in California

By Jennifer Anderson- GoodDeedSeats.Com

Reviews Concert Venues

From GoodDeedSeats.Com:

Due to being the home of Hollywood and Disneyland, California is synonymous with entertainment.  Therefore, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Golden State has some of the best live music venues in the world.

It was a daunting task to review all the live music venues in California and create a list of just 50.  California is a big place and Californians are huge music fans.

To make our task a little easier, we excluded all venues with a capacity over 20,000.  That's why Staples Center and the Mattress Firm Amphitheatre didn't make our list.

We looked at several criteria but when it came to making the final decision on whether to add a venue to our list, we looked at just three:

  1. They need to frequently host some type of live music event. 
  2. They need to be both patron-friendly and performer-friendly. 
  3. They need to cultivate a live music experience that's memorable and very enjoyable.


Using those three factors, among others, allowed us to create what you'll find below, our list of the 50 best live music venues in the great state of California.

ANAHEIM:

Juke Joint

“A place where friends can drink”
735 North Anaheim Boulevard
(714) 778-1397
Monday through Sunday: 6am to 2am (subject to change, always call ahead)

The Juke Joint is an award-winning downtown bar beloved by punkers, rockers, and those who like to have fun.  At the Juke Joint, you can enjoy live music as well as more than 50 beers (20 are on tap), Keno, and the big game/big UFC match.   
Getting There: Half mile from the Packing Plant
Venue Facts

    Established in 1978
    Three pool tables
    Internet dart boards

Booking Examples: Guttermouth, Hot Rod Trio, Mindwarz

COSTA MESA

The Wayfarer

“A house of social provisions”
843 West 19th Street
(949) 764-0039
Monday through Sunday: 5pm to 2am (subject to change, always call ahead)

The Wayfarer features live music, libations, and appetizing pub dishes.  This venue is the result of the genius, hard work, and inspiration of its owner, Jeffrey Chon.  He also owns the Tabu Shabu in Costa Mesa and Alley Restaurant & Bar in Newport Beach.  Tuesday night is dedicated to reggae music.
Getting There: You'll find The Wayfarer between Monrovia Avenue and Placentia Avenue.
Venue Facts

    The Wayfarer opened in July of 2014.
    Formerly known as “Detroit Bar”
    Capacity: 300

Booking Examples: Lindi Ortega, Purple Mountains, and Johnzo West & The Wayward Souls

LONG BEACH

Gaslamp

“Music + Bar + Kitchen”
6251 East Pacific Coast Highway
(562) 596-4718
Wednesday: 5pm to 1am
Thursday through Saturday: 5pm to 2am
Sunday: 10am to whenever (subject to change, always call ahead)

Gaslamp is a high-energy music venue, bar, and restaurant.  This live music venue is erected on the corner of the PCH and Loynes.  Sing karaoke on Wednesday and enjoy country music on Thursdays.  If it's Friday then it's “80's with Knyght Ryder.” On Saturdays, Gaslamp hosts concerts, DJs, and/or UFC.
Getting There: To get there from 405, 605, or 22: exit on 7th street, take left at Bellflower, and then a left onto the Pacific Coast Highway (for complete directions visit venue's website).
Venue Facts

    General manager is Mike Neufeld.
    Outdoor seating is available.
    Checkout their huge chandelier.

Booking Examples: Tribute bands, Warren G, Metal Jam 2017

Alex's Bar

“Dive Bar”
2913 East Anaheim Street
562-434-8292
Monday through Saturday: 5pm to 2am
Sunday: 3pm to 2am

Alex's Bar is a happening locale to appreciate live music and pleasant libations.  The vibe is cordial and welcoming.  Visitors rave about Alex's attentive staff.  If you need more reasons to check out this cool, hip establishment, parts of “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny” were filmed here.
Getting There: Entrance to Alex's Bar is in back parking lot.
Venue Facts

    Founded in 2000
    They frequently host Karaoke nights.
    All shows are 21 and over.

