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Five L.A. Music Venues That Have Stood The Test Of Time

Michelle Tiu |
May 8, 2013 | 12:36 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Slash is just one of the many acts that have performed at the Gibson. (Capital M / Flickr)
Slash is just one of the many acts that have performed at the Gibson. (Capital M / Flickr)
Located in the heart of Universal City, the historic Gibson Amphitheatre is unfortunately closing its doors this September to make way for the latest addition to the Universal Studios amusement park—The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Through its decades long run, the beloved Gibson has seen many a memorable performance by artists from a wide range of genres. 

Some of music's most historic figures, such as jazz and swing man Frank Sinatra and reggae icon Bob Marley, have graced the Gibson's stage. It's still a popular tour stop for more contemporary acts like Shakira, Kanye West, Keith Urban, and Bruno Mars… Just to name a few.

The historic venue has also hosted a number of live radio events and award shows, including 106.7 KROQ FM's Almost Acoustic Christmas and the Teen Choice Awards.

However, the Gibson's not just for live music performances. Multiple presidents, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush, as well as world leaders like Pope John Paul II and Prime Minister Tony Blair have visited the venue. Some of comedy's biggest names, such as Ellen DeGeneres and George Carlin, have also appeared at the Gibson.

We're sad to see this historic venue go (even if it is for Harry Potter), so in honor, Neon Tommy's taking a look at 5 other longstanding L.A. venues that have managed to survive throughout the years.

The Wiltern Theatre

The Wiltern was originally built in 1931 as a vaudeville theater and operated as The Warner Brothers Western Theatre. However, it was soon closed and reopened and renamed a few years later.

Between the '50s and '70s, the venue fell into a state of disrepair, but survived a number of demolition attempts thanks to the Los Angeles Conservancy

In 1981, Wayne Ratkovich and Brenda Levin bought the building and restored the theater to its former glory, allowing it to reopen four years later.

Now operated by Live Nation, the Wiltern remains one of the largest theaters in L.A. and continues to be a popular destination on tour for artists from a variety of genres—everything from punk and alt-rock to hip hop and pop.

Some famous names that have graced the venue's stage include Ellie Goulding, Florence and the MachineSlash, and Nas.

Fun fact: The Wiltern gets its name from the major intersection it faces (Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue).

The Hollywood Bowl

Opened on July 11, 1922, the Hollywood Bowl still remains the largest natural amphitheater in the United States.

The venue has been renovated multiple times, most famously by architect Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright's son), who contributed to the Bowl's iconic shell appearance.

Home to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and to the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the summer, the Bowl provides a variety of musical events for the residents of L.A. Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, The Beatles, and Van Morrison are just a few of the many music legends that have performed at the venue. 

The Bowl has also been the site for many artists' final concerts, including Cher and Genesis's final performances in 2005 and 2007, respectively.

Like the Gibson, the Bowl isn't just for concert events. Fred Astaire has danced at the historic venue while President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke there during his campaign tour in 1932. The Bowl can also be seen in a number of movies and TV shows, including "Yes Man" (2008) and "CSI: Miami."

Fun fact: The late French opera star Lily Pons holds the venue's record for highest all-time attendance record with 26,410 paid admissions for her performance on August 7, 1936.

The Roxy Theatre

Located on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, The Roxy has hosted "[h]undreds of famous and yet-to-be-famous acts" since its opening show with Neil Young's band, The Santa Monica Flyers, in 1973.

Many memorable events occurred there, including comedian Paul Reuben's first performance with his Pee-Wee Herman alter ego in 1981. The musical "The Rocky Horror Show," which was brought to the U.S. from London by Roxy co-owner Lou Adler, actually had its first run at the Roxy, not Broadway.

Popular acts like Avril Lavigne and Amy Winehouse have performed at the Roxy and many of the venue's shows have been recorded for live concert DVDs and albums, including NOFX's "I Heard They Suck Live!!" (1995) and "Collision Course" (2004) by Jay-Z and Linkin Park.

The venue has also been used in a lot of music videos and movies. The 1979 musical comedy "Rock N Roll High School" includes a performance by punk band The Ramones filmed at the Roxy. Sum 41's "Screaming Bloody Murder" and Korn's "Narcissistic Cannibal" videos include scenes filmed there as well.

Also located above the Roxy is On The Rox, the infamous bar that musicians like John Lennon and Alice Cooper regularly frequented and "where John Belushi partied before fatally ODing."

Fun fact: Before it was opened as the Roxy in the '70s, the building was used as a strip club called the Largo. 

The Greek Theatre

Almost as old as the Bowl, the Greek opened in 1929 in Griffith Park and, as its name suggests, was designed by architect Samuel Tilden Norton to look like an ancient Greek temple.

Music legends like Tina Turner, Elton John, and Santana have all graced the Greek's stage and many live albums, including Neil Diamond's "Hot August Night" (1972) and Harry Belafonte's "Belafonte at the Greek Theatre" (1964), were recorded at the venue. More recent acts include Adele, Fiona Apple, and The White Stripes.

The comedy "Get Him to the Greek" (2010) starring Russell Brand and Jonah Hill was also filmed at the theatre.

Fun fact: For some time after it opened, the Greek was not often used for entertainment purposes and was instead used as barracks for soldiers during World War II.

The El Rey Theatre

Built in 1936, the El Rey originally operated as a single screen movie theater and was became a dance club known as Wall Street during the '80s and early '90s. In 1994, it was converted into a concert venue.

Located in the Miracle Mile, the El Rey was built by Clifford A. Balch, who has built many movie theaters in California and Nevada and is known for his art deco style of architecture. The venue was designated an L.A. Historic-Cultural Monument in 1991.

Some of the venue's more famous guests include Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Frank Ocean, and Sara Bareilles. While the El Rey has hosted artists of many different genres, it leans towards a more alternative style of music with performers like Anberlin, The Barenaked Ladies, and Lights

Fun fact: The El Rey can be seen in the 1984 sci-fi horror flick "Night of the Comet" as the movie theater where the film's protagonists work. 

Reach Staff Reporter Michelle Tiu here or follow her on Twitter.



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