Pearl Jam, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Carole King—these are just a few of the artistes 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.”
It’s the promise of seeing a future (or current) legend up close that lends the Troubadour its unmatched allure. The 500-seat West Hollywood venue makes for an intimate experience that Schruers says is “well worth the trip.”
In 1957, Doug Weston purchased a coffee spot on La Cienega Boulevard and transformed it into a tiny nightclub. Perhaps in the spirit of its coffeehouse roots, the Troubadour gained a name for itself by specializing in performances from solo singer-songwriters. “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), and Fiona Apple’s first live show.
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.
Don’t be fooled by the acoustic-heavy history, however, the Troubadour is for serious music fans who like to rock. Sensitive ears might need some plugs, and the venue serves liquor but no food. Of course, this is all part of the Troubadour’s 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.”