In a city that has more than its share of rock clubs steeped in history, one stands out: the Troubadour. Seeing a show at the West Hollywood venue has been on the bucket list of many a music fan for decades.
Why Is the Troubadour Famous?
It’s the promise of seeing a future (or current) legend up close that lends the Troubadour its unmatched allure. That, and its knack for hosting what has to be a record number of “firsts” in rock history (more on that later). Pearl Jam, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Carole King—these are just a few of the artists who got their start at what Rolling Stone contributor Frank Schruers calls “The mighty Troubadour.” Schruers, who named the Troubadour his number-one spot to see live music in Los Angeles on the California Now Podcast, explains, “And by mighty, I mean mighty small.”
The History of the Troubadour
In 1957, Doug Weston purchased a coffee spot on La Cienega Boulevard and transformed it into a tiny nightclub; soon after, it moved to its current Santa Monica Boulevard location. Perhaps in the spirit of its coffeehouse roots, the Troubadour gained a name for itself by specializing in performances from solo singer-songwriters and, curiously, comedians, including Lenny Bruce, Cheech & Chong, and Steve Martin. “It’s seen so many classic performers,” Schruers says. A few of the venue’s “firsts” include: the first time James Taylor played “You’ve Got a Friend,” Elton John’s first U.S. performance (Neil Diamond called him up on stage), Neil Young’s first solo performance, and the first shows of Guns ‘n Roses, Fiona Apple, and Gordon Lightfoot. Richard Pryor recorded his debut live album here as well.
Schruers notes, “You’ll find a lot of loyalty to the Troubadour, to the people who played it and made it a classic venue.” In 2016, this fidelity came out in force when Bonnie Raitt, Brandi Carlile, and Jack Ingram all gathered at the club as a tribute to the late Glenn Frey, who met his future Eagles bandmate Don Henley at the club.
Don’t be fooled by the acoustic-heavy early history, however—the Troubadour is also for music fans who like to seriously rock. Sensitive ears might need some plugs, and the venue serves liquor and beer but no food. Of course, this is all part of the Troubadour’s all-about-the-music magic. “Intimacy is the key,” Schruers says, “Regardless of the size of the band, you’re seeing a little patch of history right there in West Hollywood.”
To learn about other Los Angeles venues, check out 5 Best Music Venues in Los Angeles and 7 Historic Music Venues.
Things to Do Near the Troubadour
Leave some time before—or after—a show to explore some of the many things that make West Hollywood one of the most vital neighborhoods in the city. The dining and shopping scenes are both big draws, and the area is considered one of the centers of the city’s LGBT+ community. For more inspiration for how to make the most of your visit, check out 5 Amazing Things to Do in West Hollywood; to get an insider’s take on what makes West Hollywood unique, watch this “Creators of West Hollywood” video series.