When it comes to live music in Los Angeles, the venue is just as important as the band playing it. Arenas and clubs serve their purpose, but during the hot summer months, the best place to see your favorite musical act is always under the stars. From legendary outdoor amphitheaters to unexpected settings, here are five places where we’re hoping to catch an outdoor concert in the City of Angels during the next few months.
Sitting in one of the Hollywood Bowl’s 17,000-plus seats, sipping a bold Napa Cabernet and gazing up at the Hollywood Hills (which flawlessly frame the famous Hollywood sign) defines summer in Los Angeles. In addition to postcard-worthy views and a thriving pre-concert, bring-your-own-picnic culture, the Bowl is the summer home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and whichever renowned conductor might be leading the orchestra on Tuesday and Thursday evenings throughout the summer (including the orchestra’s own Gustavo Dudamel, who will guide the group through Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa de Requiem on August 13).
The Bowl also features the KCRW World Festival, which offers shows from bands like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (August 4) and M83 (September 22); a weekly Jazz Wednesdays series that spotlights performers such as Buddy Guy, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Natalie Cole; a sing-along to The Sound of Music (September 21); and the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular, two evenings of classical tunes punctuated with fireworks booming overhead (August 16-17).
Everything performed there this summer will sound better as well: The Hollywood Bowl is the only concert venue in the country to use the new L-Acoustics K1 sound system, which unifies the sound from multiple speakers to give the effect of one smooth source.
Nestled among the trees and hiking trails at the base of Griffith Park, seeing a show at the 5,800-seat Greek Theatre feels like being in the midst of an ancient Greek Temple. The open-air venue boasts its original Greek columns from 1930 and was the setting for the 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie. This summer, music lovers can spend their evenings alfresco, watching hit musicians and bands that range from Sheryl Crow (September 14) and Thievery Corporation (September 20), to Greek Theatre staples such as Chicago (August 2) and the Gipsy Kings (August 3).
The storied resting place for Hollywood’s creative guard recently began showcasing popular bands on their Fairbanks Lawn within the cemetery. Just steps from famed guitarist Jonny Ramone’s statue and gravesite, concertgoers can pay homage before laying down blankets and breaking out a picnic spread on the grassy field leading up to the stage. This season, acts such as Grizzly Bear (August 9) and The National (August 11) promise lively performances at the famed burial ground.
The world-class museum designed by architect Richard Meier comes alive this summer with music from up-and-coming artists and DJs. Spend your day perusing the Getty’s renowned collection of paintings (Vincent van Gogh’s “Irises” is a prized part of the collection), photos and antiquities; when the sun sets and the sky turns pink, head to the central courtyard to hear La Santa Cecilia (August 24), a band named after the patron saint of musicians that brings music fans to their feet with an eclectic fusion of rock, funk, Cumbia, punk and samba.
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without catching a glimpse of this iconic site. Beach days around the pier transcend into music-filled evenings during the 29th annual Twilight Concert Series, sponsored by KCRW, Southern California’s NPR station. With the roller coasters and carnival atmosphere of Pacific Park as your backdrop, spread out on your beach blanket and gaze up at the pier to hear a series of artists and acts such as The English Beat (August 15), Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (August 29), and reggae legend Jimmy Cliff (September 12).
Photos courtesy of Robert Mora, Hollywood Forever, Santa Monica Pier and Los Angeles Philharmonic