Booking Examples: The Billy Bones, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, CJ Ramone

 
Sgt. Peppers Dueling Pianos

“It was twenty years ago today…”
91 South Pine Avenue
(562) 499-4600)
Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday: 7pm to 12am
Friday and Saturday: 6pm to 2am (subject to change, always call ahead)

At Sgt. Peppers Dueling Pianos, you'll almost hear as much laughter as you will music.  That's because two piano players lead patrons in sing-a-longs.  You want to hear your favorite song?  You want to sing along to your favorite song?  Then come to Sgt. Peppers.  Bottom line, you'll have the time of your life.

Getting There: One block north of Shoreline Drive
Venue Facts

    Indoor/outdoor bar
    They do have a menu—try the McCartney's Wings.
    All shows are 21 and over.

Booking Examples: Ronnie Shelton, Scott Doyle, Martha Boles, Time Butterworth

LOS ANGELES:

Hollywood Bowl

Performance and event venue
2301 North Highland Avenue
323-850-2000
Box office hours vary.  See website for schedule.

If aliens landed on Earth and wanted to experience an outdoor concert, you'd probably take them to the Hollywood Bowl.  Not only is it one of the most famous amphitheaters in the world, it's also one of the best.  Pollstar consistently votes the Hollywood Bowl the nation's “Best Major Outdoor Concert Venue.”
Getting There: To avoid traffic try the bowl's shuttle service.
Venue Facts

    The Hollywood Bowl opened in 1922.
    The Hollywood Bowl seats 17,500.
    The iconic “band shell” was replaced in 2004.

Booking Examples: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lady Antebellum, Queen + Adam Lambert

 
El Rey Theatre

“General admission, standing room venue”
5515 Wilshire Boulevard
(323) 936-6400

The El Rey Theatre began life as a movie theatre.  It was turned into a live music venue in 1994.  As you might expect from an iconic building with a rich past, The El Rey Theatre is a registered historic-cultural monument.  You'll find the El Rey in the Miracle Mile area of Mid-Wilshire.
Getting There: LA Metro lines 20 & 21 serve The El Rey Theater. They stop in front of the theatre on Wilshire (review bus schedule before leaving for your destination).
Venue Facts

    Built in 1936
    Art deco theater with a grand ballroom and a sweeping staircase
    Capacity: 771

Booking Examples: Mount Kimbie, Gavin James, Brother Ali

The Wiltern

Live music venue
3790 Wilshire Boulevard
(213) 388-1400
Box office open 1 to 3 hours before show time (subject to change, always call ahead).

The Wiltern was originally a vaudeville theater and has twice been saved from the wrecking ball.  The venue underwent four years of renovation in the early 1980s and then further modification in the early part of this century.  Its interior is elegant, sophisticated, and unlike any theatre in the world.
Getting There: The Wiltern sits directly across from the Wilshire/Western station.
Venue Facts

    Built in 1931
    Famous for its art deco sunburst on ceiling
    Standing room only capacity: 2,300
    Seated capacity: 1,850

Booking Examples: David Crosby, The Jesus and the Mary Chain, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

 
Largo at the Coronet

Performance art theatre
366 North La Cienega Boulevard
(310) 855-0350
Will call is usually opened at least two hours before show time (subject to change, always call ahead).

Largo is a funny music venue.  Literally.  When they're not hosting world renowned musicians, they're hosting hilarious comics.  Arrive early, get your seat, and then enjoy a Guinness or a glass of wine in The Little Room.  Once you get a seat, you can leave Largo and get a bite somewhere in the neighborhood.
Getting There: Largo is one block north of Beverly Blvd at Oakwood Street.
Venue Facts

    General manager is Michael Griffee
    Don't show up late.  You won't be seated.
    Cash only

Booking Examples: Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Wild Horses

 
Five Star Bar

“Art.  Music.  Burgers.  Beer.”
267 South Main Street
323-428-4492
Monday through Friday: 12pm to 2am
Saturday and Sunday: 10am to 2am (subject to change, always call ahead)

Five Star Bar has a wonderful vibe and a terrific staff.  There are a lot of good people who work at this establishment.  Heavy metal bands are frequently on the marquee, but they do book acts from other genres.  If you're there before the music starts, make sure you enjoy one of their scrumptious burgers.
Getting There: Two blocks west of city hall
Venue Facts

    50 styles of beer
    Serves lunch
    Jukebox

Booking Examples: Scrapmetal, Spacetrucker, Greenskull

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