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L.A. Music Scene Hits Many Notes

Disney Hall, the L.A. Philharmonic and the Master Chorale may be the most talked about music experiences on the planet -- but they are still only part of Los Angeles' music scene. For music lovers, L.A. has it all -- from grand opera to gospel brunch -- with plenty of alternative club music, salsa and blues all around town.

With the L.A. Philharmonic and the Master Chorale settled at Disney Hall, the Los Angeles Opera is now the main attraction at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion across First Street. Taking advantage of that, this year their season expands from 58 performances to 69. Overseen by General Director Placido Domingo, productions include "Lucia di Lammermoor," "Orfeo ed Euridice," "Madama Butterfly," and "Il trovatore." The Pavilion is also scheduled to host dance performances.

Free chamber music concerts are a popular mainstay of LACMA's (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) music schedule. Held on Sundays at 6 p.m. in the museum's Bing Auditorium, many museum goers settle in following an afternoon of seeing the exhibits.

REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney Cal Arts Theatre) is being called the un-Disney Hall -- although it is part of the Disney Hall complex. Located at Hope and Second streets, on the back side of the big hall and opening just after the Disney, REDCAT is L.A.'s new home for cutting edge performing arts. The inaugural season includes nights devoted to electronic music composer Morton Subotnick, Balinese gamelan, post-minimalist composer Gavin Bryars, festival of Persian and Indian music, and Bach and the Avant-Garde.

UCLA Live brings top name performing artists from all over the world to the UCLA campus, primarily historic Royce Hall. This year's schedule includes the St. Petersburg Capella Choir, Itzhak Perlman and the Kronos Quartet. Classical music is only part of the story here: other events feature Willie Nelson, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Omara Portuando (of Buena Vista Social Club fame) and the Cajun band BeauSoleil.

Across town, USC's campus hosts concerts in Bovard Auditorium and the Alfred Newman Recital Hall. On tap this season: Wynton Marsalis, Lila Downs and the Emerson String Quartet.

L.A. is home to several other large concert halls with ambitious 2003-2004 lineups. At Pepperdine University Center for the Arts in Malibu (with a spectacular view overlooking the Pacific), this year's list includes string and jazz quartets, Art Garfunkel, Steve Tyrell, Herman's Hermits and a celebration of John Lennon. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos (south end of L.A.) promises mellow evenings with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Jack Jones and not-so-mellow ones with Arturo Sandoval and Doc Watson. Universal Amphitheater near Universal CityWalk is another top venue with headliners this year including ranchera king Vicente Fernandez and Brian Setzer Orchestra, an 18-piece big band.

The Wiltern, one of L.A.'s art deco landmarks (look for the green patina-ed exterior) at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Western Ave. has been refurbished to serve as a concert venue. Upcoming shows include Peter Frampton, the Deftones, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

Avalon Hollywood is the new kid on the block. This is the highly-anticipated resurrection of the famed Hollywood Palace Theater site near Hollywood and Vine.
The Club Scene?

L.A. may be one of the hippest club spots in the world. Hollywood and West Hollywood boast dozens of hipster and celeb hangouts that attract the buzz-y new bands and singers as well as the music world's immortals. Clubs-of-the-moment (both live music and DJ driven): the Havana-inspired Nacional; Medieval-looking A.D. (hip hop); Euro-Asian White Lotus; the eclectic Highlands atop the new Hollywood & Highland complex; and Knitting Factory, a cutting-edge music club.

House of Blues Sunset Strip, the funkiest looking bayou shack west of the Mississippi, is home to an unforgettable Sunday Gospel Brunch with a different local gospel choir performing each week. At other times, catch Etta James or Maxi Priest.

The Viper Room on Sunset Strip club has managed to defy the short shelf life of top clubs in L.A. Maybe it has to do with Johnny Depp being a co-owner. This spot keeps hopping with intimate live music, poetry readings and a revolving celebrity clientele.

Three Sunset Strip clubs define the history of rock, classics that never die: the Whisky; The Roxy and the Troubadour.

In Downtown L.A., Rooftop Bar at the Standard draws a cool crowd who dance under the stars. At 14 Below in Santa Monica, find live bands from rock and metal to blues. Spaceland in Silver Lake is a favorite with local rock underground bands and fans. Beck, The White Stripes and Black Eyed Peas have performed there.

The Pacific Design In the San Fernando Valley, favorite clubs include Cozy's Bar & Grill in Sherman Oaks for blues lovers; The Thunderbird in the hip NoHo section of North Hollywood for live rock, blues and country; Paladino's in Tarzana for a mix of jazz, blues and more. Also check out Mama Juana's in Studio City for salsa, mariachi, flamenco and rumba. Kulak's Woodshed in North Hollywood is one of the tinier, funkier clubs around and focuses on singer/songwriter acoustic music with an occasional biggish name stopping by.

Catalina Bar & Grill closes out decades of showcasing the premier names in jazz at its cozy club in Vine Street on Nov. 2. But that's only so the Hollywood institution can move to a new location at Sunset and Highland, still in Hollywood. They expect to open there Nov. 6.

B.B. King's Blues Club in Universal City is a three-story club with an eclectic schedule (R & B, funk, dance bands) and "the man" himself turns up occasionally to play a set.

Babe's & Ricky's Inn in Leimert Park, south of downtown tops most "favorite blues club" polls. For almost 30 years Mama Laura Mae Gross has seen the biggest names (Big Mama Thornton, Count Basie, Albert King, John Lee Hooker) perform in her club while still showcasing up-and-comers.

Fais Do-Do, housed in a former bank building in the West Adams district has a wildly diverse approach: blues, funk, jazz and world, all in an intimate setting.

The Conga Room in the Miracle Mile neighborhood, is serious about salsa music and has hosted all the top names (Poncho Sanchez, the late Celia Cruz). But an occasional Brazilian samba night sneaks in.

McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica has a small performance space in the back room of the store and the tiniest stage that has seen top stars (Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Arlo Guthrie) as well as jug bands, ukelele nights, bluegrass and folkies -- often to sell-out crowds.

If karaoke is your thing, head to Farmers Market on Saturday nights. At this historic outdoor market, the best karaoke shows in town sets up on one of the market's outdoor patios. Local club owners often stop by to scout talent.

Feinstein's at the Cinegrill is in the heart of Hollywood. Singer/pianist Michael Feinstein recently renovated this supper club in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, reviving a cabaret tradition that goes back to Tinseltown's early days. He plays here often, and when he's not, books top lounge singers (upcoming: Keely Smith, Dixie Carter) who favor the classics.


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