Your Ultimate A-List "In" -- Brad Thomas, a former promoter turned "premiere nightlife concierge" will make sure you are taken care of. By his estimation, he's worked with about 80 clubs over the past 12 years in the entertainment business, including some of the most influential people behind the scenes. He knows his stuff. And he's quickly becoming the preferred resource for out-of-town visitors who don't have established connections, but are happy to pony up the cash to tap his network. Say you want to enjoy dinner at Katsuya Hollywood, followed by a table at the Roxbury? No problem. Do you want to show up in a Ferrari or would you prefer limo service? Either way, consider it done. Afraid the paparazzi will end up stalking you? Personal security can be arranged. And so forth. Call tel. 818/515-3760 or visit his website at http://bthomashollywood.com.
The Live Music Scene
Los Angeles's music scene is extremely diverse, to say the least, a daunting and dizzying beast. But on any given night, finding something to satisfy any musical taste is easy because this city is at the center of the entertainment industry. Every day countless national and international acts are drawn here. From acoustic rock to jazz-fusion, heavy metal to Latin funk, and up-and-coming to put-to-pasture, L.A. has got it all.
But there's a rub. The big events are easy to find, but by the time you get to town, odds are the good tickets will be gone. The best advice is to plan ahead. On the Internet, both Ticketmaster and concert business trade publication Pollstar (www.pollstar.com) have websites that include tour itineraries of acts that are on -- or will be going on -- the road. Just start your search in advance. For a listing of smaller shows closer to the date of your arrival, both L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times "Calendar" section have websites . Sometimes tickets may become available at the box office before shows, or when all else fails, try "negotiating" with some of the locals in front of the venue.
Large Concert Venues -- Mostly gone are the days of the behemoth stadium shows, excepting, of course, the occasional U2 or Rolling Stones tour. Still, major national and international acts tend to be attracted to some of the city's larger venues.
The crown of Downtown and home to the Lakers and Clippers pro basketball teams is the Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St. (tel. 213/742-7340; www.staplescenter.com). Along with the new 7,200-seat Nokia Theatre (www.nokiatheatre.com), this combination sports/event stadium is the city's primary concert venue. Part of the $4.5-billion, 4-million-square-foot L.A. LIVE complex (www.lalive.com) -- which opened late 2008 and early 2009 adjacent to Staples and the Los Angeles Convention Center -- the Nokia Theatre hosts star-studded award ceremonies and more than 150 live annual performances a year.
Amphitheaters are the staple of national rock and pop concert tours. Los Angeles's two main warriors are the outdoor Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles (tel. 323/665-5857; www.greektheatrela.com), and the indoor Gibson Amphitheatre (formerly Universal Amphitheatre), Universal City Drive, Universal City (tel. 818/622-4440), each seating about 6,000. Both are among the most accommodating and comfortable facilities for big-name acts. Nearly as beautiful as the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek books a full season of national acts ranging from the White Stripes and Robert Plant to Al Green and Melissa Etheridge. After a recent multimillion-dollar renovation project, the Greek is nicer than ever. Be advised that getting out afterward can still be a problem, as cars are stacked in packed lots, making exiting a painfully slow process.
Gibson Amphitheatre has one advantage over the Greek: It has a roof, so it can book year-round. It's not as aesthetically pleasing, but it is quite comfortable and none of its seats are too far from the stage. For some events, the "Party in the Pit" offers a general admission section next to the stage. In addition to pop stars from the Strokes to Kid Rock, the Universal hot spot has booked such theater events as The Who's Tommy. While the neon jungle of Universal's CityWalk doesn't appeal to everyone, it does offer plenty of pregig dining and drinking options.
Orange County's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (formerly Irvine Meadows), 8800 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine (tel. 949/855-8096), which holds 15,000 (including a general-admission lawn way in the back), has hosted KROQ's often-spectacular summertime "Weenie Roast" and KIIS FM's "Wango Tango," as well as a plethora of touring rock acts, including recent shows from Dave Matthews Band and Coldplay. If you're going from L.A. on a weekday, get an early start, because Irvine is located at one of the most heavily traveled freeway junctions in the country.
Another popular venue is the Honda Center (formerly Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim), 2695 E. Katella Ave. (1 mile east of I-5), Anaheim (tel. 714/704-2500; www.hondacenter.com), a combination sports/event stadium that's gaining momentum as a primary concert venue. It's about an hour from Los Angeles via the always-crowded I-5 freeway, but it's convenient to Disneyland-goers (about 8 min. away).
The Club Scene
With more small clubs than you can swing a Stratocaster at, Los Angeles is the place for live music. Check L.A. Weekly (www.laweekly.com) to see who's in town during your visit. Unless otherwise noted, listed clubs admit only patrons 21 and over.
Jon Brion Live -- When it comes to real musical talent, few L.A. music lovers will argue that there's a better all-around musician than Jon Brion. At a Los Angeles club called Largo at the Coronet, Brion performs an amazing one-man show that always leaves his audience in awe. Producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, he has an amazing ability to play multiple instruments simultaneously. (He is the house band at Largo.) Brion is famous for making up songs on the spot, usually from titles shouted from the audience. He's also well known for his on-stage antics and idiosyncratic takes on famous classics such as the Beatles and Cheap Trick. Brion on Brion: "It's like spraying musical Raid on the classics, until each dying song flips on its back and wiggles its little musical legs in surrender." His shows tend to start pretty late (for Californians, that is), but it's worth the wait; check the schedule at Largo's website to see when he's playing. And don't be surprised if Elvis Costello or Beck makes a guest appearance. (Kanye West made a cameo rap the last time I was here.)
All That Free Jazz -- Art, jazz, beer, and free -- baby, that's for me. That's why I always mark my calendar for the free jazz concerts hosted Friday evenings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles (tel. 323/857-6000; www.lacma.org). The museum hosts free concerts in its open central courtyard every Friday night April through Thanksgiving from 6 to 8pm. It's a great way to listen to good music with a glass of wine on a warm Los Angeles evening.
The once momentous popularity of Latin dance and swing has faded, with the former still enjoying a built-in audience of Latino Angelenos and other lovers of salsa, while the latter is now just a small subculture (RIP The Derby). Though the styles subtly change, DJ culture is forever on the rise locally, featuring noteworthy shows at some cool clubs; such dance clubs, however, can come and go as quickly as you can say "jungle rave." Mere whispers of a happening thing elsewhere can practically relegate a club to been-there-done-that status. Check the L.A. Weekly for updates on specific club information.
Dinner and a Show and DJs and Dancing -- For a truly surreal spin on the old dinner-and-a movie date night, or for a fun group outing, check out Hollywood's Supperclub, 6675 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (tel. 323/466-1900; www.supperclub.com). Based on an all-in-one restaurant, DJ, performance art, and after-party dancing concept that began in Amsterdam, Hollywood's old Vogue theater has been transformed into an avant-garde party space. The evening typically begins in the lobby with an amuse bouche and a shot, then moves to the middle staging room (in neither place are you more than a few feet from a bar), before the curtains are drawn and guests are escorted to their "beds" (more like flat couches). A multi-course meal ensues while DJs spin everything from George Michael to Afrika Bambaataa. Interactivity is key; be it with costumed performers or flirtatious neighbors. From $75 all-inclusive.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.