I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Joel lately. His story-songs are stuffed like Bronx sausage with passion, a touch of corn, and, most importantly, nostalgia. Oh how I yearn for the days when a young kid from New York could reach for his dreams in the City of Angels by playing late nights at a piano bar, and I could be a silhouetted patron, smoking inside probably, paying $2.50 for a cocktail, watching him lay down the foundation for a successful pop career and famed relationship with international supermodel Christie Brinkley.
Alas, the early-2020s and early-1970s are not so different. With enormous gas price hikes, the horrific ending of a pointless military conflict, and a deflated economy, I really don’t think that we should feel too far removed from the way people felt fifty years ago. Maybe the cocktails are a little pricier, and the types of music you hear at a live venue are different, but, truth be told, when you bend your head down to take a sneak-hit from your vape you’re actually participating in an age-old tradition and are more connected to Billy Joel than you would believe.
Billy Joel digressions aside, here are some of my choices for places to see a plethora of live music on any given night in Los Angeles:
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The Kibitz Room inside Canter’s Deli (419 N Fairfax Ave)
Once a week, LA music hopefuls come together to play one to two songs inside the historic dive bar within the historic deli. Come for a mix of jaded locals and starry-eyed hopefuls, stay for hidden gems and corned beef.
Sundays, sign-ups start at 9 if you want to throw your name in the hat, performances start around 9:30.
Highland Park (5607 N Figueroa St)
A bar started by Peanut Butter Wolf, the founder of the legendary (and my all-time favorite) underground Hip Hop label Stones Throw Records. The best bar in Highland Park houses almost 8,000 records from PBW’s personal collection that are spun by his friends every night in a whirlwind of dance and drinks.
Mon-Thu 5-12, Fri 5-2, Sat 2-2, Sun 2-12
Venice (52 Windward Ave)
The underground venue inside the oldest bar in Venice where you can find DJs, live Jazz, and handcrafted cocktails. Come to catch my favorite Jazz band, the Katalyst Collective (say hi to Otis, the sax player for me) who perform there regularly.
Mon-Fri 5-2, Sat-Sun 12-2