The El Rey Theatre has been a part of the Los Angeles nigthlife scene since 1994, but its history goes back much further, as is obvious with one look at its Art Deco building. Built in 1936 as a movie house and more recently designated as a historic-cultural monument, the architecture of the theater is worth a visit alone. Take in the stunning lobby with its sweeping staircases, massive chandeliers and grand ballroom (it's available for private events) then plan to stand for most of the live concerts held here. These days it is part of the AEG family, hosting shows virtually every weekend, as well as some weekdays. Acts range across musical genres, with alternative rock leading the way.
Teragram Ballroom has been a welcome addition to downtown Los Angeles, giving music-loving Angelenos another intimate venue to see live music. This DTLA concert space is on 7th Street, just blocks from Staples Center and the Microsoft Theater (the former Nokia Theatre), located in a renovated, century-old theater that was once a Hollywood movie palace. But unlike those two massive venues, the Teragram Ballroom only holds 600 people in this standing-room-only venue. The 9,000 square-foot theater offers special features for both artists and audiences: three dressing rooms, dedicated loading dock, spacious backstage, state-of-the-art sound system, three bars and a restaurant with plenty of space throughout to make the experience one of fun, rather than that of sweaty bodies jammed into a too-small space, all fighting to get the attention of a bartender. Instead, this well-thought-out venue makes one feel as if this is a perfectly planned dance party venue.
The Edison is an old-school club, a place that evokes the vibe of a swank speakeasy from Prohibition days, from its almost-secret alley entrance to its self-avowed "sense of romance" which requires patrons to dress with a sense of style. Which means do not show up in "athletic wear of any kind," nor baggy or torn jeans, flip flops or other scruffy attire or you'll be turned away at the door. Men must wear collared shirts and dress shoes. Once inside, The Edison is a wonderland of sights and sounds, a sunken space that was once a power station now transformed into a seductive club. You'll find specialty cocktails (Absinthe, anyone?), fine wines and a menu ranging from snacks to full-on dinner choices. Live music, DJs and even a aerialist show are some of the entertainment; but note it is only open Thursday through Saturday most weeks.
There's always something happening at Riviera 31 inside the Sofitel Hotel, including jazz on Mondays. Every Monday Riviera 31 hosts Jazz Eclectic, featuring Ryan Cross and his band playing classics and new tunes. You never know who's going to drop by, as previous star sightings have included Stevie Wonder and Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds. Wednesdays are Salsa night, when they push back the furniture and dance until dawn. The lively vibe draws a sophisticated crowd who savor cocktails created by mixologist Frederic Zemmour to evoke the French Riviera (try the Dolce & Riviera, made with Remy VSOP, Cointreau, Campari, cranberry and grapefruit juices) and nibble on Mediterranean bites crafted by Chef Pete Manfredini. Snag a spot on the patio as the sun goes down and you may just find yourself there when last call is shouted. It's the kind of place where you just want to hang out and enjoy.
Small, dark, and handsome, Harvelle's is one of L.A.'s favorites for live blues, rock and alternative music. In business since 1931, this Santa Monica landmark used to be a dark, smoke-filled dive, but nowadays it has gone sophisticated. The striking black-and-white decor gives the place a retro cool vibe, with the stage set off by its deep-red curtain backdrop. When popular bands come to play, the place gets jammed to the rafters, so you may want to arrive early to secure a seat. Whether you prefer the cutting-edge sounds of new rock artists or more traditional riffs from some of the greatest blues musicians alive today, you're sure to hear something terrific at Harvelle's.
Nightingale Plaza is the latest iteration of the West Hollywood party space that was once Greystone Manor. SBE, the restaurant-nightclub-hotel conglomerate that owns this place, transformed the West Hollywood space into what they call "an elite Hollywood nightclub." It's got it all: dining, DJs, dancing, private lounges and even a garden area (a spot for smokers to indulge). Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Nightingale Plaza is also open other nights for private events. The club still honors the Greystone name, offering "Greystone Sundays" with popular DJs on hand to keep the crowd dancing late into the night. Reservations are recommended, as this hotspot fills to capacity quickly and you'll find yourself stuck outside without your name on the list.
The Peppermint Club used to be Hooray Harry's, but now is transformed into a 1960s-inspired lounge designed to make listening to live music an up-close-and-personal experience, complete with high-end cocktails and bottle service. Open most nights a week (check their online calendar beforehand to make sure) and offering a state-of-the-art sound system, The Peppermint Club is a joint venture between the h.wood group (Bootsy Bellows, Poppy, etc.) and Interscope Records, which means music really is the focus of this fun retro nightclub. They welcome new musicians and DJs to join them â" there's even a spot on their website for bands to apply for a gig.
The Conga Room is a convivial place located in the heart of L.A. Live in Downtown Los Angeles. A fixture in the nightlife scene, the club is owned by some famous names, including Jennifer Lopez, Will.i.am of the Black-Eyed Peas, Jimmy Smits, and NBA star Baron Davis. The owners are an eclectic group, which means that the club books plenty of different musical talent, from Latino greats like Willie Colon to the hottest DJs around. And every so often, superstars like Drake, Justin Timberlake or Kendrick Lamar turn up to play. Beginning in September 2014, Power 106 radio personality Big Boy will host weekly special shows with an urban edge. And don't miss trying the Pan-Latin fare at BOCA, the restaurant incorporated into the club.
Located in West Hollywood, the center of L.A.'s gay community, the Abbey Food & Bar is a fixture in that neighborhood that's also known as "Boys' Town." The club is famous for its big martinis, sexy go-go dancers and slightly decadent vibe â" with four dance floors pulsating all night long, it's no surprise that there's often a line out the door. But the Abbey is more than a meat market, as owner David Cooley uses his famous club as a forum for advocating equal rights for the entire LGBT community. Don't miss his annual fundraising Oscar party, for you're sure to see some famous Hollywood faces in that crowd â" and most other nights, in fact.
One of L.A.'s classic clubs, The Mint is a little place with a big sound. The music-filled venue has packed them in since 1937, with just a small stage, minute dance floor and long, convivial bar and booths. You can grab a bite to eat in the back, but why not join the crowd right up front as you boogie down to bands ranging from New Orleans favorites like Trombone Shorty, Marcia Ball and Rebirth Brass Band to brand-new up-and-coming groups. Plus, you never know who might turn up on stage here; everyone from Stevie Wonder and Justin Timberlake to Bonnie Raitt and Tom Jones have graced this classic joint. And it is real music here, no canned electronics â" everyone is actually playing instruments and singing here!