Elton John

Legendary Venues: Troubadour

It’s been a minute between work, life, and Coachella that I wrote something for my legendary venue series. I started it last fall and it’s time that I get back into it. As far as venues go I haven’t touched on anywhere in the mecca of entertainment, Los Angeles. L.A. is home to plenty of great live venues. The Greek, The Hollywood Bowl, Whisky A Go-Go, The Shrine, The Palladium, The Wiltern, The Fonda Theatre, and El Rey Theatre are just some of L.A.’s finest. I definitely plan on writing about a few in this series at some point, but for now it’s one of Los Angeles’ most famous night clubs, the Troubadour.

The Troubadour opened in West Hollywood in 1957 by Doug Weston. It was first just a coffee house on La Cienega Boulevard before it moved to it’s current location at 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard in 1961. The Troubadour is known as a primary foundation for the careers of many great bands and musicians including Elton John, who made his U.S. debut there in 1970 after being introduced by Neil Diamond, The Eagles, whose founding members Glenn Frey and Don Henley met there also in 1970, Buffalo Springfield, who made their live debut there in 1966, Guns N’ Roses, who played their first show at the venue and were discovered by Geffen Records on the same night, and James Taylor, who made his solo debut there in 1969. Taylor also debuted “You’ve Got A Friend” at the venue with then piano player and opening act Carole King in 1970 and first met future wife, Carly Simon, there for the first time. Many bands and musicians have also recorded live albums there such as Neil Diamond, Tim Buckley, Van Morrison, and Miles Davis among others. The venue is not only known for rock music. It is known for having stand-up comedy and was essential in the careers of comedians Cheech and Chong who were discovered there.

The music history at the Troubadour is endless. It was the place that Janis Joplin partied at the day before he was found dead of a heroin overdose. It’s been a spot for album debuts, L.A. debuts, U.S. debuts, and just first live-performances in general. Unlike some legendary venues, the Troubadour still sits at the same spot it moved to in 1961. Many bands and artists consider it a right of passage to play at the Troubadour while visiting L.A. Recently, bands like Bastille and One Direction member Harry Styles have performed there. It’s the definition of a small venue with a capacity of only 500, which makes its performance history all the more meaningful. I’ve unfortunately never been to the venue. I’ve only actually been to L.A. once (technically 3 times in one trip to California) despite the amount of visits I’ve made to So Cal, but it’s on my list as a place to visit for the next time I’m there. In general, it’s a place where live music fans should visit and if possible attend a show it because it’s definitely one of Los Angeles’ most famous and legendary venues.

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Legendary Venues: Madison Square Garden

Next up in the Legendary Venues Series is another New York staple. This venue has been in existence since the 1800’s. It is also widely known as the world’s most famous arena and it is none other than Madison Square Garden.

The Garden, which sits between 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, is actually the fourth structure to bear the name “Madison Square Garden”. The first two existed from 1879-1890 and 1890-1925, respectively. The third which stood from 1925-1968 is now the location for One Worldwide Plaza, which was built after the third Garden was demolished.

Since the current Madison Square Garden opened in 1968, it has held many epic concerts with the biggest names in music history. Up until recently Elton John held the record for most concerts at the Garden with 62 appearances. It was broken by Billy Joel. Since 2014, Joel, the Grammy winning recording artist, has maintained a residency at MSG and has played 44 consecutive shows since beginning his tenure (He will play his 45th on Saturday). Regardless of who holds the record, when a band or an artist can amass a crowd large enough to play at an arena, it’s always an honor to play at the legendary Madison Square Garden.

Besides being a large scale concert venue, Madison Square Garden has also held a multitude of sporting events since opening its doors. It is the home venue of the New York Rangers of the NHL and the New York Knicks of the NBA. It also hosted some of boxing’s biggest fights before Las Vegas boxing became a thing.

Despite all the notable names and greatest concerts to ever grace the stage at MSG, the one that stands out to me (with liking the bands that I like) was LCD Soundsystem’s “final” concert. I say “final” because the band ended up getting back together last year and just released an album at the beginning of the month, which I wrote about after it came out. In that moment in 2011 though, it was a 4 hour long final goodbye of the band’s entire discography. It was all captured and put into the documentary “Shut Up and Play the Hits”, which came out the following year. I began liking LCD Soundsystem shortly before the documentary was released so I had no idea about the incredible spectacle that happened, until the documentary came out. As a band from NYC, there was no greater venue to host LCD’s last show than the Garden.

This past February I worked my first show at Madison Square Garden. It was The Lumineers’ first night of their two night stand. Obviously at that point, I never worked a show there, but I had also never actually been in the Garden period. I decided to stay to see the rest of the performance that night after I finished my shift: 1. Because I actually like The Lumineers and 2. Because it was at Madison Square Garden. When I finally was able to find a way down to watch the show (long story), I couldn’t help but take in the fact that I was watching a show at the Garden. Besides watching the actual performance, I admired the familiar circular ceiling that on a regular basis houses a large scoreboard at the center for its sporting events. I looked around the venue, at the crowd, and up at the banners earned by the Knicks and the Rangers. The Lumineers concert was sold out that night and although it probably won’t go down as one of the greatest concerts in the arena’s history, it was definitely a highlight for me in my career of both watching and working music events.

It’s definitely worth a trip to New York City to catch an event at Madison Square Garden, but a concert would be the best event in my opinion (wink wink). Although it’s not the only famous venue in the city, it’s one of legendary status and one of the most well-known in the world. Its history and incredible past performances can attest to that.