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Los Angeles is rarely left off of the tour itineraries of your favorite bands. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, everyone comes to LA. But big acts filing in and out of the city on a near constant basis can take a noticeable toll on your bank account. Living on a diet of concert tickets and overpriced and watered down drinks just isn’t very sustainable.
If you live in the city — or are stopping by for a visit — you should at least consider ditching the big concert venues to show love to the local music scene. On a surface level, it’ll seem like you’re giving up a lot. Gone are the professional high-production light shows. The sound is noticeably unmixed. Sometimes you won’t even be able to enter one of these venues without *gasp* cash on hand. But there’s nothing quite like the visceral connection between artist and performer that you’ll find in the small DIY space. It’s intimate and direct and meaningful. A journey based on a relationship between performers and audience, rooted in participation and community.
Admittedly, not every gig in the DIY music space will be special. Some will be downright bad. But everybody finds that act, the one that they latch on to and watch closely for that inevitable moment of unexplainable magic where an artist surprises you and themselves. Everyone should experience it at least once. Especially in a city like LA, where dreams are currency and “eight people can turn to sold-out shows in a minute.” Here’s how you can get started.
Ham & Eggs Tavern
Ham & Eggs is a favorite amongst locals and visitors to LA alike. This small tavern has regular music performances (three shows during the work week) and has become one of the most popular spots to watch up and coming bands in the LA music scene.
We highly recommend checking out the shows curated by Late Breakfast, which is a monthly concert series that occurs every second Sunday of the month and focuses exclusively on cutting edge experimental music. The best place to catch artists mangling beats and setting a vibe with experimental ambient music.
Average Price: Free.
Nearby Eats: Check out Chica’s Tacos just a short walk away from Ham & Eggs for delicious and authentic organic Mexican food. More legit than Chipotle and it actually tastes good.
Find it at: 433 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
The Airliner Nightclub
Located in Lincoln Heights, the Airliner was once the location of the legendary Low-End Theory concert series that gave artists like Flying Lotus and Tyler The Creator a platform to experiment. Even big name electronic artists like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke couldn’t resist the allure of Low-End Theory — he played several surprise DJ sets at the space.
While those glory days have since passed, the Airliner is still a great place to catch experimental hip-hop and electronic music in LA.
Average Price: $10 at the door.
Nearby Eats: King Taco is just up Broadway. It’s cheap, it’s open late, and it tastes delicious after swigging down dive bar beer.
Find it at: 2419 North Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Chewing Foil Gallery
The Chewing Foil Collective creates some of the best designed DIY spaces in all of Los Angeles. While dive bars have always been a great place for local bands to cut their teeth, DIY art galleries like Chewing Foil elevate the performance space with their key eye for design, and multi-purpose functionality.
Acting as an art gallery, label and self-described creative incubator, no matter what brings you to the Chewing Foil Gallery, it’s worth your time. This is a great space for small touring bands as well — allowing you to get a glimpse of music outside of LA, which is always refreshing and adds a nice bit of variety to the space.
Though the Chewing Foil Gallery isn’t currently open on a daily basis to the public, it does book private events with open RSVPs. It’s definitely worth catching a show, for the design alone.
Average Price: $8-$15.
Nearby Eats: For late night Korean BBQ hit up Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in Koreatown.
Find it at: RSVP for address, as the Chewing Foil Gallery isn’t open to the public yet.
The Smell is a legendary spot in the LA music scene. At the height of its glory days, every week brought the chance to catch a glimpse of an artist about to break into the larger indie music world.
The small venue is dark and windowless, still retaining its edge from the era when downtown LA was seedier and more dangerous. Exposed brick walls create a cavernous reverb effect that will leave your ears ringing during the drive back home.
For 21 years, the Smell has been a staple of the underground LA music scene, and it has met the prospect of permanent closure many times. Yet it still stands, a true monument to local LA music.
Average Price: $5, unless otherwise noted in rare cases.
Nearby Eats: Orochon Ramen is nearby and serves up spicy ramen. Try and make the Orochon Wall Of Fame by ordering the spiciest ramen bowl.
Find it at: 247 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
When a local band stars playing shows at the Echo and Echoplex, you know they’re primed to take off into festival territory. The two venues — linked, yet physically separate spaces — seem to attract the best local talent in LA, thanks to their well-curated booking. The spots also lure in more established acts who are looking for a small and intimate space to try out new material.
Everyone in LA who frequents the Echo and Echoplex has a firm opinion on which venue is the better of the two, so get out there and find out where you stand.
Average Price: Tickets can average Free to $20, depending on the act. Generally, you can save some money by buying tickets early.
Nearby Eats: Head to Two Boots Pizza, order a Mr. Pink, and thank us later.
Find the Echo at: 1822 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Find the Echoplex at: The alley at 1154 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles CA, 90026