Since the 1980s, the indie rock scene in Los Angeles has flourished, thanks to both mainstream and intimate venues that allow alternative bands freedom to explore their emotions, expertise, off-the-wall fashion styles and distinctive sounds through live performances, with some commercial success. With praise from a supportive audience of enthusiasts, the independent music scene in LA rides the bucking bull of fame through communities like Koreatown, Echo Park, Silverlake and Los Feliz. These are prime areas credited with affording star power to the late lo-fi indie rock musician Elliott Smith and rise to such favored LA-based rock bands as Moving Units, Earlimart and Giant Drag.
247 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino film, patrons enter this underground dive from a creepy and gritty alleyway in downtown L.A. Once inside, action builds. Alcohol and drug free, this not-for-profit facility welcomes all ages and gives patrons a chance to groove out and bang their heads to some of the more talented, up-and-coming and entrenched artists and bands today’s indie rock environment has to offer. Even well-known rockers perform at this all-volunteer-run establishment, where neon hair, black lipstick and flannel shirts are in style. Some of the more popular groups that take the stage on a regular basis include the rock bands Abe Vigoda, Ancestors and Captain Ahab. This graffiti-decorated location does not make public its phone number, so it is best to either visit the club’s website for a list of slated concerts or send an email to email@example.com.
2906 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Price: $5 and up, depending on performing artist
Small, dark and narrow, this venue will please any hipster in search of an authentic dive bar. It offers one of the best sound systems to hear such indie rock bands as Mother Mother. One of the more notable home-grown groups to perform at this neighborhood hotspot is Ninja Academy, an instrumental rock duo that sold out its five-week residency at the club. Silverlake, located east of Hollywood, remains the epicenter of the alternative indie rock scene in L.A., due to the large number of alternative artists and groups that currently live in this hilly side of town. Quite a few local rock bands, including Warships, have utilized this launchpad’s infectious appeal to expand their own regional popularity to national notoriety. And on any given night, expect to sit or stand at arm’s length from a number of unsigned rock bands determined to give Red Hot Chili Peppers or Nirvana a blood-pumping run for their money.
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Whisky A Go-Go
8901 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Price: $10 to $20, depending on performing artist
A mainstay on the famous Sunset Strip since 1964, this historic landmark is where the rock and roll scene in L.A. received its first breath of life. This staunch proponent of the New Wave movement is recognized for the prominent role it played in helping to launch the stratospheric musical careers of such famous musicians as The Doors, its house band for a while. An ultra-popular tourist destination, it is also known for placing the local glam rock band L.A. Guns in the international spotlight. In addition to hosting some of the more iconic hard rock and heavy metal groups on the planet, including Metallica and Mötley Crüe, this vintage discothèque also provides a blazing stage for rising indie rock entertainers. Because this preeminent dance club still serves as host to the promotional needs of some of the industry’s greatest bands, including Black Sabbath, expect to be blown away by a superb sound system designed to explode with enough chest-thumping and hair-raising intensity to re-direct a cultural movement. Its hours of operation are determined by scheduled performances.
9081 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Price: $12 to $20, depending on performing artist
Ever since this crowd-driven club first opened its doors to the public in 1957, this intimate nightspot at the border of Beverly Hills remains one of L.A.’s more revered places to see emerging singer-songwriters and independent musicians. It is where hard rock band Guns N’ Roses was first showcased, a performance that resulted in an on-the-spot record deal. This is also where English rocker Elton John visits to watch his favorite performers. Touted as being the best-booked venue in the area, this up-close-and-personal setting that helped give rise to California’s own Papa Roach is widely known for putting on surprise concerts. In 2011, Grammy-award-winning recording artist Prince took to the stage twice in one night. Because this diverse club serves as a magnet for some of the more prolific record producers, agents and managers in today’s music industry, it remains a lodestone for talented, yet underexposed, independent artists that are still standing on the cutting edge of stardom.
El Rey Theatre
5515 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Originally built in 1936, this former cinema theater serves as a film location site and live music venue. El Rey, which means the king in Spanish, certainly lives up to its name when it comes to providing a hard-hitting outlet and eye-catching marquee for indie rock musicians. It is located in the world-famous Miracle Mile, one of L.A.’s preserved art-deco districts. This cultural monument to Tinsel Town’s rich entertainment history greets patrons with elegance, charm and a grand ballroom that is equipped with a full stage to present some of the more accomplished artists touring the independent rock circuit. An all-ages outfit, this brilliant work of art is an ideal place to see and hear some of the more popular indie rock bands, including Other Lives, which opened for the UK’s Radiohead during a North American tour in 2012. When alternative rockers outgrow the smaller places, this 700-seat centerpiece of top-drawer dazzle and high definition technology becomes the next step toward fame. Ticket prices vary, and its hours of operation are determined by confirmed performances.
Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning freelance journalist who covers the glittering nightlife and bustling music scene in Los Angeles, among other topics of social interest. Some of her contributions to the entertainment industry have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Samples of her unique writing style can be found on Examiner.com.